Wizards of the Coast's incredibly popular card game, Magic: The Gathering, has been a favorite of fantasy enthusiasts and strategy gamers alike. As anyone who has ever played the game can tell you, it's as addictive as a drug habit and even more expensive. The card game has sold more than one billion copies worldwide and is printed in seven languages. From what I've seen, MicroProse's computer adaptation of Magic will be just as time-consuming and entertaining as the original.
In the card version of Magic: The Gathering, you assume the role of a powerful wizard and, by building a deck of cards, engage in an arcane duel against your rivals. The cards come in five colors (white, red, blue, green, and black), each influencing different strategies of play. In the end, the game is a Dungeons and Dragons hybrid minus the time-consuming character generation and lengthy combat phase. MicroProse holds fairly true to the original concept. Included in Magic are 405 cards comprised of the complete fourth edition set from the original card game (including 28 out-of-print cards) and the new astral set (12 cards made exclusively for the PC game). You can design your own decks using a variety of different creatures, artifacts, and spells and pit your creations against the computer AI. Part of the appeal of the printed version of Magic is that the cards display original art by many leading fantasy artists. MicroProse has duplicated the cards down to the last detail and the artwork on the PC version is just as beautiful and detailed as the original. The first release will be single-player only, but MicroProse does plan to ship a multiplayer option with the first expansion pack.
MicroProse has also included a role-playing feature in the computer version of Magic: The Gathering. Beginning your career as a minor Wizard, you explore the world of Shandalar in search of new magical cards to add to your arsenal. Although you begin the game with a small number of cards, you can find as well as buy and sell cards in villages scattered throughout the land. The role-playing portion of Magic plays like other hack and slash adventures, except all battles are resolved by challenging your opponent to a card duel. Before the mystical contest, each wizard antes a random card from his/her deck. In this manner, cards can be lost or won depending on the outcome of the battle.
Magic: The Gathering promises to offer something new to the veteran Magic player and, according to MicroProse, one of the most appealing aspects of Magic for Windows 95 is that "players will be able to play a hand of Magic anytime on demand with the computer, and the gameplay will expand and diversify as new cards are added through expansion products."
Even in the pre-beta version, Magic: The Gathering appears to contain the same addictive elements of the original. If you're an avid Magic player now, this will be a game you won't want to miss, and even if you've never played the card game before, keep an eye open for this addictive computer adaptation.