Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers: review

If you’ve ever played Magic: The Gathering in any form before, then you know exactly what sort of things to expect; Creatures, Spells, Artifacts etc in all the Six colours (including Colourless). If you haven’t played it before then, well,  now you’ve read what to expect.

The game features this year’s set of Decks (well the annual non-themed ones anyway), the inventively named 14th Edition. What that boils down to (currently), is one of each of the five colours, with green and white doubling up to two, and a handful of multicolour decks, some of which involve hybrid cards.

The tutorial they’ve designed is fairly in depth and very hands on, making it particularly good for newcomers and returning players who need to sharpen up on the rules again. Not stopping at just the tutorial, it’ll bombard you with hints at every opportunity until you turn them off or hit “Do not show again”. Helpful as they may be, there are prompts that allow you to go over every detail of the card you’re inspecting, making it easy enough to look things up yourself. It puts context to use with ability descriptions as well, which is invaluable for understanding some of the more complex abilities.

“What’s behind the mask? Why another mask of course!”

The main campaign follows the Planeswalker Chandra and her quest to defeat the traitor Ramaz. There are bits of story here and there but if you don’t know your lore on Planeswalkers before going into the game, then not much is going to change.

It’s best to unlock the Decks of each Planeswalker before getting too deep into the campaign else you’ll miss out on the chance to try the various playstyles they cover. Also, as you have to win games in order to gain up to 30 extra cards for a deck, including some tasty legendary cards, it’s best to find what you like early on, and grind wins until you get what you want. It’s themed so that all non-Planeswalker decks have the same card order each time, which allows you to learn to fight against certain compositions and play styles, though it won’t be anywhere near the same as fighting a randomised order of the same cards.

There are ten challenges to play through as well, too few maybe, depending on your view, but they are interesting situations for sure. The five “easy” challenges don’t take much to figure out, but the harder ones feel more like a guessing game at times rather than taking any real planning or forethought into the strategy.

Sealed Play lets you go wild with whatever cards you happen to get from the booster packs. It also has cards from the 14th Edition that don’t appear in any of the ten Planeswalker decks, meaning you have cards to choose from that you won’t have seen in the campaign. It’s nice to have the freedom to make decks of more varied styles but, as you have to rely on the luck of the draw, it can still feel quite unfair if you don’t get anything to your liking.

Burning Cultists, so much for religious freedom, eh?

Even if the deck isn’t quite up to your standards the auto-complete in the deck manager can give you a hand to finish off your deck by rounding it off with useful cards. As it gives a score for the deck once it’s made you can get a rough idea if it’s viable. As you progress through the Sealed Play campaign you will find that the boosters you unlock from winning certain battles will allow you to head back to the drawing board if you pick up some nice new spells. Because the initial booster sets give you more cards (basic lands aren’t included at all) than you can fit in a deck, you always have plenty of room to manoeuvre within the colours.

Two-Headed Giant is also in there for fans of it, it takes the normal solo play and bundles two players together against an opposing team of two. Being able to protect each other and work together with someone in Magic can be one of the most interesting parts of the game, as combinations of cards and abilities can give a large array of possibilities that one player alone can’t achieve. It really opens up players’ imaginations in multiplayer – or a crossing of fingers when you play with the AI, hoping that they don’t mess up your grand plan.

The lack of a mode that just lets you go wild with the cards and create your own decks from all the available choices will always be a bit of a disappointment, as it is one of the most fun parts of owning the real deal. If you enjoy Magic at all you should find this to be a good substitute, especially if you sit at home staring into the abyss hoping to one day play against another human being. The inevitable deck expansions are something to look forward to as well. Magic is one of those games that has plenty of variety but you’ll always want more.

critical score 8

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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