Since 1993, classic card game Magic: The Gathering has catered to fans of role-playing fantasy and complex strategy.
There are thousands of playing cards to date and dozens of rules players must abide to, making it an intimidating hobby to take up. But those looking cut their teeth with this summer's core set need not start from scratch. Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 is the best way for new players to jump into the series, according to brand manager Adam Dixon.
As the fourth entry in the Duels of the Planeswalkers series, Magic 2014 helps players bridge the gap between the video game adaptation and the physical card game. The video game follows the same rules as its card counterpart, but with the benefit of virtual trial and error. During a demo with Polygon, Dixon said that new players will be able to easily make the jump.
"We've created a lot of connections between [Magic 2014] and the core set," Dixon said. "If you are a new player and you [play Magic 2014] and you want to try the wider Magic experience, then you can certainly go into stores. You're going to see stuff that is very familiar to you."
Magic 2014's new big feature is a mode called Sealed Play. This option allows players to build their own deck for the very first time by unwrapping virtual booster packs and selecting a 40-card deck from an 84-card pool. For those looking to jump in immediately, the mode also features a deck autobuild option. Sealed Play is noobie friendly; the mode includes plenty of hints, tips and optional tutorials for those in need of them.
"We want your first experience with Magic to be true to what Magic is all about from a strategic gameplay standpoint," Dixon said. "Once you've mastered Duels of the Planeswalkers, you're going to be very comfortable going in to your local store and playing face-to-face Magic. It shouldn't be intimidating at all at that point."
"The planeswalkers help you create some consistency with the storyline — they are kind of that through point for the story."
When players feel comfortable enough to try out the real game, Magic 2014 includes an in-game store locator that pinpoints local play venues. Those that are already well in-tune with Magic: The Gathering will benefit from the game's portability and single-player options, Dixon said.
"If you're traveling a lot, you can take this with you to the airport and play Magic," Dixon said. "I don't need to wait on one of my friends or try and find a friend to play with. I can simply jump in here and have a cool strategic experience whenever I want to."
Unlike previous games, Dixon said, Magic 2014 will include "a lot more story infused into the game." Players will assist Chandra Nalaar, a planeswalker who uses the power of fire. Chandra's quest for revenge will play out in a series of in-game videos. Players can learn more about the various places they'll travel through additional information on opponents and locations. Magic 2014's new plane of existence is just part of how Wizards of the Coast keeps the game fresh, Dixon said.
"You get a new set of cards, new mechanics, new setting," Dixon said. "The planeswalkers help you create some consistency with the storyline — they are kind of that through point for the story. Even though you're moving to a different world, the planeswalker characters are going to be there and be familiar to you."
Dixon said that while the greatest challenge is consistently creating an engaging game for players both old and new, the team does its best to attend to the players' wants.
"We're always trying to make the game feel more like the face-to-face version Magic you play in your local store," Dixon said. "[We] try to deliver the features that our fans are wanting to see."
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 will launch this summer for $9.99 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC, iPad and Android tablets. The game will be virtually identical across all platforms, with the exception of controls.