Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalker
Hi there readers of Achievement Locked! I’m Nathan and you are reading my first review and it is on Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalker 2012, a game known for its complex gameplay, beautiful art and deck customisation.
This game is available on Steam, Playstation Network and Xbox Live. I will be reviewing the Steam version.
I first got my hands on Stainless Games’ first iteration of Duels of the Planeswalker just over a month ago, free on Playstation Plus. Little did I know how addictive this game was and when I found out 2012’s impending release, I scoured the web constantly for more news and updates to satiate my desire for more Magic.
For those new to Magic the Gathering, it is a popular collectible card game where players duel each other as Planeswalkers – who are much like wizards and witches. Standard games have Planeswalkers beginning with 20 hit points with the aim of reducing it to zero. What makes the game interesting is that they do not physically attack each other. Instead they use mana to cast spells such as summoning creatures to do their bidding and choosing whether they will attack or defend each turn. Other than the creatures, there are cards that overturn the rules of Magic which can be casted in the midst of battle to turn the tides, making the game a combination of skill, luck and perception.
Duels of the Planeswalker 2012 begins with a gorgeous opening of a heavily injured Gideon Jura, a user of Plains magic speaking in retrospective about his life and a beautiful montage is displayed of his battle against other Planeswalker. Please note this is the only time you will ever hear or see the story except for the occasional caption and beautiful art in the loading screen before each battle in campaign.
When you first start you will have access to two sets of cards known as decks. As you progress through the campaign mode you will unlock new decks as well as a new card each time you win. There are a total of 12 decks in this game and each deck has 17 cards you can unlock.
I strongly recommend newcomers and veterans of Magic to play through the tutorial in the campaign first to get a feel for the controls of this game. Fear not if the tutorial was extremely confusing, after a few games you will feel right at home.
As you progress through campaign mode, you will unlock side games known as challenges. In these challenges, you are generally in a disadvantageous position with set cards in your hand where if played correctly, can win you the game. It gets progressively difficult and in one challenge I spent a good 30 minutes solving it. On the bright side, by solving these challenges you will be well versed in the special abilities of cards and use them advantageously. For lifespan purposes, once campaign is complete, the revenge mode is unlocked where you challenge the Planeswalker again, except this time they have possess more powerful cards.
The final single player mode is Archenemy, which I have found both fun and extremely frustrating. It pits you and two other Planeswalkers against one. It sounds very unfair doesn’t it? However this lonely Planeswalker is compensated with a separate deck known as a scheme deck where it consists of ridiculous overpowered cards that can turn the tide of the battle straight away and at the beginning of each turn they draw a card from this deck. This can be played with either AI or with other players; I recommend playing with players as sometimes AI may not do the actions you want them to.
The multiplayer component of this game contains a two versus two modes known as 2-Headed Dragon, an Archenemy mode and Free for all modes where there can be a minimum of 2 players and a maximum of 4 players. What I’ve noticed in Free For All, is that creatures you summon can only attack players to your right, whereas magic that you cast can be directed at anyone. I’m sure this is in place to prevent possible griefing against other players. In conjunction with the multiplayer mode, there are also leaderboards to compare how you are faring against the rest of the world in each mode; unfortunately sometimes it would crash on me when I try to access. Bear in mind at the time of writing, the community is in the midst of working out how these points are calculated.
I have spent many hours in multiplayer mode and it is great fun. What I find lacking in this is the lack of voice and text chat. Fortunately for Steam, there is an integrated communication channel for you and your mates. I think without these communication channels, we would of loss countless times during our co-op matches.
Deck customisation, another great joy of Magic the Gathering is still quite limited compared to the original Duals of the Planeswalker. Due of the vast library of Magic cards, there was always that goal to build the perfect deck. As you unlock cards you may feel necessary to remove cards from the deck provided it has a minimum of 60 cards. Mana however is still automatically added into the deck in proportion to how many cards you have.
What I love about this game is that it has done a great job interpreting the complex rules of Magic. User interface cues such as highlighting informs the player what actions they can perform in their turn and should they need it they can pause the game to zoom in at their cards just by hovering and then scrolling. On your first play-through there will be message prompts each time a key action occurs to explain in more detail. These prompts can be removed permanently, or you can have them constantly popping up to drill it into your head.
It certainly saves time from flipping through the rule book if one was duelling in real life.
Another aspect of this game I love is that you can still enjoy a game of magic without the need to go out purchasing new cards to get a taste of playing with different types of decks. That was unfortunately the reason why I had to give up Magic as it became quite an expensive hobby of mine as I strived to build the perfect deck. If history tells us anything, Stainless Games will release expansions that will add new decks as well as new cards to existing decks. Hooray for budget minded players!
One of my major gripes with the game is the control method when browsing through the options. Unfortunately, in order to scroll across the menu you have to click each box to get it to move! The same applies to customising your deck, instead of easily being able to scroll to each card to remove or add; you must click each end until you reach the desired card. It makes me realise that this control method was designed for console gamers in mind – the ease of just tilting the analogue sticks.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a vast experience of playing games so I cannot put an approximate rating on it. So rather than provide this game with a score I’ll instead list the pros and cons of this game.
- A clean interface during duels aided by smooth controls.
- Magic in game form without buying cards? Definitely a pro.
- 12 decks to play around with and 17 cards to unlock for each deck will mean you will be playing for a very very long time.
- The art of the cards is brilliantly captured in this game
- Frustrating menu navigation system, please implement a scrolling function!
- Limited deck customisation
- Bugs such as crashing leaderboards and freezes
- Needs in game text and voice chat
All in all, for the price of this game, I feel it is a steal and you will most definitely have countless hours of playtime both offline and online. I felt this game is right down my alley, I’ve enjoyed Magic during my younger years and this game gives me the same enjoyment minus the investment in cards. There are 12 decks available each with a different play style that is bound to suit someone. Grab it now on PSN, Xbox live Arcade or Steam!
Oh and don’t forget to tell us what you think of the game as well! Sorry for the long winded review, let us know in the comments what type of review you prefer, whether it is long or brief. I’ll do my best to make my next review more to your taste.