GAME NAME: Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013
DEVELOPER(S): Stainless Games
PUBLISHER(S): Wizards of the Coast LLC
RELEASE DATE(S): 20 June 2012
Magic: The Gathering is truly the stuff of geek legend, but it’s struggling to find an audience among the younger generation.
In case you don’t have any prior background with the Magic series, the basic concept goes something like this: two or more Planeswalkers (which is the in-game lingo for players) square off against one other with a customized deck of cards. The properties of the cards vary, from land to creatures, and they are used to attack opponents, collect mana and generally reduce the other player’s health points to nothing.
Despite the elaborate fantasy setting, there is little in the way of story in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. Players are however treated to fantastic artwork and the occasional cutscene featuring Nicol Bolas, the evil dragon. Nonetheless there is a campaign mode which sets the stage for a proper single-player game. Completing this mode is advisable before you even think of challenging a real live Magic player who will likely best you with his long-held experience, tactics and formidable newbie-vanquishing skills. The campaign introduces players to realms, where you are walked though the game’s strategy against certain cards and scenarios. There is also a revenge mode where you can choose a rematch against other Planeswalkers at a higher difficulty.
As you can probably guess from the title, this game is an update of the previous installment. Core gameplay remains mostly intact, but there are several key tweaks that improve the overall experience and make it seem different and fresh. For example, mana – the game’s source of energy which is required to cast spells – can now be tapped manually. This gives the player much more control when playing a card and allocating his or her resources. The balance between different decks and their resources, such as mana and creature stats, has also been altered.
Players of Planeswalkers 2012 will also note that the game no longer includes Archenemy mode. This mode was somewhat controversial and its absence will likely leave mixed feelings with a lot of players. The game instead offers Planechase, which is considerably more similar to a Magic game in a traditional setting. Here, you can play against up to three other opponents with the addition of cards which modify the game’s conditions.
It’s welcome as a means of extending gameplay and adding spice to the rules, but it has a certain random factor that will most certainly annoy old-time players and newcomers alike, particularly when you work towards achieving aims like collecting mana or getting a creature to attack, only to have it rendered null and void by dumb luck. Nonethless, multiplayer is an enjoyable experience, if a bit simplified from its physical counterpart.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is a welcome improvement over the previous two titles and will appeal to old-timers and newcomers alike. It’s tempting to brush it off as something that will appeal to fans only, but it is surprisingly accessible to everybody.