Monday, 3 December 2012

Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013

Yes, there back again! Those Planeswalker chaps (whoever they are) with their menagerie of sorceries and twisted bestiaries. Too once again do battle for some reason or goal; maybe? Meh; who cares about the Lore of Magic, let’s just play a card game.

It’s the latest edition of the yearly franchise that brings you the core card set of Magic wrapped up in a convenient bundle. And for its price point, there’s some real value for money here. If you’re not already familiar with Magic; Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 takes the popular collectable card game and digitises it all. Allowing you to enjoy a game against the AI through a series of different game modes, or play against human opponents through the online multiplayer.

The game ticks the most important box for new players. It has some extensive tutorials to introduce the basic mechanics, before all the special rules of the various cards are piled on top. During duels, you can inspect any played card at any time. It gives you a nice close up of the card so you can appreciate the artwork, as well as get a detailed explanation of any rules on it.

Any veteran of the 2011 and 2012 titles will find this year’s offering very familiar. It has the expected changes such as a slightly different  interface and the 2013 card set, which swaps a few new cards in and takes a couple out. The single player campaign mode is slightly extended with more duels and challenges. The AI is capable of providing a good few hours entertainment by itself with three different difficulty settings. But in a somewhat silly move, you have to play through the single player to unlock a lot of the card decks. So you can’t just jump straight into multiplayer as your options will be very limited.

The new game mode for this year is Planechase, a free-for-all four player duel with a twist. An extra deck of Planes are added which can affect the game in various different ways. These can throw out extra creatures, provide healing or reset the playing field. To add to the chaos, each Plane can be activated by the roll of a die, throwing out another twist into the game. Alternatively the same die roll can cause the Plane to change and cause other effects. Rolling the die is limited by how much spare mana a player has in a turn, but any Planechase game can quickly devolve muddled mess. Forget your perfectly crafted and honed strategy, ‘cause it won’t work here.

Planechase also replaces the Archenemy game mode that was included in 2012 which is a real shame. Archenemy was a rather fun three against one mode, which admittedly does similar problems to Planechase. But it’s the only three against one format and I feel that 2013 should be bigger and better than the previous title in every way. Not losing segments.

The presentation of Magic has changed much from the previous titles. Mostly because they got it pretty much spot on the first time. The animations do a good job of depicting spell abilities and making you aware of cards moving in and out of the playing field. However the sound in 2013 is a bit off. The menu sound effects are very distant, as if the games sounds are coming from the bottom of a well.

Game options are still fairly limited with not many options. You can tweak a few gameplay settings if to determine if you want full control, or if you’re happy with the AI making certain choices for you so duels move at a faster pace.

Overall, for those familiar with Magic. The Duels of the Planeswalker games are serious value for money. The entire game costs a similar amount to one physical deck of cards. Duels does have some restrictions as your deck building options are limited. But for players of any skill level, the ability to play against each other online with fairly balanced decks is an excellent selling point. If you haven’t already played any of the Duels games, there’s not enough new features in 2013 to justify buying it over a previous, possibly cheaper title. Also, the advertising for physical card game is somewhat more egregious in 2013. I don’t want special cards Wizards of the Coast, I just want to play my card game!