Adrian reviews the latest Wizards of the Coast downloadable offering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013.
For those of you who partake in the weekly game of Magic The Gathering, you may already be all over this Xbox LIVE Arcade, and for those of you who are completely new to the multifaceted hobby which is collectable card gaming, this game provides all you need to understand the basics so you can go out, buy a starter pack and play some actual games.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is a new downloadable title, out on PC, PSN, Xbox LIVE Arcade, and iOS (I reviewed the XBLA version) that allows players to take a look and play against others (both AI and others via multiplayer) using the upcoming Magic 2013 set of cards (which comes out mid-July).
At the core of Duels of the Planeswalkers is a simplistic, no-nonsense interface. The bottom of the screen – or table – is your hand of cards and stacks, and on the other side of the table is your opponent’s stash.
Without getting crazy into the specifics of how Magic works, here’s the basics: You are dealt a number of cards and you can choose whether you like them or not. If you choose to be redealt a hand, you’ll get one less card than the previous time. Heck, if you wanted to, you could keep being redealt until you’re forced to start the game with a single card, which is a silly thing to do.
At that point, you’ll want to put down some mana cards. Without these, you won’t be able to cast spells, abilities or put creatures on the table. Each of these cards have numbers on them that denote how much mana is needed to put down that card, as well as what their attack and defense points are (if applicable). You’ll need to put down those if you want to attack your enemy.
Per turn, you can put down one mana card and (if you have enough mana) play a card. If you cast an enemy, spell or ability, the mana becomes used for that turn (note it doesn’t go away forever, as your mana replenishes every turn).
In each turn, there is an attack phase. This is where you’ll deal damage to either your opponent’s card, if he chooses to block with it, or, if he hasn’t, you’ll deal damage directly to the opponent and reduce his HP. When a player gets to 0 HP, he or she loses and the other player takes the win.
The campaign is split up into several sections, each with regular encounters and what can be considered a boss at the end of each of the sections. The bosses, as you can imagine, are harder to deal with and are more expert at using the right cards in their hand at the right time to screw you over. It seems decently paced and if you stick with it, there are hours of gameplay to be had here.
The difficulty seems alright, and you do notice that the difficulty of matches increases as you play, with the plateau being at boss battles. Difficulty jumps can get a little steep at times, though as I mentioned above, if you stick with it, you’ll be fine.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 does a great job of giving you in-game tutorials (with a prompt coming up before you play asking if you want a run through of a full game of Magic). This is fantastic, especially if, as I mentioned, you’re a player with little Magic experience. Like me.
The controls in Duels of the Planeswalkers are a tad confusing in that when you are in a match, you cannot use the D-Pad to move through your cards, instead the analog stick is what you’ll use to navigate through them and the D-Pad will instead allow you to see the game from different perspectives (top-down, from your opponent’s view, etc.). It might seem like a issue, but it can take a while to get used to, especially if you like the D-Pad for moving through your cards.
The great news is that even if you are a total novice to the game like myself, you’ll feel confident enough to jump into the campaign right after playing through that first tutorial which covers pretty much everything you need to know. On top of the main tutorial, tooltips pop up in game letting you know what is happening and where you are at just in case you’ve forgotten or were confused.
There are tons of cards in this edition of the game, and there’s a Card Manager built in which allows you to go into.
As mentioned before, this game features multiplayer. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get much multiplayer time with this title as I reviewed this prior to the game being released. As such servers weren’t up to allow me to get into a match with anyone.
That said, from the time I have spent with Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013’s multiplayer after release it seemed like what you would expect from a multiplayer component to a trading card videogame. There’s nothing here to really write about; it’s the same concept from the campaign just brought over into Multiplayer. This is a great avenue for those that want to play with others they know (perhaps players getting some online time with their real-life Magic friends when they’re not able to get some face-to-face games going?) and it definitely adds to the replay value for the title.
Overall, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is a fantastic title for those that are already invested into the hobby. For those that aren’t but are interested in it, you can’t argue with the price point considering you’ll learn all about how to play using cards that are coming out in the next month and get a lot of hours out of that. Controls can be annoying, but that can be overlooked when you’re not playing a game that is based on timing or precise controls. It's a game that does what it needs to do with little else.
Will all that out there, however, if you aren’t in the slightest interested in Magic The Gathering, then this is certainly not an XBLA title worthy of your time.
Gameplay, when you really bring it down to it's essence, is essentially scrolling through cards and activating them. With that in mind, however, the strategy of the game means that you'll almost forget all you're doing is moving from card to card.
Music and Sound
The music and sound in Duels of the Planeswalkers was nothing that really crossed my mind or stood out when playing the game. Some sound effects are overused and the music fits without standing out from the crowd.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is not a story-based game. Story will not be scored nor taken into consideration.
This is an average-looking game from the little graphics this game does have – which isn't much, just some 3D environment pans in the main menu and some effects mid-game. The cards themselves look nice, but they're not built for the game, they're just Magic The Gathering cards.
The multiplayer here is just plain and simple Magic The Gathering. There's obviously replay value here, especially if you already play Magic and want a way to play over the internet when you can't meet up for those face-to-face games.
There's a ton of replay value here in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. From the in-game cards that you receive when you finish games to the multiplayer, there's a lot of reasons why you'd want to come back to this title if you've become sucked in playing through it.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is a bare bones title in the sense that there are no fancy graphics or distinguishing features, but in leaving out the glitz and glamour the team have made a game that sticks to the aim of recreating the Magic The Gathering experience and does it fantastically.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 was reviewed on the Xbox 360 version of the game, provided by Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro.