As an avid player of "Magic: The Gathering," there is nothing like real life competition. Facing off against another person, calculating all the different human aspects of the game: perception, deception, anticipation - these are some of the main reason playing this game is fun. So when "Duels of the Planeswalkers" made its first appearance, it was hard to accept this form of Magic. However, that view has changed with the its recent release on June 25, 2014.
About the Game
You are a planeswalker. You have the ability to draw powers from the elements of earth and conjure spells and creatures to fight by your side. At the start of the game you come across Chandra Nalaar, a fiery mage and, quickly, a battle ensues. After being defeated by you, and impressed with your skills, she asks you to join in on her quest to capture a scroll that was taken from her. Throughout the game, you travel to the other planes and battle other planeswalkers. By defeating them, you unlock additional cards to add to your arsenal and strengthen yourself for battle. Eventually you reach your final destination, and it becomes an all out fight for domination. You'll need to use your brain and control your brawn if you intend to win.
Why the game is good
Like the real life card game, the digital version of it is just as stunning. In addition, the players are treated to fun animations. For example, when you attack your opponent with a red creature, flames emit from the card towards your portrait to show signs of damage. Other great effects include cards that levitate above the battlefield to signify that the creature has the ability to fly.
Another great aspect of the game are the challenges it presents. Seasoned veterans of Magic will be happy to know that this is not a walk in the park. There are some wonderful puzzles that really make you think. And, if you need a break, there are some really simple ones. Players will also be happy to know that you can still interact in the game just like you do in real life. Meaning, the game allows you to respond to spells, kill your own creatures if you need to gain certain effects, play spells on your opponents end step, etc. The game is not just a giant tutorial for beginning players.
The strength of the game comes from the Sealed Deck mode. This is where players are given six booster packs to open and build a 40-card deck. Once you've built you deck, you can quickly test it against a simple opponent before tackling the five other planeswalkers and a final boss. As you play, you have the chance to win up to three additional boosters and add whichever cards you want to your deck. The game allows for up to one free additional sealed deck with a brand new set of six boosters. And, you can buy an additional sealed deck slot for $1.99 more.
What makes the game not so good
Part human error, part game flaw, you may experience a little trouble in the beginning of the game when it comes to what phase of a turn you are in. While after playing a few games you quickly become accustomed to it, but knowing what part of the turn you are in can be a little too subtle for players' eyes. Sadly, there were a few mistakes here and there, but you get used to things.
"Duels of the Planeswalkers" is mostly geared for beginners. This is a great feature, but we're not talking about that in this section. Here is why it doesn't bode well. At some point, you will beat this game. So where do you go from there? There are a few DLC available right now that give you access to other introductory decks, and you can buy up to a total of 20 sealed play slots, but the cards will mostly be from the core set. By allowing players access to the expansion sets, the game would give players higher difficulties to play at as well as open up much more powerful combinations of cards and strategies.
Some final thoughts
"Duels of The Planeswalkers 2014" gets 4 stars out of 5. It is a wonderful strategy based video game. It is visually compelling and makes the player think. Even those who are not new to the game of "Magic: The Gathering" will find some things challenging. While it is not perfect (and nothing ever is), it gets closer and closer every year with its improved game play. It's unfortunate that it cannot expand beyond the core set. However, it is a good thing (for us and the game) that the core set changes every year, and with that we can always expect a new version of "Duels."
The game is currently available on Steam for $9.99, and you can buy all the DLCs for a total of $25.77 (this doesn't include all of the additional sealed play slots you can purchase). For that price, it is an absolute steal. You can also find this game on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, for the iPad, and for Android.
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