Things You Might Like
- Playing Magic
- Solid In-Game UI
- Special Effects for Cards
- Online Multiplayer
- You don’t have to buy any real cards
Things You Might Not Like
- Obtuse Main Menu System
- No ‘Create a Deck’ option
- No real story to speak of
Magic the Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 delivers the enjoyment of the classic card series, but lacks some of the key features that make the actual card game great.
4 out of 5 Planes Walked
Magic: The Gathering is a popular Collectable Card Game (CCG) that’s been around for decades. Many fellow nerds know the power of summoning a 5/5 Fire Serpent with Haste that will totally ruin our friend’s day. For those of you not in the know, Magic: The Gathering involves collecting cards to build decks with which to battle your friends and rivals. Indeed, many a schoolyard brawl and/or World War have been solved by each side carefully dealing out their cards. Hitler was a noted user of the rash, powerful Fire decks, while the more patient Churchill was a classic Green/Blue user who carefully cultivated his mana.
The main types of cards are Lands (Mana to fuel your spells), Spells, or Creatures. Each player has a set amount of life which can be assaulted by the other player directly via Spells or by Creatures under their control. Creatures have varying levels of power and toughness (damage and health respectively). Creatures can block the attacks of other Creatures but, lacking any Creatures with which to block, you personally take damage equal to the attacking Creature’s power. So that’s Magic in a nutshell. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the gist. You might want to read the full rules and a starter guide at the Wizards of the Coast website. So, translating that into a videogame can be a little tricky. Fortunately, the people from Wizards of the Coast, in conjunction with Stainless Games know what they’re doing.
Graphically, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 provides a solid representation of the card game. Rather than playing on your Mom’s kitchen table, however, there are a variety of backgrounds that are thematically appropriate to the setting. The cards are captured well and the addition of spell effects to your attacks makes me long for Augmented Reality glasses to bring them to real life. Managing your deck, hand, and active cards is easily accomplished on screen, and executing attacks or casting spells requires very little maneuvering. This is where Magic the Gathering really shines. However, that sheen is dimmed somewhat by the counter-intuitive main menu system, which is a sort of rotary affair with sub-menus. It takes a bit of doing to navigate the system at first, so patience is a virtue here.
There are a large amount of cards available to you, and you unlock more as you defeat other Planeswalkers. You can then customize the decks to your liking. However, the drawback here is that there is no option to make your own deck, a staple of playing Magic with the actual cards. This is a large complaint among many players, as something so vital to the Magic experience remains absent after multiple iterations of the series. In spite of this, the game is still fun to play and the deck management system provides at least some manner of customization.
I should note here that Duels of the Planeswalkers is a great way to learn the Magic CCG. I had never really played the game before playing the pervious version last year, and the built-in tips and tools really helped me to pick up the game. As the game progresses, you’ll work through the somewhat lackluster story by battling other Planeswalkers to unlock more decks and eventually face off against the jerk who tried to kill you. Make no mistake, they will become more difficult to defeat as time goes on. In fact, even the opening battle took me a couple of tries. Just a warning.
There’s not much to say about the multiplayer aspect. You can duel against your friends or strangers on the Interwebz. There are no real points to be won and, to my knowledge, no real leaderboard either. The only real noteworthy aspect is the Archenemy mode. Therein you can team up with multiple people to fight against a single computer controlled opponent. While the dueling aspect doesn’t really change the overall gameplay too much, it can be pretty fun to team up with buddies and take down a super strong enemy.
A brief moment to discuss the story, what little there is of it. You play as a man named Gideon, who is on a quest for vengeance after being nearly killed in a duel with another Planeswalker (someone who can travel between dimensions). You fight other Planeswalkers along the way to gather allies and power in order to arrive at your final confrontation. Aside from the opening and ending cutscenes, there really isn’t a lot of story beyond that. While the novelizations of the Magic universe offer far more insight, the game keeps it pretty vague.
All in all, Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is a great deal for $10. If you’re new to the game, cards or PC, it will help you learn quickly. This latest iteration has made some improvements over the previous versions, and has even added some new features to entice present addicts and snare future ones. And, at the cost of less than one pre-made deck of real cards, you’ll get hours of entertainment. If you’re even remotely a fan of CCGs, give this one a shot. Fair warning: You’ll probably leave your house to buy real cards and a Wizard’s Cloak after picking this up.