As a Magic the Gathering player I get excited as we hit mid-summer here in the northern hemisphere. Wizard’s of the Coast release their new core set and also, since 2009, the new version of Duels of the Planeswalkers’ video game. This year’s iteration of Wizard’s Duels of the Planeswalkers – commonly called Magic 2014 – is another great step forward in this popular franchise and is now available for the first time on Android tablets.
• Developer: Stainless Games
• Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
• Reviewed on: PC (Steam)
• Also Available On: Xbox 360, PS3, iPad, Android tablet.
• Release Date: Available Now
If you’re new to Magic the Gathering or just ‘Magic Curious’ then this video game implementation of the real life trading card game is a very solid place to start indulging your curiosity. The inherent problem with a trading card game is that you need 2 (or more) people to play and therefore can make it a little difficult to engage if you don’t have also have a curious friend.
[Cue a back story of the time when I was a new Magic player (about 3 months in) and, not having anyone about to play, entered myself into local Brisbane geek shop’s tournament…all I can say from that experience is that it was an interesting study in anthropology….I also came 5th out of 12…so not too bad!]
Magic 2014 builds on previous Duel’s of the Planeswalker’s releases and as expected integrates the new M14 core set cards into the decks. The basic game-play and controls remain the same as the previous games but the interface has received an overhaul with the whole game looking a lot slicker, with a more compact menu system that makes game navigation a quicker experience. One lovely addition that pleased me this year was the ability to go back to the game after a duel is finished, so you can survey the battlefield.
A smooth single player campaign plays through a series of duels and customised encounters set in the various worlds or “planes” that have been introduced into the Magic the Gathering universe over the last few years – my personal favorite being Innistrad – with each plane increasing in difficulty. Challenges makes a return as well where the player has to best a specific scenario with limited turn counts and/or resources — although, slightly disappointingly the initial challenges really seem more like extreme novice tutorials but thankfully they do get harder as you progress.
Multiplayer returns and is as smooth as ever with options for ranked games or casual play and game types include; Free for All with up to 4 players, Two Headed Giant (2 v 2) and Sealed play.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 gave us “Archenemy” game play and 2013 the brilliant “Planeschase” this release brings is the introduction of Sealed Deck play. One of the main criticisms that the series always faced in the past was it’s limited deck building ability and Sealed Deck play goes a long, long way to address this. So far in fact, that it has to now apply for a passport.
The Sealed Deck game-play option starts off with 6 unopened “booster packs” (A booster pack contains one rare or mythic rare, three uncommons, and eleven commons) that the player then has to build a deck out of, to challenge the AI or even online opponents. The player then gains more booster decks to add to his collection as they win through the ladder of different challenges and games. The player has the ability to save a few different decks in this mode to suit different needs.
This now brings the game into the realm of the hardcore Magic players, where relying on your wits and constructing your own decks is what it is all about and to me is very akin to a Jedi constructing his own lightsaber. For the not so hardcore, the game does a great job in assisting a novice player in starting off in the deck building process with good tutorials and hints and even has an auto-complete option for the very lazy…errr…time constrained!
Magic the Gathering’s foray in the console/PC world goes from strength to strength in the Duels of the Planeswalkers series with slick graphics and engaging game play and quite attractive pricing – £6.99 / 800MSP. Although I’m slightly sad it’s missing the Planeschase format (possibly a DLC release?? hint hint Wizards) Sealed Deck play more than makes up for it bringing a whole new facet of deck making and management to the game.