Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is Wizards of the Coast’s newest addition to its digital games stable, based on the popular card game Magic: The Gathering. With the popularity of Magic Online, Duels offers players a fresh perspective on the game, with loads of content and a user-friendly interface that anyone can use.
For those new to Magic: The Gathering, the basic premise is that you play land cards and through ‘tapping’ the land - turning it sideways on the board - you are able to gain mana of that land’s colour. This can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from summoning a goblin to casting mighty fireballs to scorch your enemies.
Initially you are able to choose from one of three decks. From there you are ready to move into the tutorial, where the basics of the digital Magic: The Gathering - which is very close to the table top game itself - can be learned. The tutorial is brief, to the point and not needlessly extended. It provides players with exactly what they need to make the most out of the game without worrying about minute rules about which card resolves first or where in the stack a particular instant occurs compared to the one just played.
Once the player has completed the tutorial - or skipped it altogether – he or she may challenge the first in a series of Planeswalkers, or famous characters from the story of Magic: The Gathering. These characters use personally-themed decks, using the colours and cards which experienced players would expect from them and which novice players will soon learn to enjoy as well.
The AI can be set from easy to more advanced settings, but the normal setting is still a fair challenge, and after playing through the campaign I can state that some of those Planewalkers were difficult to beat if you got a bad hand or drew another land when it was of no use to you. The game offers other content as well as the campaign - players of the card game will recognise some of the formats such as Two Headed Giant, where two players face off against another two players, with each team sharing a combined life total. The game also offers a free-for-all option, where you choose a number of players and then face off against each other in a battle-royale fashion.
A new feature included in this game is the Archenemy mode, where the player chooses two ally computer players, then faces off against a computer opponent in a three-on-one battle. While this may seem unfair, the opponent starts with double the normal life points, and at the beginning of their turn they draw from a scheme deck which represents the foul machinations that the Archenemy is undertaking against you. Effects of these cards can range from the Archenemy gaining a creature, to every player but the Archenemy having to sacrifice a creature or else suffer damage. This mode keeps very close to the card game rules and is an impressive feature in the game itself.
The multiplayer mode for Planeswalkers is a large and vibrant part of the game. Players start a game in the custom game section, and then wait for other players to enter their created game. Part of the attraction of Magic: The Gathering is that you compete in a battle of wits against other players and often it is not the deck with the best cards in it but the player who makes the best use of the cards that he has. This reviewer would suggest playing the Archenemy mode on multiplayer, it is one of the best aspects of the game and much fun was had playing this mode with friends trying to beat the computer-controlled AI.
Game play: 8/10
The game offers a solid platform, with impressive AI reaction to players’ actions and a wide range of cards and creatures for the player to use. As they unlock decks from the campaign these become available in all modes of the game, and the sheer amount of themed decks that you can choose from is impressive.
Replay value: 7/10
Once you have finished a campaign with one deck you can begin again with a different deck to see if you can unlock the cards associated with that deck. This material will also be unlocked for multiplayer modes, giving Duels of the Planeswalkers a strong replay value that can keep you entertained for hours on end.
Though you have a wide range of options when it comes to themed decks, and you can add cards you have unlocked throughout the campaign to them, you must always use the primary deck that you selected. Veterans of the card game itself will be disappointed that Duels did not include a custom deck feature where they could compile unlocked cards into a unique and personal deck. This is one of the most enjoyable facets of the Magic: The Gathering card game.
At the price that this game has been released for it is an absolute must - US$9.95 on steam and 800 MS points on the XBOX 360. It is amazing that a game that has so much content and hours of entertainment has been released for such a low price. Serious and casual gamers alike will be happy to invest what they would usually spend on lunch for hours of serious game play.
Overall score: 8/10
The Good Points
Great replay value, fair customizability and immersion into the game. Does a great job at replicating the table-top game and is sure to draw out those old magic players who have cards forgotten in their attics and storage bays, as well as new players looking for a game that offers a challenge. Fantastic value.
The Bad Points
Limited capacity at the moment to customize decks which will frustrate some players of the game, plus the inability to play as the Archenemy in the aforementioned mode. Multiplayer games can be frustrating at times as it can take a while for people to filter in and out of hosted games.
I would highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a great value-for-money gaming experience. Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is a game that any Magic: The Gathering player will love and that anyone new to the world of Magic can learn quickly and enjoy almost immediately.
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is available here - or go here to read Techday's exclusive interview with Wizards of the Coast executive and Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 developer, Worth Wollpert.