STAFF REVIEW of Magic The Gathering : Battlegrounds (Xbox)

Tuesday, November 18, 2003.
by Troy

Magic The Gathering : Battlegrounds Box art Magic The Gathering: Battlegrounds takes the fun of playing the card game and puts it straight on the xbox. I find it hard to believe that any Magic The Gathering fan won't like this game. I've caught myself playing the game hours on end. Working my way through, I keep striving onward to unlock more cards to use in my battles.

It's good to see that there are a lot of familiar cards in the game for players to use. Fans of the card game won't be disappointed in this version for the xbox. There have been other Magic The Gathering games that just hold straight and true to the roots of the card game. In 1997 a Magic The Gathering game came out for the PC and added a little difference and story to the game. Instead of just the normal playing with cards, Magic The Gathering: Battlegrounds takes this more then a step forward from the past games and goes miles ahead.

Battlegrounds adds some new and inventive ways to play Magic The Gathering. Instead of having to draw cards you start your duel with a preset deck. You can create your own character with a deck or use pre-made decks of characters in the game.

Now for those of you that aren't familiar with Magic The Gathering, I'll give a basic summary of what the decks consist of. In a deck of cards you can have manna cards, creature cards, sorcery cards, enchantments and artifact cards.

Manna cards play a very important part in the game because they give you the power to summon creatures, cast spells and enchantments. Manna comes in the five colors green, red, blue, white and black. Each represents a type of land and power. Red is mountains and represent fire powers, Green is the forest and contains lots of woodland creatures, Blue is water and some massive sea creatures as well as flying creatures, White is the power of life and represent the plains, black is the power of death and represent swamps. Now that the biography of manna cards is over back to the other type of cards.

Creature cards are the creatures you summon to defend you and fight the enemy. Enchantments are cards you can use to add special powers to the creatures. Sorcery spells are magical attacks used to destroy the enemy duelist or summoned creatures. Artifact cards are brought into play to give you protections from enemy attacks. I know lots of magic the gathering fans are probably upset with me now for not giving a better summary of the cards but I really don't believe it's needed for this game.

A really unique feature to this game is not having to draw your manna cards. The manna appears on your screen to pick up with your character. Also you automatically have all your creatures, spells and enchantments available to cast. You just have to collect enough manna. Don't worry, if you don't have enough manna to summon a creature to defend, your duelist can attack and defend. Attacking with your duelist isn't very powerful. You will only be able to deal out one damage per attack. If it comes to you having to defend you will need to sacrifice manna as long as you hold the defend button. As you destroy summoned creatures they drop manna shards. These manna shards will refill your manna to use to summon and cast spells again. Your manna will also regenerate on it's own but slowly. The more manna you have the faster it regenerates. So you have to find a good way to maintain your manna and summon creatures to destroy your enemy.The layout of the screen is broken up into two sides that resembles a dodge ball court. There is a line splitting the two sides of the screen. If you step over to the other side you will soon loose some of your hit points after time. There sometimes are reasons to go to the other side so you can pick up manna shards to help regenerate your character's manna.

The game does take a lot of strategy to defeat your enemy. Since Battlegrounds adds new things to the game this will be the strategy. Playing through the quest mode you have battles to do. These battles will not always be to destroy your enemy. You will also have battles where you must collect more manna before the enemy. The quests add an interesting part to the game, but in the end it's still just using your cards to get the job done.

To unlock characters with new cards you can play through the arcade mode which is similar to a versus mode in any fighting game. As you play through and defeat all the enemies you will unlock another duelist of the same color with more advanced cards and creatures. Playing through the quest mode you will unlock a card each time you win the best 2 of 3 rounds. So you've got lots of playing to do to unlock all the good cards first. You'll have the good cards in no time if you've got the right strategy.

The game also has a vs mode where you can duel it out with one of your friends. For those of you that don't have a friend to come and play this great game with you, all you will have to do is get online with Xbox Live and play it with what I'm sure will be an unlimited amount of duelists.

The visuals of this game are quite nice. The battlefield looks normal but it's the little things that add some cool scenery to the game. Playing in a forest environment you'll notice leaves falling from the trees to the ground while in the background you see the wind blowing through the trees. Playing in a fiery mountain scene you notice lava and flames bursting from the ground. These don't affect your battle area so you'll be safe from the flames. Unless your foe decides to launching a fireball towards you.

All the characters, spells and creatures are animated very well. For being a game based off a card game from years ago to today, the graphics are very well done. Till now you've really only had the exceptional drawings on the cards to look at and drool over. Seeing a dragon you've summoned fly over to your enemy and cover with flames is a really awesome site that magic players never had before.

For the most part you won't be paying attention to the visuals or thinking about them. You will be too busy trying to summon your defenses and offense to mind how the game looks. I suggest taking the time to pause and look at all the hard work put into the graphics of this game.

The sound in the game is done very well. Each creature, spell and enchantment make a sound of their own. No shortcuts taken here to just cut out sounds due to the massive amount of things happening on the battlefield.

Each of the characters have voices to speak the name of the creatures and assortment of spells and enchantments to be used. They will also gloat after defeating a foe to the ground.

The music in the background is a nice ambience to the game. Fitting in very well with the game and setting a mood for your battles.

The game is Dolby digital enabled so you will get to have the awesome experience of surround sound, if you have the required system for it.

really can't suggest anything to the game companies. They have done an excellent job with this game and made it to where new players and veteran players can get into the fun world of Magic The Gathering.

Overall: 10.0 / 10
Gameplay: 10.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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