Magic: Legends hands-on preview - Action on the Planes

Let's take a peek at Magic: Legends, an MMO ARPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment before it heads into open beta.

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As I make my way through the lush wooded jungles of Tazeem, a merfolk scholar named Kama leads me to corrupted hedrons, powerful stone monoliths of binding when properly aligned. Her people have ignored her pleas and it is up to me to confront Noyan Dar and destroy the hedrons before it’s too late. Accompanied by my hordes of goblinsI have a spell that can summon as many as I like per mana spentthe final battle takes place in a stunning looking merfolk arena covered in crystal blue water and shell-laden sandbanks.

The final battle with Noyan Dar begins in Tazeem.
The final battle with Noyan Dar begins in Tazeem.

This is one small example of the gameplay I was able to experience in an exclusive developer-led hands-on preview of Magic: Legends from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment. The game joins Cryptic’s stable of massively multiplayer hits like D&D Neverwinter and Star Trek Online. It’s an upcoming MMO Action RPG based on the Wizards of the Coast’s ubiquitous Magic: The Gathering trading card game for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Game producer, Tiffany Chu, guided me through two missions in Magic: Legends; one in Tazeem, the jungle continent on the plane of Zendikar, and one in Gavony, a province on the plane of Innistrad, under constant barrage by the undead and werewolves. Like most ARPGs, Magic: Legends is simple to pick up and play, but there are a lot of new mechanics that lend themselves very nicely from Magic: The Gathering.

Assuming the role of a Planeswalker, players will choose from one of five classes to start and have the ability to switch between them on the fly. The overall setting will be familiar to players of the iconic card game but will also be accessible to newcomers, with NPC characters being created specifically for this game to help bridge the gap between established lore and Magic: Legend’s unique story. Each character class has two skills that are always available, but the true M:TG inspiration comes in the form of your Spell Deck.

Spells are cast from a deck that shuffles into your skill bar, taking inspiration from the original trading card game.
Spells are cast from a deck that shuffles into your skill bar, taking inspiration from the original trading card game.

As you navigate the various Planes, decisions in battle are a real-time strategic choice since your spells are drawn as you use them. Four spells are drawn at maximum, and are discarded and drawn again with usage. This can lead to some last-second synergy between a spell that summons a hulking Green Warden and another that can resurrect it with Grim Revival, as one small example of the harmony that can be achieved with your Spell Deck. The spells found in these decks are also inspired by Magic: The Gathering, with the familiar powers of White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green mana. The color mana combinations of your Spell Decks will determine the type of spells and the focus of your playstyle, which can also be combined with the five different Planeswalker classes that will be available at the start of the open beta.

Spells aren’t the only form of offense and defense for your character. Equipment and artifacts will also be obtained to further combine with your abilities for more customizable playstyles. I was assured that spells, equipment, and artifacts will all be obtained either in-game or with currency, and that pay-to-win is not their focus at all. Player customization is also featured, with the ability to change primary and secondary colors on your equipment. What’s the point in walking the Planes of the Multiverse if you can’t look good while doing it? Aside from the sprawling MMO ARPG story, the deep class and character adaptation, and cooperative missions; Magic: Legends will also feature PvP battles to prove who is the best Planeswalker, but I was told that PvP will be a later focus for development. Even without a fleshed-out player versus player system, I’m confident there will be plenty to keep anyone busy in the forthcoming open beta.

You must move around Gavony with purpose if you plan on successfully defending all the generators.
You must move around Gavony with purpose if you plan on successfully defending all the generators.

The second and final mission I was able to experience took place in the dark and foggy streets of Gavony. This decrepit cobblestone town has a powerful soul battery left behind and seeing as I have been enlisted to help, it’s now up to me to fire up three generators placed throughout the avenues, and protect them and the soul battery while it charges. Being the work of skaaberens or “zombie-stitchers”, this soul battery beckons every undead creature in the area to attack. This mission is more of an arcade-feeling ARPG section, with a time limit and graded score to determine your loot after successfully defending the battery and generators.

As a solo Planeswalker, I had to route circuitously about the town, fending off Corpsefiends, Rotting Festerhides, and Stitched Drakes. All of this was combined with making sure the generators didn’t stay down for too long and that the battery wasn’t overwhelmed. It was a frantic, fast-paced 10 minute mission and after achieving a Silver ranking my first time through it, I immediately wanted to try again to see if I could reach Gold and get even better rewards for my effort. This mission seems like it would shine in cooperative play by being able to assign generators and the main battery to different players to defend. I can’t wait to play more missions like this and I love how the storyline of each mission weaves its way into the overall plot of the game.

Overall, I enjoyed my brief time with Magic: Legends and I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the open beta on March 23, 2021. I think anyone familiar with Action RPGs will find themselves right at home and fans of Magic: The Gathering might enjoy seeing a beloved franchise in a new light. Since the game is also launching on Xbox One and PS4, full controller support is available and can be used in the PC version as well. I was told that the controls were designed for the gamepad first and then later ported to keyboard and mouse. I played through the preview with a keyboard and mouse and was able to pick up the action with ease, so either method should feel responsive. If you’re interested in joining the open beta for Magic: Legends, check out their website here for more information on how to sign up. The Multiverse is facing its greatest threat ever, and it’s up to us to control the chaos! To stay up-to-date with any upcoming Magic: Legends news, keep a tab on our topic page for the game where you'll find further announcements.


This preview is based on pre-release access to Magic: Legends provided by the publisher.

Contributing Editor

From the test launch of the NES in New York to 4K gaming in his living room, Bryan Lefler has been immersed in video games his entire life. Battle tested in the arena shooters of the turn of the century yet kind to all animals that may cross him, Bryan enjoys a breadth of games but strives to be the best in any contest of digital skill. He is a former esports competitor and has been part of the Shacknews community for over 15 years. You can also catch him on skankcore64 streams on the Shacknews Twitch channel where he plays through the N64 library.

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