Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013
Developer: Stainless Games
Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS
Everyone’s heard of Magic the Gathering. Classic collectible card game with monsters that’s been around since 1993. Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is the newest Magic game available which aims to refine the Duels series even more.
Magic as a whole is quite fascinating considering how long it has been around, and it’s only been improving since its initial release, with new tweaks and expansions getting released constantly. It’s really amazing how a collectible card game such as Magic can withstand the test of time for nearly 20 years, despite similar card games only lasting a few years at most when it comes to popularity. Richard Garfield really nailed the design for the game back in 1993, still to this day nothing can beat Magic, not only in popularity, but also in design and general fun-factor as well.
As someone who is relatively new to Magic, getting into Duels 2013 was a bit tough at first. Despite my previous praise of the game, it is no secret that with such a long history, it is going to be a bit intimidating for new players. The rules, the large amount of cards, all the little things you have to pay attention to will no doubt cause a bit of confusion to those unprepared for the seemingly complex Magic. I use the word seemingly because in all honesty, Magic isn’t as complex as it seems at first. This isn’t in any way bad, the game is easy to learn and get into, it just requires a bit of time and attention. I was intimidated too when I first played the original Duels of the Planeswalkers but as I got into it more and more, I realized that the most complex thing about the game was keeping in mind what certain abilities were in play. Luckily, Duels 2013 still retains the extremely useful feature that allows you to look up the needed information with the press of a button. So your opponent plays a card that has the word „Reach” on it? Just press a button, and the game will tell you what that entails. From that point on, you just have to remember which monster it was that had it.
Magic can be best described as a game that is easy to learn, difficult to master. While the core game is in itself relatively simple and easy to get into, the game’s well thought out design allows for expert Magic players to formulate complex strategies as well and construct decks in ways that support such strategies. While luck still plays a part in the game, a good strategy can go a very long way in Magic the Gathering.
Unfortunately, this is where Duels 2013 falters a bit. The 2013 edition still doesn’t allow for completely custom deck building. This of course makes my above statement about building strategies and decks a lot less impressive. While the game offers limited customization options for the pre-built decks, it isn’t enough to completely satisfy every player, particulary the more experienced ones. Still, the pre-built decks help newcomers familiarize themselves with a handful of deck types and also help them understand the core principle of the mana colors. For those who don’t know, all cards in Magic belong to one of the five colors of mana, and each color represents a different type of playing style. So for example the two starting decks you get in Duels 2013 are red and green – the former is more about playing offensively with all you have, while the latter’s strength lies in its powerful summonable creatures. With a wide variety of single color and multi-color decks, I feel that Duels 2013 does a pretty good job of offering all types of players something to enjoy. While I do hope that one day we will be able to build our decks from the ground-up like in Magic Online, the decks in the game are designed well enough so that players can try out a variety of play styles, be it offensive or defensive. However, not being able to remove land cards is still quite annoying, as it is too many, just like it was in Duels 2012.
Duels 2013 offers a variety of gameplay modes and campaigns. The campaigns are quite long for a card game, which was great to see and features many varied opponents. The best thing about Duels 2013 is that the various gameplay modes help the player learn more about the game and playing styles. For example, after beating the standard campaign, I went through it again in „Revenge” mode and while I grasped the basics in the initial campaign, my Revenge playthrough taught me how to handle a whole other set of playing styles.
The biggest addition to the game since Duels 2012 is the new Planechase mode, which is a 4 player free-for-all type of game that features the ability to uncover planar cards, and then remove all cards that are in play. It is a very interesting mode that can provide some unpredictable battles when playing online…but offline it can be quite a nightmare. I’ve played games where all three AI opponents would do nothing but focus on me, often ignoring players who a real person would much rather target. Other times, they’d rather go after each other than finish me off when I had one life. Planechase is a mode that isn’t nearly as fun when played against AI opponents, playing Planechase offline can either be ridiculous, boring, frustrating or sometimes fun, depending on how the AI feels.
My biggest complaint about the game is that there is no co-op campaign. I got into Magic by playing the first Duels of the Planeswalkers with a friend. We tackled the co-op campaign as we both felt it would make it easier for me to learn how to play than to jump in headfirst into a 1-on-1 duel. While 2-on-2 matches are still in the game, I really wish there was a campaign built around it. It would help new players get into the game if they have a friend who already plays, while also making them feel like they are accomplishing something in the game and not just playing random matches.
The Final Word
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is a very fun game. It does nothing but improve on the previous installment. The gameplay is better, the interface is still great, the gameplay modes are fun and varied. The only thing missing is the co-op campaign. If you like Magic the Gathering, or if you’re interested in trying it out, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 won’t disappoint you. However keep in mind that multiplayer is a must if you want something that will last – if you’re not interested in that, you’ll probably just go through the campaigns and never play again.
– MonsterVine Rating: 4 out of 5 – Good