Wizards of the Coast expands ‘Magic’ and ‘D&D’ further beyond tabletop with two new video games

Wizards of the Coast announced two new video games Thursday night, expanding its iconic tabletop gaming franchises further into the digital realm.

The company, based in Renton, Wash., unveiled a new Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game for PCs and consoles called Dark Alliance; and a new massively-multiplayer online (MMO) game called Magic: Legends, set in the multiverse of Magic: The Gathering.

Wizards of the Coast made the announcements at the annual Game Awards video game show, where ordinarily you might not expect to hear anything from a tabletop game company. But Wizards of the Coast has been expanding into video games, with recent offerings including ‘Magic: The Gathering – Arena,’ and the latest unveilings continue the trend.

Magic: Legends appeared in the form of a short trailer, with no other information readily available. We know it exists; we know it’s an MMO; and we know that it will put players in the role of their own (presumably original) “planeswalkers,” the world-crossing wizards who make up most of the signature cast of Magic’s surprisingly elaborate background story.

More information is planned for release in January, alongside Legends’ entry into beta testing.

Dark Alliance is technically the third game in a long-dead series, following 2001’s Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and 2004’s Dark Alliance 2. The series was meant to continue with a third game, but that was one of many projects that was suddenly canceled by the closure of the late, lamented Black Isle Studios.

The new game, simply called Dark Alliance, is set in the long-running D&D setting, the Forgotten Realms. It’s an action-RPG (kill monsters, get loot, repeat) for up to four players, where each takes the part of one of the four Companions of the Hall: Drizzt Do’Urden, Catti-Brie, Wulfgar, and Bruenor Battlehammer.

The Companions all first appeared in R.A. Salvatore’s Icewind Dale trilogy, which began in 1988. This began a series of popular D&D novels that’s run all the way up to the present day, with a new novel planned to come out in July of 2020.

Most of those novels feature Drizzt, a drow elf ranger and a rebel against his race’s typical matriarchal villainry. Drizzt has been a madly popular character and a regular presence in D&D video games almost since his debut, but this marks a sudden comeback for his old adventuring party, most of whom are actually dead in the current Forgotten Realms metaplot.

Wizards is experiencing a boom at the moment, thanks to the rising popularity of both the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game and Magic: The Gathering. While multiple factors are going into both games’ rise, such as a number of prominent actors who grew up on D&D, the lion’s share of interest comes from the streaming audience; D&D in particular benefits from regular live-play broadcasts such as “Critical Role” and Penny Arcade’s “Acquisitions Incorporated.”

The Game Awards conference is considered one of the highlights of the video game industry’s calendar, since it typically represents the year’s last opportunity to make a bunch of big announcements in between award presentations. While Microsoft started the night off strong with the newly-christened Xbox Series X console, Wizards was a surprise second-place contender.

In addition to the new video games, Wizards announced a new block of cards for Magic called Theros Beyond Death. Featuring a return to the plane of Theros, its trailer features the surprise reappearance of one of Magic’s signature characters, the late Elspeth Tirel. Despite the best efforts of a new character named Ashiok, Elspeth seems to be on track to escape Theros’s particular underworld and return to prominence.

Beyond Death also features three new mechanics, following the general theme of the set’s story. Escape allows you to cast cards from your graveyard by paying a set cost in both mana and exiled cards; Devotion is a mechanic that affects certain cards based upon however many permanents of a single color you control at the time; and Constellation cards receive bonuses or new abilities whenever a new enchantment enters the game under your control. Saga cards are also making a return in Beyond Death, following their last appearance in Dominaria.