|The handy little beams of light help to show you what's going on throughout each phase.|
In case you hadn't already noticed, Xbox Live have started advertising low-price XBLA items on the Spotlight section of the Dashboard. I'm not sure if this phenomenon is UK-only, but I failed to pick up on it whilst I was in the US, and just happened to notice it last Saturday evening, whilst casually perusing the Xbox with little to do. I missed out on an incredible deal as part of their Friday-only offer, which was Torchlight at 400pts, but settled with a 33% reduction on MtG:DotP and was happy, although much to my chagrin they further reduced this from 800 to this week's 400 banana bucks. That's a price at which you'd be mad to miss it.
I think Crimson Alliance is primarily to blame for my urge to explore more fantasy outlets such as Torchlight or Magic the Gathering. Both have very different approaches not only in gameplay but in the way they position themselves towards their respective worlds. Torchlight feels like a casual, beginner's entry into the world of Diablo, with the whole world being depicted in a fun, care-free cartoon style, not entirely unlike World of Warcraft. Magic the Gathering, however, can be a bit of an intimidating prospect to outsiders, and certainly had this effect on me.
|Two cards face off in bloody competition.|
The game's UI definitely benefits from an HDTV. Since returning from the US, I have been downgraded to my old SDTV, upon which the image can often be unreadable, unless you are close enough to the screen. The layout further betrays itself in complex set-ups such as Archenemy mode, where most of the board feels crammed onto the screen in order to display everything that is happening. Archenemy mode, it is worth noting, is a really interesting gametype in which three players face off against an Archenemy, ostensibly a player with ridiculous powers granted to them at each turn. These gametypes seem to either result in a quick victory for the trio, or a long, drawn-out defeat that is unrelenting in its punishment.
The standard single-player campaign is broken into one-on-one duels against AI Planeswalkers, with each duel unlocking a challenge or two. The challenges are set pieces, usually lasting just one or two turns. They are designed to help teach you the finer points of Magic: The Gathering and how various cards can be cleverly utilised to your benefit. At times, the solutions can seem obtuse and even impossible, but passing them will leave you with the appropriate skills to cut your teeth in the online area, where many of the players I encountered seemed to be old hands at the game. I think, so far, I have only managed to win one or two games.
All in all, it has proved to be a delightful distraction for the past week or so, and I would highly recommend it, particularly if you have someone who is willing to accompany you on this very nerdy of downward spirals.