A couple of weeks ago when I first wrote about my impressions with Harry Potter: Magic Awakened, I had a chance to discuss a lot of what the starting experience is like. There are a bunch of fun ideas and ways to customize your character that follow the lore of the books and films that I can appreciate. However, from a gameplay standpoint, those restrictions aren’t necessarily the best choices.
And while I briefly mentioned a number of the different activities, I got through the whole column without even really discussing how to play them and why it’s so dang fun. So this week, just as the game’s second patch is upon us, let’s step back a bit and talk about how the game actually plays.
Combat and the deck system
Before I get into the different activities too deeply, I want to mention how the game is played insofar as the main combat loop because despite the fairly large number of activities you can participate in, many of them still boil down to combat. Welcome to MMOs.
Rather than picking a class like in a lot of MMOs, you are collecting cards, which the game calls Charms. The Charms are your skills,; though since it’s a card game, we still need to deal with a deck. Your deck, which is basically your active hotbar, can hold eight of these at a time. In Magic Awakened, your hand is always made up of four cards/Charms/skills. When you use a skill, it’s considered played, it’s moved out of your hand, and a new card immediately takes its place. Playing a card requires a certain amount of mana, which slowly builds over time during a battle.
The Charms themselves come in two varieties: spells and summons. Their use is fairly self explanatory. In following with the Harry Potter world, players don’t really actively swing swords and block attacks (Neville excluded); we cast spells – spells that create explosions, bounce between enemies, and even heal. Decks can mix and match between the types freely, and there are even support, DPS, and control cards for both, so you can play however you like.
Now, something that’s really fun and engaging about the combat in Magic Awakened is that it is completely active. In many other cards games, you are basically playing a turn as in old school JRPGs. Here, the combat is free flowing, so you need to be moving around the area to avoid the fire while also launching your skills. Movement is also basically card-basedL You’re given a set number of movement cards to start a battle, and once they’re depleted, you’ll slowly recharge one at a time. It makes movement all the more important because it’s a limited resource in battle, so you don’t want to run from every single attack since eventually you’ll be all out of moves.
The fights can get so hectic that it almost makes me feel as if my brain can’t keep up with the information it’s receiving between figuring out where to position myself, which skills are currently up, and whether or not there’s a smart combo I could be making. It’s an intense but satisfying experience.
In addition to the eight cards that make up your normal deck, you also have three companion cards. These play similar to summoning cards but are available on a firm timer rather than when you have the mana to cast them. I mention them separately because they don’t slot into your normal deck; they’re set to the side and always play in the order you set them in, so it gives you a bit of control over when you’ll be able to play them. However, they don’t shuffle back in; these are powerful one-time-use abilities. I guess you can think of them as your ultimates.
There’s one additional wrinkle to your deck in the form of Echoes, but we’ll talk about that in a future column.
So in summary, the whole deck building mechanic of Magic Awakened essentially plays as a class-free system. You’re completely empowered to build yourself as an area controller, a DPS minion master, or a quick spell slinger. It’s a real joy to try out different builds and play around with card combinations. The game even encourages your personal build diversity by enabling you to save your decks and even assign them to activities. So I’ve got a deck that I like for my solo PvP and a couple related to duo PvP – that way when I queue up for those activities, my deck automatically switches. It’s really just a great way for the devs to have handled that feature.
While you can technically walk or ride your broom to all locations, you really only fast travel
Everything is fast travel in Magic Awakened. Sure you don’t really have to, but when you can fast travel everywhere, many players do just that. It makes sense too with the way the game’s systems are structured. Unlike in a traditional MMO where you’ll probably walk around a city and then head out into the wilderness to test your mettle, in Magic Awakened you’re basically spending all your time in Hogwarts. There are some areas outside of the school that you can travel to and explore, but there’s no open world combat or events. Moreover, all the combat takes place in instances.
I mentioned before all the different activities you can join, so let me expand on that. Each activity is located somewhere else in or around the school grounds. So if you are trying to knock out some dailies, it would be a real headache to constantly walk back and forth everyday between the same handful of stairs and buildings. It’d just be a waste of time. I know I don’t like grabbing a quest, completing it, returning to the giver, and repeating ad nauseam. In a way, you are still doing that here too, but at least you can fast travel directly to the quest or event.
And really that’s how you’re going to be playing Magic Awakened. You open the app, click to start your dailies, teleport over to the various ones to knock them out, and then begin to check out some guild activities and the like. It’s designed as a mobile game so that you can complete chunks here and there in five or ten minute bouts. Of course, some of the dungeon and story events can be longer, but the majority of your tasks are quick.
Next time, we’ll dig into the different gameplay activities and the dreaded gacha.