Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 urges players to “Face a Greater Challenge”. Now, after playing the 2012 version for many hours – and mastering absolutely none of it – facing a greater challenge was not high on my Magic to-do-list.
Although I flirted with the 2012 edition when it was free during the PlayStation “Welcome Back” promotion, I will freely admit that I have never played the physical card game. With this in mind I selected the easy setting and frantically pushed the button when offered the option to go through the tutorial.
The tutorial, although helpful at understanding the bare bone basics of the world of Magic, leads you through a quick game that is wholly geared towards you winning whilst, hopefully, picking up the basic rules. My first thought after the tutorial was “That wasn’t so bad. A couple of hours and I’ll have the campaign wrapped up”. My first thought after playing my first game was “Holy hell! what just happened?”
It was then I remembered that this game is one of patience, strategy and, nine times out of ten, swallowing your battered ego whilst trying not to make the same mistakes during the second, third or fourth attempt. It’s a cerebral challenge of carefully managing your deck of cards and overcoming those of your opponent.
For those that have never played before, the game is turn based where you select cards to lay each round with the overall objective being to defeat your opponent. You lay Land cards initially to build up your mana pool, then spend your mana to bring Character and Spell cards into play, allowing you to attack and beat your opponent’s health down to zero. Additionally your character cards, which represent a whole host of fantastical creatures, acts as your army and a barrier, stopping your opponent from directly targeting your health.
For the new player this can be the first source of frustration, when you spend 30 minutes chipping away at your opponent’s energy with no reply, only for them to lay one card on their next turn which pulverises all of your cards and leaves them just enough attack points to kill you outright. You may feel like throwing your controller across the room at the nearest pet. After talking with a couple of real life Magic: The Gathering players I have been informed that this is a very realistic aspect of the game and it wouldn’t be Magic without it.
The singleplayer campaign is made up of a number of “battles” which gradually introduce you to strategies and allow you to unlock the five element themed decks of Magic: The Gathering. The decks are the first indication of the mountain to climb if you wish to master the game, and in order to keep this review under 10,000 words I’m not going into the many aspects of the decks. Let’s just say that there are five basic decks which are one of five colours (white, blue, black, red and green) which each representing a different way of playing and with their own spells and creatures.
The Revenge battles ramp up the difficulty by giving your opponents little tricks and new resiliencies which will mean you will have to adapt your play-style to the situation rather than repeating what worked for you previously. An optional extra during the campaign is Encounters which teaches you to play against a very exact style whilst also unlocking additional cards if you win.
And that’s just scratching the surface of the singleplayer aspect of Magic: The Gathering. All new for the 2013 edition is the “Planechase” campaign which introduces multi-opponent battles, which has been included – I assume – purely for the sadistic amongst us.
The single player aspect is concluded with the challenge mode which was a big part of the 2012 edition. In the challenge mode you are put into a scenario where you have to either beat your opponent or stop them from winning in a set number of turns. If you don’t scratch your head at some point during this mode then you probably play in the Magic World Championship.
Magic: The Gathering is not only a skill based game but also depends on luck. Many times – both in singleplayer and online – I was sat looking at my cards with the most amazing or immensely powered beasts ready to lay on the table only to find myself without any land cards to allow me to play them. This, I am told, is the breaks.
The replay factor for Magic: The Gathering is immensely high as experienced players of both digital and physical versions will enjoy using different combinations of cards to win their games whilst new players will need to replay matches in order to learn the quirks of the cards before venturing into the online mode. Playing against human players online is hugely enjoyable, offering up a different but equally dynamic challenge.
Graphically there really isn’t much to say, the opening cut scene is very nicely put together after which very little actually moves on screen but fans of fantasy artwork will be quietly contented whilst the audio is your standard fare – nice, apt but not something you would recommend for “Soundtrack of our Gaming Lives”.
It cannot be stressed enough that Magic: The Gathering is the definitive thinking players game and the rewards for patience and mastery far outweighs the frustration of learning the skills, quirks and tricks of your card packs, as well as the sheer bad luck that you experience at times. the singleplayer side is packed with content and the multiplayer is just as engaging as always. The magic is certainly still alive.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: PS3/ Xbox 360 Release Date: 19/06/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Magic: The Gathering Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of four days on a PS3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.