Magic the Gathering



to view advertisers
Click on image to visit site

With over two billion cards sold worldwide, Magic the Gathering (MtG) is certainly the most popular strategy card game ever. What made its success is not only the fine card art work and the appeal for the rich content of the game, but also the fact that it is the first collectible trading card game, which opened the magic world of MtG to both, players and collectors. Additional cards sold through expansion packs ensured Wizards of the Coast, the company behind MtG, a loyal audience of fans looking for more cards to play and/or collect. But if the concept worked for trading cards, would it be the same with computer games. That's the question on which MicroProse and Wizards of the Coast worked on for over two years, the time necessary for the development of a computer version of the game that has just been released by MicroProse.

Five colors of Magic

To say that MtG is an easy game would be a lie. It's like playing chess, once you know how to move the pieces on the chessboard, nothing is easier to play, but that doesn't mean you will win the game! Compared to chess, there are more rules in MtG, but learning them isn't what takes long to assimilate. What is time consuming in MtG is the learning of the various tactics and strategies, as well as the multiple interactions between cards that you can use against your adversary. For this purpose, MicroProse has included a well made multimedia tutorial, designed to help you to start playing with the game in a minimum amount of time. Divided into thirteen chapters, the tutorial will consider the various aspects of the game such as the different types of mana, how to build a deck, the various phases of a turn, the spells and special abilities, and the combats. The chapters, presented with live video footage featuring a Sorceress and a Wizard, occasionally accompanied with Ogres, Knights and Goblins, run on for several minutes and give a concise description of all the aspects of the game. Sometimes, the player will have to interact with the tutorial to test whether or not the notions approached by the chapter were understood. There is of course more in the manual than what the tutorial delivers, but it allows players who don't want to spend much time in reading the book, to acquire enough knowledge and make the first steps in MtG.

Call from the Grave
Call from the Grave
from the Astral Set

The computer version of MtG offers extra possibilities to render the game more engaging. Among these features are the exploration of Shandalar's Realm, a set of twelve cards unique to the PC version (Astral Set), future Internet multi-player support (through an add-on disk), and sets of expansion cards to be released at regular intervals. Being able to challenge other players over the Internet is definitely something I look forward to seeing in the future, which won't hopefully be too long. In a similar way to the card game, expansion sets will add new cards to the existing 400 included in MtG. These regroup the cards from the Fourth Edition, the Astral Set, and 23 powerful cards from the first expansion packs (Arabian Nights and Antiquities).

Once you feel ready to play your first MtG game, you can choose to start a duel, a gauntlet or enter the magic Realm of Shandara. The differences between the duel and the gauntlet is that you only play one match in the duel. In the gauntlet you must defeat every single adversary until you lose. Several options will allow you to adjust the enemy's level and choose whether you want one single duel or a two out of three contest. These two modes should be your best choices if you want to test your skills.

Only when you think you have enough experience will you dare entering the Realm of Shandara. You will play either as an Apprentice, Magician, Sorcerer or Wizard, each corresponding to a higher level of difficulty. Then, you will need to choose your color (blue, red, black, white, green) which represents the kind of magic you will play in MtG. Depending on the difficulty, your deck will feature more or less cards from your magic color, leaving you with the obligation to win or discover new cards should you want to challenge powerful creatures and wizards. But this mode is not only about duels, but also about exploration and quests. Shandara has numerous places to visit and you can expect many surprises. In the villages you will buy food and cards, speak to the local Wise Man, and be offered quests to complete within a given time. These quests can be as simple as delivering a message to another place, or to duel a creature threatening a village. The reward will usually consist of cards or mana stones. These last items will be served for the World Magics as we'll see below, or as barter to obtain cards that are hard to find. The World Magics mentioned above, are special items that you can sometimes buy. They can only be used outside a duel, and they need to be powered by the proper number and colored mana stones. Helped with such artefacts, you will be able, for example, to magically transport your character anywhere on the map, protect a city besieged by an enemy wizard, avoid a duel with a creature, increase the speed of your character, etc. The world of Shandara contains other places than villages and taverns. There are cities, lairs, dungeons and castles for you to visit. The cities are pretty much the same as the villages except that the minor wizard occupying the city will be more willing to trade cards for mana stones, just to give an example. The lairs nearly always reveal valuable treasures, but they are also well guarded and it's nearly impossible to know what awaits you inside. Another place you can explore is the dungeon. However, before you can even explore it, you must know its location which is only given through the clues you may obtain when you beat an adversary. Be sure to be well prepared before entering the dungeon, as they are often packed with powerful creatures. Finally, it is in the castle that you will find the evil wizards. Enter only if you have a powerful deck!

