Battlegrounds: Genre

Magic: the Gathering — Battlegrounds is a difficult game to classify. It’s hardly just an adaptation of M:tG. It’s got too much of a strategic component to be easily labeled a fighting game, but requires too much of the player’s reflexes to be easily called a strategy game. Mobygames pegs it as “action” and leaves it at that.

It certainly looks like a fighting game. It’s got a side view of two opponents squaring off, attempting to drain each others’ life bars. And if they’re doing this through spells rather than martial-arts moves, well, surely that’s just a matter of emphasis. Fighting games as old as Street Fighter let the players throw balls of chi energy at each other, and in Battlegrounds you can actually hit an opponent with a hand-to-hand attack if they venture across the virtual net into your half of the arena. It may seem fairly superficial to base so much of the genre judgment on where the camera is placed, but, well, consider the well-established “first-person shooter” genre.

In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I’d be fairly comfortable assigning this to the fighting-game genre, except for one thing: playing it feels a great deal like playing Battlemage, which was so much more clearly RTS-influenced!

Ultimately, it’s kind of foolish to insist that everything fit into a pigeonhole. Some things are sui-generis, and that’s all there is to it. Sometimes such a thing forms the seed of a new genre, although I think that’s unlikely here. But the concept of genre has one big effect on the player experience: it affects expectations. I purchased this game expecting an experience similar to playing Magic: the Gathering, and was disappointed. Suppose some fan of fighting games decided to give it a try on the basis of the screenshots on the package. Would such a person be as disappointed as me? In the same way?

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