Decks and violence.
Magic 2013 wasn't just one our favorite games of last year, it also heralded the very welcome trend of high quality PC games finding a second home on tablet touchscreens. Got slow, tactical, and thoughtful play at the center of your game? Why not bring it to a tablet, where a lack of physical buttons need not be a barrier to success?
Unsurprisingly, this new game is very much the Magic experience that we hope you fell in love with last year. Armed with an elementally flavored deck, you enter a series of head-to-head challenges against AI opponents. Each deck requires a different strategic approach, so you might have to play very defensively with one deck, build up plenty of enhancements to keep another deck strong, focus on high numbers of attackers doing limited damage each, and so on. This is the beauty of the game's depth, and the process of mastering every last deck gives you - frankly - a feeling of godliness once you're deep into the game.
Of course, everyone has to start somewhere, and this new edition does a much better job of leading players through the intricacies of gameplay too, thanks to a much more robust and measured tutorial. Enchantments which enhance a creature card's attributes are explained within the context of an entire round of play, for example. Spellcasting and instant-use cards get their moment under the spotlight to ensure that even the greenest newcomer will emerge from this process feeling eagerly confident about the challenge ahead.
The bulk of Magic's single-player component is formed of a lengthy campaign that will require you to use your deck in new and imaginative ways against a broad range of opponent types. The Challenges mode offers exactly what you'd expect from the name - a series of particularly demanding fights set within specific scenarios, requiring you to use every last drop of skill you've acquired to overcome the odds.
New to this edition of Magic is the Sealed Play mode. Starting off with a handful of virtual booster packs, you'll have to make the best deck you can from the random selection of cards you receive. Fortunately, you can earn new packs to bolster your deck through successful play in this mini-campaign - it's a great way to add bite and variety to the game for even the most experienced players. Eventually you'll want to tackle real players in the multiplayer mode, and every bit of extra knowledge and experience that you gain here helps in the long-term.
Magic 2014 is just about everything that made Magic 2013 such a special game, and while it's not exactly revolutionary in its gameplay, we probably wouldn't want it any other way. When you consider the improved tutorial, reliably outstanding artwork, and the new Sealed Play mode, the franchise has once again asserted itself as the strategy card game experience to beat. Let's hope someone at least tries.
What's Hot:Every bit as good as last year's Magic, and the Sealed Play mode is a very welcome addition to the game.
What's Not:Very occasional soundtrack stutter.