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PC Preview - 'Magic: The Gathering Online III'

by Hank on June 15, 2006 @ 2:25 a.m. PDT

Rather than simply updating the existing title, the Magic Online III team is rebuilding the game from the ground up. The new game features much greater accessibility and flexibility for the players. Veterans have more control over how they play the game while new users get a smoother introduction to the online world of Magic: The Gathering.

Genre: Card Battle
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Developer: Wizards of the Coast
Release Date: Summer 2006

About a decade ago, Magic was a very popular card game and one of my favorite games to play during lunch breaks. After having to contend with real life, it's become incredibly tough for me to find people with whom to play Magic. Deciding to target players like me with an updated PC game offering, Wizards of the Coast is now on the verge of releasing Magic: The Gathering Online III.

To me, Magic is the equivalent of a portable RTS game, but the goal is to eliminate all of the opponents' lives (usually 20). To do so, each player must first build a deck of cards, being careful to include in the deck the most well-suited combination of magic, creatures and beasts. There are five class factions: plains, mountains, forest, island, and swamp magic. Each faction has its own set of cards, and each card has a set of specific rules that must be followed.

Once the cards are placed into play, the specific rules per card must be followed. One such requirement is a minimum amount of specific mana in order to "bring" that item out onto the board. If you can't find an opponent to play against, Magic Online III is the perfect answer, and with a user base of 2,500 players, finding games should be a cinch.

Unlike other MMOs, the online service for MO3 is free, but the cards can't be purchased from the local card shop and must instead be purchased through a website, which will instantly "deposit" the cards into your account. In future releases, Wizards of the Coast plans to integrate the store into the client application. The online store allows you to purchase booster packs and other packs similar to those found in the card stores. The card packs range from event booster packs, which go for $3.69, to tournament and theme packs, which will cost $11.29.

Magic Online 3 is releasing a new expansion called "Deception," but with 20 expansions already in existence and with new expansions coming out every six months, there are plenty of cards to choose from, and there will always be new cards to collect. The Wizards of the Coast have also decided to woo original fans by selling booster packs for the original installment. A much easier way to collect cards would be to use the built-in trading system that allows you to trade with other players. The trading system is built like Diablo's trading system, but with three layers of confirmation, to ensure that you really really want to trade.

In addition to appealing to new fans, Magic Online 3 will also entice veterans. If you have a complete set online, there is a redemption program that allows you to claim the physical cards, but these cards also get removed from your online account, which sort of explains why some cards rarely get redeemed/circulated.

Casual tournaments, tournament sanctions, and sealed deck events can support up to a total of 32 players, and in select tournaments, there can even be up to 96 players. Alas, there is no advantage to winning these tournaments, but the game is about trying to be the best Magic Online player, having fun in the process, and racking up various bragging rights.

Magic: The Gathering Online 3 is a very unique online game that can be quite fun for fans who have always enjoyed the underlying strategy but can no longer find people against whom to play. The developers are also hoping to bring back players who have been wooed away by World of Warcraft. If you've never played card battle games before and want to see what you've been missing, this is a great place to start.

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