Review: Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013
Title: Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (PS3)
Platform: PC (Steam), Xbox 360, iPad, PS3
Developer: Stainless Games
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
TL;DR: Refined and delightful port of the trading card game
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It was when one of my opponents in Planechase managed to summon 6 creatures each of power and toughness equal to twenty and then destroyed my last remaining competitor by reducing him to negative 108 life that I realised how far Duels of the Planeswalkers had come as a game. The Magic: The Gathering card game often throws up ridiculous scenarios, especially in multiplayer, but the digital forms of the game have never quite captured that wild nature of the trading card game. With the latest outing in the DotP series they’ve finally hit the right note.
Everything that was good about DotP 2012 has been kept and improved upon, and while not everything I wanted implemented has been added, most of the irritations about the previous games have been fixed. When you first turn on the game (which I didn’t do until I’d collected my free booster pack from my local nerd store) you’ll notice how smooth the menus are this time around, including the luxury of dynamic backgrounds. The tips for new players still appear on the loading screens. Incidentally the loading screens are extraordinarily long and don’t prompt you to hit continue. They’ve also added a few cutscenes to liven up the experience, but this is let down by walls of text in most of the campaign mode where cutscenes with dialogue should’ve appeared. But that’s enough of the superficial stuff for now, what’s the gameplay like?
Well firstly we have the option to choose which mana to tap, and to sort the hand to your preference (I prefer by mana cost). Each deck you unlock has a star system to guide you to the best deck for your style of play. So let’s get into a game: as always you get a free “Mulligan” of your opening hand, and cards which you are able to play are highlighted. In general the game does an excellent job of giving new players a flavour of what each colour is like to play, and seasoned players a sufficient challenge. Certainly the ramp up in difficulty is noticeable in the Revenge mode, although I did find the final boss a bit weak both times. It would seem that “white aggro” is a tactic few of the AI opponents can deal with. If you get tired of the normal game, the challenge mode provides really tough brainteasers, requiring you more often than not to figure out a way to survive an onslaught and then destroy your opponent in one turn. I would say that as the challenges aren’t full matches of MTG they could have used a one turn undo button for the odd occasion where you forget to tap the correct mana.
The game did struggle at times: I’ve noticed on Steam glitches happen quite regularly, and I found a few on PS3 including two really terrible ones. The first was the crash that occurred when I tried to see the last played card which was one that was revealed from my opponent’s hand. The second was that when lots of creatures (more than forty) are on the battlefield the AI seems to time out and does not attack even though it could win if it did so. Aside from that last bug there’s not much that interfered with my enjoyment of the gameplay. But it does seem that the storyline was a little last minute. It’s text based for a start, and the introduction sequences for Planeswalker battles are crying out for some dialogue, although the lore in the text is rather nice. Having said that DotP 2013 actually has you fight on different planes with music becoming more dramatic for more important duels.
As always the game could use more deck customisation, and what little there is is poorly laid out and unintuitive. By this I mean that new cards are automatically added to your deck (ruining your hard worked probabilities), and those new cards are very faintly highlighted with a firefly effect. You’ll probably find it annoying that once you’ve unlocked a new deck you’ll have to go back and redo all the duels you’ve won with your new deck in order to unlock good enough cards to progress. If you’re a real misery-guts the constant noises and vibrations will probably bother you too, but there’s so much more to enjoy than get grumpy about. Multiplayer modes provide suitable hilarity, and even playing solo you’ll find yourself learning more about the game and happening across some truly preposterous combos. Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is ideal for old, new, and prospective Magic players alike.
- Fantastic way to learn the game
- Genuine challenge for veterans
- Multiplayer modes provide enjoyably preposterous outcomes
- Lack of customisation will annoy seasoned Magic players
- The AI can get confused if there are too many creatures on the battlefield
- Please sir, can we have some dialogue?
Nothing here to worry the kids. Violence is included but it’s only ever between cards on the screen, so you’d have to be mighty sensitive to get offended. I would say that younger children may find the rules difficult to grasp so I’d advise the same age suggestion on the trading card game: 13+.