Rise and Shiny recap: MagicDuel

MagicDuel screenshot
My job is to hunt down unique and hopefully exciting new games for my readers to try. Some actually try them, and others just enjoy reading about their choices and might try them later. Either way, I am proud to show off some of the gems I find, but I am a little sad when I have to say, "This game sucks."

And MagicDuel, an odd browser-based MUD sort of game, sucks. Of course I will need to explain this to you or I'll risk coming off of some sort of buffoon who does not know how to navigate a simple point-and-click adventure, so click past the cut and I will tell you why.

MagicDuel screenshot
I pick the games I am going to look at in a few ways: Sometimes I get invited to play new games (the publishers sends me an invitation, press account, or press announcement) or I find them in one of the million sites I visit regularly. The indie development world seems to know nothing about marketing -- good marketing is not dependent on a huge budget! So I tend to find games like MagicDuel through another site. They are often buried in the sidebar or down deep in a list of free browser-based MMOs.

First of all, the game does not suck in all areas. In some areas it is downright cool or attractive. At first I fell deeply in love with the game's guts. The developer (developers?) chose to keep the game as a text-based, semi-graphical world. I have always been a fan of MUDs but literally cannot play many of those that only concentrate on text. If I had to play a text-based game all day, my eyes would melt in a migraine breakdown. When I saw that MagicDuel featured a decent font on a light background and nice, hand-drawn artwork, I thought it would be the greatest game ever.

Essentially you start in the "Paper Cabin," a strange little shack that is supposed to act as a newbie tutorial. While it does provide you with a pretty basic walkthrough and takes you through a story that is, well, amateur but fun, the problems come in immediately after you are asked to go out into the real world. For example, once you come to an end to the first part of the story, you are told that you must make it to the next magic level (level 4 if I remember correctly), but it does not really tell you how to do that. The only information I could find on it was an instruction to participate in 100 fights, to lose 100 fights as well, and to raise my "heat" level. Needless to say, I could only find maybe a dozen creatures to fight, and the game wanted me to participate in 200 fights. Again, I am probably confusing a lot of this simply because the game so poorly designed.

I was depressed at that point. No, really. When I decide to look at a game for this column and it turns out to be a dud, my spirits fall. Perhaps the situation would turn around if I visited the forums or asked for help in the help channels. Little did I know that the forums were mostly filled with chatter between players who already knew the game. They spun thread after thread, most of them complaining about the "drama" in the game, and many of them using such gameplay-specific terms that they were literally no help. One gentleman did send me private messages and attempted to be very helpful. He provided me with some information, but like the few people I found in-game who actually talked to me (ironic that the game is based on roleplay; no one chats), the forum-goers came across as sort of sluggish, intoxicated individuals. They were vague about everything. Even when I would ask specific questions, even while in roleplay, I would often receive a "hehe" or a ">.<" in return. It was as though the community had long ago given up on new players and instead relished its newbie-free environment of roleplay drama.

I wish I could explain more to you, fair reader, about the gameplay aspects. It seems like the way to play is to roleplay everything. If you roleplay it long enough and in the company of enough people, the "system" (meaning a select group of players) decides whether or not to award you items or characteristics based on how good you roleplay. The man who helped me on the forums told me he had to roleplay for months as a hunter before receiving a helpful in-game knife from the system. I liked the idea of effective and valued roleplay, but along the way of coming up with this brilliant system, the developers forgot to remember to make one simple forum post that might be helpful to a new player. No, I don't want to know the setting or how the main story is going. I simply want to know the mechanics of the game. Dear lord, please tell me how to do stuff.

Otherwise I spent my time running from scene to scene, occasionally being attacked by other players along the way and generally being ignored the rest of the time. I would head back to the paper cabin to look for help, and there would be eight or so AFK players who might answer a posted question of mine literally 15 or 20 minutes later. Occasionally I would receive a quicker response in my mailbox, but the players almost never answered my questions. It just seems like a game that offers new players the chance to hang out with a bunch of people who are in on a joke but won't share that joke with new players.

Watch the embedded video to see how the game is set up functionally and how I navigated the different areas. Otherwise, there's not much more to say. The community was nice but quiet. The gameplay was very unique but so under-explained that it was not fun at all. In fact, I was very happy to be done with this one so I could move on to something that was willing to try to explain itself.

Next week I will be looking at Golden Age, another one of those games I was invited to. Here's hoping it provides me with a much-needed pick-me-up after playing through this last dud.

Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!
This article was originally published on Massively.