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PAX Prime 2015: Magic the Gathering Puzzle Quest Preview

Magic Puzzle Quest_Splash ScreenMuch like many of you readers out there, I don’t care for a majority of mobile games.  It’s not that I judge quality based off of foolish concepts like the interface, the pricing model, or even the platform, but rather that almost every game released doesn’t speak to me.  Of those few exceptions, I have to admit that Puzzle Quest is one of the most compelling.  I loved the game on DS, especially thanks to the touch screen, so it was only natural that I would be taken by the game on mobile where the touch interface is the main advantage.  When Puzzle Quest started partnering with different licenses, like Marvel, my draw to play the game grew even greater.  The only thing that has kept me away is a single title called Hearthstone, because as a lifelong Magic: The Gathering player it was the closest thing to bringing the game to mobile (sorry to those developing the true M:TG game).  With this hybrid I am confident that I may be taking a sneak peek at what could dethrone Hearthstone on my phone and tablet.

Magic Puzzle Quest_Game BoardThis is not a mere re-skinning of Puzzle Quest using Magic: The Gathering (MtG) as a concept.  Given that the original card game is more popular than ever, it had to include many functions of the game proper, so I was immediately pleased to see that developer D3 Go! is aware of this as well.  Ultimately MtG Puzzle Quest will be a true hybrid of both properties and to my shock it holds up pretty well at this challenge.  The jewels have become mana, the resource you use to cast spells, and I had figured that would be the case but I wondered how they would handle all other aspects of an otherwise complicated system.  If you are familiar with MtG this may make a bit more sense, but if you’re not I’m also going to break it down for non-players (and keep it all brief).  Instead of the complicated attack/defend scenarios as well as reactive spellcasting, the developers knew that the time and intricacy of those features just wouldn’t play in this game.  I have to agree, MtG is notorious for games lasting quite some time, possibly 15-45 minutes on average, and the speed for which turns play out can drag.  For MtG Puzzle Quest, creatures will attack every turn if they can as well as defend any oncoming attackers – granted, there are some special abilities and effects that can alter this – and reactionary effects (instants) are now cast during your turn and the effects last until the end of your opponent’s turn.  A simple example was Giant Growth, which buffed my angel for both my attack phase and to assist in defending.  Tapping has also been removed and instead replaced by special abilities that can affect the board in similar manners to an enchantment, but many abilities also disable a creature as if it were tapped.  You do have a deck of cards, you do draw and play these cards in order (that you can also change), and you do balance life points.  In the end, what you receive is a streamlined version of MtG that utilizes Puzzle Quest and allows you to be as complicated or simple as you want to be.  In fact, non-MtG players who are familiar with Puzzle Quest should be able to pick this up and go without much instruction and hope to eventually get the hang of it.

Magic Puzzle Quest_Spell DisplayFor those of us who are familiar with MtG, here are some more specific details on how the game operates.  You will get to select up to 10 cards for a deck and you will automatically get 4 of each, which is similar to MtG save for the fact that you can get more specific in the actual card game.  You will have a selection of cards that come from the current Origins set, but D3 Go! has not ruled out the integration of expansions, additional cards, and even winnable or promotional offerings like with the main game (although they had nothing to announce).  As I previously mentioned, you can change the order in which spells/creatures are prioritized so if you want all casting will be in your control.  At the onset your main deck will stick to one color, but after playing certain parts of the game it can open up to combo color decks.  You are given challenges to complete in order to gain the signature Puzzle Quest coins and gems, I saw 90 total on the demo unit, each with a 3-tier difficulty of challenges.  With 270 initial challenges in the bag, I think it’s safe to say we will be busy for quite some time.

Magic Puzzle Quest_Chandra AbilitiesIt wasn’t all good news, however, because the rub seems to be in the potential pricing structure.  This of course wasn’t announced or discussed, although some insight was offered on how this will work.  I’m fairly certain it will be a free to download app and you will get to pick one of the major five single color wizards.  By playing the game you can unlock the means to buy packs and begin building a stronger deck, but it’s possible you will also earn currency to purchase more wizards.  Regardless of what you can purchase without spending money, I’m certain you will have the ability to buy both packs and wizards with cash.  Since Wizards of the Coast is behind this project, as they have been with the digital version of MtG proper, I’m fearful of some of the more nefarious ideas I have seen in that game.  I sincerely hope that campaign missions or challenges are not gated behind a price and that anything can be unlocked provided you put enough time into the game, but that will not be the decision of the developer nor am I confident we will see that.  As an avid MtG player, I’m on board day one to download and begin playing this new Puzzle Quest, which I hope will finally bring me back to my favorite card game property.  The only thing that can screw it up will be the pricing structure that I have seen in all digital MtG games that have the free-to-play model to date.  Fingers crossed.

 
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