Magic: Legends gives the tabletop icon an addictive Hades twist

You don’t need to love Magic: The Gathering to love what this game is going for.

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Magic: Legends gives you the power of a god, or at least the equivalent within the Magic: The Gathering (MTG) multiverse.

The popular trading card game published by Wizards of the Coast has decades of rich lore infused into every card. The core concept is deceptively simple: You’re a Planeswalker, wielding immense magical power and able to “walk” between dimensions. Magic: Legends — an upcoming action-RPG video game for PC and consoles — brings these awesome power dynamics to life in a thoroughly satisfying way. It’s the perfect middle point between multiplayer online battle arenas like League of Legends and hack-and-slack looters like Diablo.

For anyone already obsessed with one of the above, the free-to-play Magic: Legends is worth keeping an eye on once the beta starts on March 23.

Inverse went hands-on with Magic: Legends as part of a press preview ahead of the beta. Ancient evils move in the darkness, and Planeswalkers travel between worlds to combat the growing threats. It’s the perfect backdrop for an ongoing game where players drop in and out to explore seasonal content, like Destiny 2.

At launch, Legends comes with five playable classes, each governed by one of the five primary colors in MTG: red, blue, black, white, and green. Black, domain of necromancy and other dark magic, is all about undead creatures and sacrifices. Green focuses on growth and powerful animals from nature. So the Necromancer and Beastcaller are the two Planeswalkers that represent these colors.

Developer Cryptic Studios has said more characters will be released through battle passes and other future updates. Cosmetics, new options, and unlocking new gear will nudge you out of the free-to-play realm.

Different missions have you defend locations or seek out enemies to eliminate.

Wizards of the Coast

Each Planeswalker has primary, secondary, and utility combat powers. In execution, it feels a bit like a MOBA. But the vast size of the world is similar to a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) akin to World of Warcraft. That “MMO-lite” approach is one the developers seem to have embraced. Like many games of this ilk, most of the experience is hunting down better loot, which in this case means new spells and equipable gear. All the while, you’re in co-op groups of three players, or in some cases, six.

The most interesting wrinkle that Magic: Legends brings, however, is how it adapts core concepts from Magic: The Gathering in a fashion similar to Magic: ManaStrike, the mobile tower rush game also based on MTG.

Legends will launch with over 170 spell cards that you gradually unlock as part of the loot grind. You construct 12-card decks that cycle through into four-card hands as combat occurs. So while moving and attacking your Planeswalker’s abilities, you also have to juggle executing these spells using your mana, or magical energy, that gradually builds over time.

It’s ... a lot. (But in a great way.)

The world of Magic: Legends is colorful and exciting.

Wizards of the Coast

The core gameplay loop is at once staggeringly complex but also easy to pick up. It will likely appeal to those who enjoy a good loot grind with friends and strategists who love testing out complex character builds. More complicated than Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, another upcoming Wizards of the Coast title, Magic: Legends has a higher barrier of entry but greater long-term potential for fantasy diehards.

The cards you choose for your deck can either cover your Planeswalker’s weaknesses — or enhance their strengths. Single color decks are the norm, but ambitious players can opt for two-color decks as well. With such a tight deck size, however, that could be a challenge. The emphasis on synergy between creature types and other mechanics, for instance, remains as potent in Magic: Legends as it does in the card game.

For players who crave seeing their hyper-unique build pop off in spectacular fashion, Magic: Legends is part of a growing trend that includes sensational games like Hades and Loop Hero. When the right build really works, it’s an absolute power trip unlike anything else out there right now.

The PC Magic: Legends beta begins March 23, with a full release later in 2021.

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