Although it won't serve you directly in the Realms of Shandara, the Deck Builder is a great tool that allows you to build decks of your own from all the cards contained on the CD. These newly created decks will then be played later in duels or gauntlets. It is also an excellent way to find which cards and colors you like to play with, each type of magic having its own particularity that will appeal to players.

To reproduce the beautiful art work of the original cards, it was necessary to use SVGA graphics and even beyond. A minimum resolution of 800 by 600 is required to play with the game, but the best is to play at 1024 by 768 using 65,000 colors or higher. This will of course require your video card to have 2Mb of RAM, but it certainly worth it. The illustrations are faithful to the originals, delivering crisp and brilliant graphics to the player. In the same style, the interface also features clean and exquisite graphics that go well with the art style of the cards used in MtG. The only minor glitch is the not so smooth scrolling of the main view in Shandara, which even on a fast Pentium seemed too slow for my taste. Regarding the sound environment in MtG, there is nothing really exciting about it. Only in rare occasions, will you have music in the background, with sound effects present during duels and within the Realm of Shandara when you move your character. It would have been great to have included a musical soundtrack in a CD audio format to set up the mood, but I'm sorry to say there is nothing like that in MtG!


Even though the Internet multi-player support has not been implemented yet in the game, Magic the Gathering has a promising brilliant future online. Still, playing alone versus the challenging AI is quite as much rewarding for the beginner eager to learn all the tricks, and the experienced player searching for a tough duel. Overall, Magic the Gathering will undeniably appeal for the thousands of players around the world. If only the multi-player feature was built-in, it would avoid players paying for what is offered in many other games.

Written by Frederick Claude

Click here for screen shots.



System Requirements:

486 DX4-100 MHz or higher,
Windows 95,
Min 16MB memory,
Hard disk with 90Mb free space,
Quadruple speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
1Mb SVGA video graphic card capable of displaying 640 x 480 with 256 colors (1027 x 768 with 65,000 colors recommended),
Microsoft mouse or 100% compatibles,
Windows 95 compatible sound card.


In North America:

MicroProse USA
2490 Mariner Square Loop,
Alameda, CA 94501.

Technical Support:510-522-1164 Monday to Friday 9:00am - 5:00am PST
Fax Support:510-522-9357
BBS Support:510-522-8909 14,400 bauds

Web site: MicroProse
Email: MicroProse Technical Support

In Europe:

In UK:

MicroProse Europe
The Ridge, Chipping Sodbury,
South Glos, BS17 6BN.

Technical Support:+44-(0)1454-893900 Monday to Friday 9:00am - 5:30pm GMT
Fax Support:+44-(0)1454-894296
BBS:+44-(0)1454-327083/084 14,400 bauds

For UK Only:

For new release information and hints and tips on selected games, call the MicroProse Classified Line on 0891-555-111. This call is more expensive than a normal call and will terminate after six minutes at a maximum cost of 2.94 British pounds. Please seek the permission of whoever pays the bill before you call.

Email: MicroProse UK

In Germany:

MicroProse-Spectrum Holobyte GmbH
Bartholomausweg 31,
33334 Gutersloh.

Technical Support:+49-(0)5241-946480 Monday to Wednesday 2:00pm - 7:00pm GMT+1
Fax Support:+49-(0)5241-946494
BBS Support:+49-(0)5241-946484 28,800 bauds

Email: MicroProse Germany

In France:

Electronic Arts,
Centre d'Affaires Telebase,
3 rue Claude Chappe,
69771 St. Didier au Mont d'Or Cedex.

Technical Support:+33-(0)4-7253-2500

graphic line

[Main][Back issues][Feedback]

All content Copyright © 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 Coming Soon Magazine, Inc. All Rights reserved.