So here we stand, I and thou at the end of ends.
And look, shadowy reader,
at what our folly has wrought. Cities burn. Forests smolder. People lie
bleeding on a hundred battle fields. The Gathering’s nascent software has
been corrupted and roils like a stew around us.
I beg thee this one final
time: lift the veil of delusion that holds thee loyal to those who will only
betray thee time and again, as they have betrayed me. Join me in vanquishing
their kind and at least all this mayhem will have meant something…
I admit it, I’m a geek, and I play Magic: The Gathering. I’ve even
got a couple of decks that are pretty damn good. So it was with great
excitement that I began to play Acclaim’s Magic: The Gathering:
Battlemage. The next few hours were filled mostly with disappointment.
For the few of you who haven’t played the card game, it is a duel between
competing wizards. You use land cards to draw mana (magical power) and use
that power to cast an array of spells: flinging fireballs, weaving
enchantments, and summoning creatures to do your bidding. I don’t know how
many different official cards there are, but it’s in the thousands.
The goal? Kill the other guy before he kills you.
If you have the patience to learn the card game, it’s great fun.
Battlemage tries to bring something new to the game… namely action.
The game is played very much like the card game, except instead of being
turn based, it is timed. Each ‘turn’ happens in about 15 seconds (you get to
throw another land, things untap, etc.). You and your creatures and spells
all appear on an overhead view map. You can order your creatures around at
Unlike the card game, you can order creatures to attack
specific other creatures. There are no attack or blocking phases. All the
creatures and spells look different; the graphics are sharp and pretty well
Its quite difficult to get the hang of Battlemage. Even as an
experienced Magic player, it took me probably two hours before I was able to
win my first duel. The instructions are poor and the game is very difficult
Unfortunately, in the rush to bring action into the game, the strategy has
taken a nose dive. The action is so fast-paced that it is really useless to
try and use creatures’ special abilities, cast counterspells, etc… So take
all of those out of your deck. Big creatures are much more important in
Battlemage and small creatures more useless.
Actually, once you finally get the hang of the controls, it’s really quite
easy to win against the computer. Stack your deck with some land and the
biggest creatures that you have along with some smaller ones and maybe a
fireball or two. Then just cast as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Don’t look at what your opponent is doing, get your spells out as fast as
you can, and order all your creatures to attack the enemy mage.
The problem? Simply put,
this isn’t fun. You don’t even really get to watch any of the action.
There is also a ‘campaign mode’ where you attempt to control the land of
Crondor by attacking different areas on the map. Each area has a full
screen graphic that is usually very beautiful, especially some of the
animated ones (falling snow, crashing waves, etc..). You must consolidate
power and gain cards to improve your deck.
To make a territory yours, you may have to duel against a mage. Other times
you are confronted by a non-mage person or being. They talk to you and you
are offered a choice of three responses (usually). A response may lead to
further dialogue, or it may end the turn. Depending on how you respond you
may gain control of the land, gain spells and silver, lose spells and
silver, or nothing may happen and the turn ends. You can only try once per
Unfortunately, that part of the game really isn’t much fun either. There is
no strategy to it, and is really just an excuse to set up a long series of
duels. Crush all your enemies in an extended campaign (probably 70-100
duels and several hours) and for your reward you receive…….. text
reading: ‘You Won The Game’. Whoa.
There is support for network and modem play, but trust me, what isn’t fun
against the computer isn’t fun against your friends either.
Acclaim had a good idea, and actually implemented it quite well. This is
not a shoddy piece of software at all. The designers put in a lot of effort
and it shows. There are hundreds of magic cards represented in this game,
and animated graphics for each and every one of them. Want to see your
Grizzly Bears run across the field and take a swipe at your enemy? It’s all
here. But the concept just didn’t work out. They should have either kept to
a more strategic format, or abandoned some more of the card game rules in
favor of a better action game.
Magic: The Gathering: Battlemage tries hard, but doesn’t succeed.
There is no shame in that – however, I can’t recommend this game. Magic
players will find it disappointing, and non-Magic players will find it
nearly impossible to learn or follow. Hopefully the next hand will be better.