Magical Tactics, Anyone?


Call it a mashup, a hybrid, or anything else you think foots the bill, Magic: The Gathering Tactics is an idea whose time has come. Seeing successful adaptations of trading-card games to online or console formats, it's no surprise that someone wanted to create a tactics-style game within the Magic: The Gathering universe. Sony Online will release this game later in the year for PC and PS3, but we had a chance to get some play time in at SOE's booth. Coming at it from the perspective of someone who has never met a tactical/strategy game he didn't like, I was still a bit apprehensive because of my limited knowledge of Magic: The Gathering. Since it's not realistic to build a business model around converting every offline Magic player to an online Magic player, Sony will have to address the challenge of letting people know that Magic: The Gathering Tactics is "safe" for Magic neophytes like myself.

Any concern over the game not being accessible to a newbie evaporated once we jumped in and started playing. There are strong elements in the game that draw from the playing conventions used offline, such as summoning and building magical powers for use by summoned characters. Although this took some getting used to, the fundamentals of any tactics game are present here. You begin on a defined play space, with a reserve of characters and an active party. You can then move, attack, and summon from your reserve, until one side wins the day. Being very much tied to the Magic universe, Magic: The Gathering Tactics draws in familiar characters, monsters, and abilities, making it easy to transfer your knowledge of the offline game into this setting. The solid graphics do a nice job of presenting the characters with a third dimension, in motion on the field.

Players familiar with the offline game will also find that the conventions of summoning, using spells, and balancing against an enemy are ported over to Magic: The Gathering Tactics. Would the best traditional Magic player have an edge over the best non-Magic tactics (of any flavor) player? We didn't see anything to suggest that knowing Magic trumps knowing how to manage a tactical campaign, but players familiar with the card series will have to spend less time learning which elements and abilities to associate with which characters. When summoning, you'll need to maintain a balance between ranged attacks and monsters that do devastating melee damage. You'll also need to learn a bit about what powerful spells can change the course of battle or be used to support front-line characters. In the end, Magic: The Gathering Tactics provides a great translation of the traditional game into a genre that needs more quality titles and diversity. Whether you are a core Magic fan or a strategy/tactics aficionado, Magic: The Gathering Tactics is one to check on upon its release later this year.

Magic: The Gathering Tactics
Sony Online Entertainment