Game Guys review - Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013

10:20 AM, Jul 17, 2012   |    comments
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  • 'Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013' from Wizards of the Coast.
  • 'Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013' from Wizards of the Coast.
  • 'Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013' from Wizards of the Coast.
  • 'Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013' from Wizards of the Coast.
  • 'Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013' from Wizards of the Coast.

Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is the latest edition of collectible card game maker Wizard of the Coast's now annual digital version of their CCG Magic: the Gathering.  Magic 2013 brings with it a key improvement over the previous year's game, but fails to overall impress this former veteran Magic player.

The game gives players a few different play options (though some aren't available until they're unlocked).  The core to Magic 2013's single player game is its Campaign mode, where the player duels several key planeswalkers found in the game's modern mythos (apologies to those hoping to face real planeswalkers such as Urza, Freyalise, and the like).  Each win nets the player a new card to use inside of his deck, presumably making the deck more powerful.  Upon defeating all of the modern planeswalkers, the player is treated to a match against modern Magic's prime evil:  the Elder Dragon Legend turned Planeswalker Nicol Bolas (again, apologies to those expecting the non-planeswaker Yawgmoth).

Aside from the standard campaign, players can also partake in the Magic variant Planechase.  This is technically a four-player format, but when played in single-player mode, the other three slots are filled with AI-controlled decks.  Like past variants Vanguard and Archenemy, Planechase alters the core rules of Magic by adding extra mechanics.  In this case, the dueling players "hop" from plane to plane with the roll of a die.  Each plane has its own rules and it can get quite confusing at times -- especially if one loses track of which plane is active at the time.  A final campaign play mode, there is also a puzzle-like version of the game based upon the 'Magic: the Puzzling' articles found in the now-defunct magazine 'The Duelist'.

Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013's controls are rather simple and straight-forward.  'X', for example, is the default action button and pressing 'RT' will zoom in the selected card to allow the player to read its text.  Other controls, however, are a little counter-intuitive.  The left analog stick, for example, is used to toggle between cards and the D-pad is used to change the view of the play field.  It is very easy to get this backwards, accidentally spinning the camera when all the player really wanted to do was choose the third card in his hand.  It's minor, yet frustrating, and it happened often.

Gameplay itself isn't all that outstanding, either.  Matches are dull -- partially because there is no social interaction to be had between the player and the AI (or other player if doing an online match).  Part of what makes Magic such fun to play in person is being able to actually interact with another human being throughout the entirety of a match.  With Magic 2013, this is lost.  At least WotC's PC game Magic the Gathering Online gets this part right to the best of its abilities.

Deck building and management is a major part of the appeal to Magic as a CCG.  Magic 2013 comes equipped with a deck manager, but it's very limited in its capabilities.  The player is given very basic mono-colored core decks to begin with, but doesn't have many options as to what they're able to do with it.  Each deck has its own set of unlockable cards with which to use with that specific deck.  Those who download this title should expect to have little more capability with its deck builder than this.  If you want a digital magic game that actually lets its users build their own custom decks, stick to Magic Online or (better yet) the 1997 PC game from MicroProse Magic: the Gathering.

There is one major improvement to make note of in this latest edition of WotC's Magic video game series:  manual mana tapping.  While this might not seem like a big deal at first, the new-found ability to choose exactly which lands to tap a-la the table top version of Magic is truly a treat.  In the past, the player would choose a card and the game's AI would auto-tap the required lands for that card regardless of what the player's plans were with often undesirable results.  Now, that won't be an issue -- at least, for those who remember to turn on said feature in the game's settings.

Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 might have the heart of the CCG, but it lacks its soul.  Fans of the traditional game wanting a desirable play experience should look elsewhere for their planeswalking (like at their local comics and games stores).

Final Game Guys grade: C

(WotC provided a copy of this game for review.)


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