Magic Duels: Origins E3 Preview

Magic the Gathering is a game that has hooked me like few others have. Not only have I spent more money than I’d care to admit on physical cards, I’ve also invested even more time and cash in its digital incarnations. After playing the latest two console games —Magic 2014 and Magic 2015—I had resigned myself to the belief that no digital console game could ever be a replacement for playing with real cards and in-person with friends. In many ways I’d say that will always be true, but Magic Duels: Origins gets as close as we’ve ever seen.

Wizards of the Coast has created their best console Magic game yet with Magic Duels: Origins. This latest entry in the series will have an even more extensive campaign mode to train new Magic players and test the skills of veterans. The campaign will also delve deep into the lore of the Magic the Gathering universe, telling the origins of key franchise characters as well as major events. Once players are confident in their dueling skills, they can take them online and battle other duelists.

Alongside the strong campaign and online multiplayer modes, Magic Duels: Origins has many new features. Most notable is that it’s completely free. Yes, FREE. You might think that sounds too good to be true and that the game must be riddled with microtransactions, or that you eventually have to pay in order to unlock more content. Well, you’d be wrong. It’s true that there is an option to exchange real money for in-game currency should you so choose, but all features of the game are available at no extra financial cost if you put in a little work. Some content may need to be unlocked with in-game currency, but all the coins you’ll ever need can be earned just by playing the game. You also might think that free means there will be fewer features or a smaller card database. Again, you’d be wrong.

Arguably the biggest addition in Magic Duels: Origins is the return of fan favorite game mode Two-Headed Giant. In Two-Headed Giant, four players split into two teams and each pair of players works together to defeat the opposing team. Not only is this game mode back, it can also be played cooperatively with two people on the same system. That’s right, Magic Duels: Origins has couch co-op—a feature that seems to be getting rarer and rarer in games.

If being free and having Two-Headed Giant return wasn’t enough already, Magic Duels: Origins still has a plethora of more new content to entice Magic the Gathering fans. Origins has a larger database of cards than previous entries, and that database will continue to expand along with the releases of future physical card set expansions. Planeswalker cards are also playable for the first time ever in a Magic console game, and Magic Duels: Origins will boast a roster of 5. Another huge change is that booster packs you earn will never give you extra, unnecessary cards. Once you have four copies of a single card in your collection, you won’t see another one from a booster pack again.

After collecting all the cards you need, you have the option to begin constructing decks through two different editors: Deck Builder and Deck Wizard. Deck Builder is the same familiar deck creator of past games, where you can hand pick each card in your deck or have the computer create a streamlined deck for you based off of cards you’ve selected. Deck Wizard is an extremely detailed and varied deck assistant that is extremely user friendly for new Magic players. It will teach you how to create decks based off of your favorite cards, the theme you want to play, or the colors you want to use. The addition of Deck Wizard is probably the biggest reason why Magic Duels: Origins will be the most accessible Magic the Gathering based game yet.

Skill Quests are also another welcome addition to Magic Duels: Origins. Building upon the various quests of past games, Skill Quests are quick objectives that are used to teach gameplay mechanics, earn coins, and provide challenges for experienced players. Another new quest type called Community Quests are introduced in Magic Duels: Origins as well, which are passive quests that all online players participate in and work towards accomplishing together (e,g. deal 10,000 points of damage).

Magic Duels: Origins is a game of pure fan service. Not only is it a more approachable, a more extensive, and a more complete console Magic the Gathering game than we’ve ever seen, it’s being given to us for free. The return of Two-Headed Giant is something fans have been wanting for years, and its support of couch co-op will let friends play digital Magic in the same room. Origins will also keep expanding alongside the release of physical card sets at no extra cost to the players. With so much being offered—and at a price tag of free—I’m already planning on spending dozens of hours collecting cards, building new decks, completing Skills Quests, and playing Two-Headed Giant with my friends.

Are you a fan of Magic the Gathering? Interested to learn what it’s all the fuss is about? Let us know in the comments below!

Magic Duels: Origins will be coming to PlayStation 4 later this year, and to Xbox One, PC, and iPad next month. PlayStation Universe will be among the first to know the official PS4 release date, so stay tuned to PSU!