Magic: ManaStrike Review - Good Enough, But Needs Something More

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Time to do battle. Netmarble

Magic: ManaStrike was officially released last week for both the iOS App Store and Google Play. The game is developed by Netmarble and is officially licensed by Wizards of the Coast. ManaStrike offers a new way to be part of the Magic: The Gathering universe.

There's no doubt that the game is fun to play, but the question is does it offer enough fun for players to stick around long enough?

If you're familiar with Clash Royale then you're pretty much set for starting up Magic: ManaStrike. The game combines different elements of tower defense, collectible card games, and a sort of MOBA. For Magic: The Gathering players or fans, it's similar to the Emperor Format. The field is divided into two, with players having a main structure in the middle with two towers on each side. The goal is to destroy the opponent's structures within the time limit. To do so, players have a deck of cards that have creatures they can summon and spells they can cast.

Magic: ManaStrike does differ from those other games by offering a new mechanic. In games of the same genre, players can only summon creatures on their half of the field. However, in this one, players can also summon Planeswalkers. As long as the Planeswalkers are alive, players can summon creatures near them. The number of times players can summon Planeswalkers is limited, so it’s important to know when to do it. That's not all, as when entering the battle, the Planeswalkers offer different abilities. This results in players needing to come up with different strategies each game.

When players create ManaStrike accounts, they get to choose from five different Planeswalkers. There are more available, but players need to reach certain ranks and must purchase them to unlock more. In my case, I needed to buy the Nixilis Season Magic Pass in order to get Ob Nixilis. Fortunately for the other Planeswalkers, you're going to need gold, which can only be obtained by winning matches. You can of course use gems as well, but they cost actual money.

One issue I have with ManaStrike is with the cards. At certain points in the game you get booster packs that contain cards. However, you don't immediately get that card. Instead it only means that those particular cards are now going to be available as possible rewards in the future.

Another issue that some players may find the story to be lacking. The game follows the tale of Nicol Bolas. After being defeated by different Planeswalkers, he makes an alternate universe in the hopes of understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the Planeswalkers. You as the player are one of those that are testing this alternate universe. That's about it.

Based on what is being offered so far, you don't have any idea if Bolas was succesful in his plan or not. The game would do well to have a Story Mode, or at the very least, something similar to adventures in Hearthstone, or how King of Fighters ALLSTAR handles its story.

The game also has the usual connectivity issues and difficulty in finding matches. Considering that this one is rather new, that's expected. I did like the fact that while the game was still downloading all the resources needed to play it, you could immediately play the tutorial.

Finally, one interesting feature is that players can control the view when in battle. Personally, I found it better to view the battle from the sides rather than from the top. However, this may pose a problem for others, particularly when placing units accurately.

Overall Magic: ManaStrike is a good way to learn about the Magic: The Gathering universe. However it’s just that, an introduction. The need to do battles constantly is sure tiring, especially for Magic: The Gathering fans who want to try out this genre. It’s still in the early stage of release, so we're hoping there’s more to come with future updates.

I found that to keep everything feeling fresh, I only played a couple of times a day. If you reach a point when you feel the need to buy gems, we suggest you hold off on that and wait for something better.

On the Magic: The Gathering rarity scale, with common being the lowest and mythic rare being the highest, we'd mark this one uncommon. It's better than other games in its genre, but doesn't add much to the Magic: The Gathering franchise.

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