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By: JXClaytor, Joshua Claytor
Jul 21 2014 11:00am
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I love video games.  Ever since I had the option to sit down and play Oregon Trail or learn how to type I've had affection for fun.  To this day, I cannot type correctly though.  I may have made the wrong decision.  I started young, with a Sega Master System as a Christmas present when I was ten years old, and have upgraded ever since, even though I still have that first Sega tucked away in a closet in my house.  Games like Persona 3, Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy 7 stayed with me and are among my favorites.  Watching my friends play rhythm games are some of my most cherished memories and games like To the Moon and Braid showed me that the art form can have a message besides chasing down yellow exclamation points and trading them in for question marks.  With my son getting older now I get to share with him the games that made me love video games in the first place.  Kirby, Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong and a host of others are things that I share with him now.


I may enjoy a roleplaying game like Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, Blue Dragon, or Eternal Sonata, but I have long had a soft spot for sports games.  As a fan of many (Baseball, Basketball and Football) but not good enough at any (I might have been able to do something had every curve ball that came my way not made me bail out of the batter’s box.) I look forward to the yearly releases of these games. Of course, some like Madden NFL football are nothing more but an annual roster update, (thanks NFL for giving EA Sports an exclusive license and taking away any incentive to improve the game!) but others like the NBA2k series show improvement on a year to year basis.  Magic 2015:  Duels of the Planeswalkers follows the annual release pattern of other games, but is it just an updated skin with new cards or is it something worth looking in to?   

To start off, I know that I am not a video game reviewer.  The last time I did one of these things it went poorly, but Heath offered, and while I was hesitant wanted to give reviewing another go.  I know I can do a good job at it, so I appreciate you coming here to check out the review!  I am reviewing a copy of the game downloaded from Steam.  Previously I played the game on my Xbox, so a chance to play it on a different system was nice.Game play is just like regular Magic the Gathering.  If you know how to play the game already that's great, but the tutorial mode gives beginners and those that are coming back a glimpse in to what is new and what has changed.

Let's get to the review! 

Duels of the Planeswalkers is at its core a promotional item for Magic: the Gathering.  You can see that in game with such things like a store locator, ads for the Deck Builders Tool Kit, Friday Night Magic, Intro Decks and the website.  I feel as if this information is great to put out.  If it adds new players to this great game (and I believe it has) then that is fantastic.  Going past this marketing material you see a very graphically slick program.  The opening montage of Garruk and a planeswalker is great, the menu is simple and easy to understand.  It lets you get to the game play very easily.  In fact it was four clicks for me to start a game from the opening menu, from single player, to campaign, to the plane I wanted to play on and finally the battle I wanted to take part in.

Getting to the game was easy enough.  Loading times for the program seems to be in the five second range.  Not very long at all, but from what I have heard the Xbox loading time is much longer.  Actual game play is not that bad either.  For an arcade version of Magic: the Gathering I feel as if they captured the essence of the game very well.  The tabletop is a steel like color, and for ease of play options the playable cards have an outline.  From here it's just playing a game of a Magic.  The timer is a bit weird to get used to, but it's a perfectly acceptable way to play the game.  You play the game, if you win you get a booster pack and get to progress in the campaign, if you lose you try again.  It's very easy to understand.  It also rewards the grinders and the completest, battling more for the rewards that are unlocked!

The campaign takes you through a journey of planes.  You start off in Innistrad, go to Theros, then Ravnica, Shandalar and finally Zendikar.  I made it all the way to Shandalar before I decided to log off the game and with the games I played I feel very good about saying the following about this edition of Duels of the Planeswalkers. 

The Good.  

Audio and visually, the game is wonderful.  The voice acting does not seem too hackneyed or overdramatic. 

The decks you play against are full of flavor.  In Ravnica I played against a Maze's End deck, a neat Extort Orzhov deck and a Populate Selesnya deck.  Theros showed off the Hydra and Minotaur tribes.  Innistrad took full advantage of the horror theme.  These decks will not be confused with any Pro Tour winning decks, but they are well thought out and really highlight what was going on in that plane.

Game play is very quick and loading times are small on the Steam version of the game. 

Plenty of unlockable content.  You also get to unlock multiplayer after defeating Innistrad.  I also unlocked personas and a stat function for the deckbuilder.  Neat little things! 

The long awaited deck building mode is finally added to the game!

Each plane for me took about an hour to an hour and a half to complete on the hardest difficulty.

The Bad

After a the campaign mode play options are pretty limited.  Multiplayer is limited as compared to the past.  There is no Archenemy (2012) or Planechase (2013) variants.  There is no sealed deck play. (That I saw) Heck even the puzzles that broke up the monotonous campaign play is gone.  The game seems to have stripped away popular features from years past instead of building up on those. 

The game crashed on me whenever I tried to cast any creature with Scry.  I'm looking at you Horizon Scholar!

The game felt very slow to respond to my mouse clicks. 

Auto tapping of mana will mess you up EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  Want to cast a card and leave up counter mana, you better make sure you tap the mana yourself. 

The card pool makes game play feel like sixty card sealed deck.  I understand that we cannot get full Standard decks on the program, but there are a lot of unexciting cards to open out of your booster. 

I did open a booster pack with four Dimir Guildgates in it. 

The Ugly

Microtransactions are everywhere in this game.  Want a new booster?  Cool, it will cost you 1.99 though.  Want to unlock all the cards instead of grinding out the campaign mode?  That's fine you can either open up the plane packs for 4.99 or get all of them for 19.99.  Even foil cards are available, but in sticker form.  .99 for fifty foils, 2.99 for 100 and 7.99 for 300 stickers to make your favorite cards foil. 

The lack of additional game play options really makes this version of Duels feel like it is nothing more than a roster update.  Had this game built off previous versions that included sealed deck, Archenemy or Planechase I would feel better about it, but this version trades all that for a deckbuilder that in my mind does not really add a ton to the game.  The replay value seems very low to me. 

Campaign mode is a grind.  Even on the hardest setting the game did not feel that hard.  I went 12-1 in my campaign play session, and the one was because I drew 16 lands.  If you're an established Magic player this may not be the game for you. 

Campaign mode started to feel like an exercise in 60 card sealed deck after a while. 

Final Verdict: 

While discussing the game on Twitter with some followers I was asked if the game as it was now would make me if a new player, becomes interested in actually playing Magic.  I believe that as a new player this game would very much make me want to explore the paper card world.  You're given a very basic understanding of the game when you finish the tutorial and as a marketing piece I feel like Duels of the Planeswalkers would be an overwhelming success. 

I however am not a new player.  If the time I spent playing Magic were a person they would be old enough to drink now!  This game while visually stunning, is not enough to make me want to play it.  The lack of play options is a huge strike against it.  The grind of the campaign mode is another strike against it.  Honestly I feel that if Wizards of the Coast and Stainless Games are going to continue with Duels of the Planeswalker it may be better off to just release new content instead of new games each year.  If they are going to keep going down the path of removing play options and not replacing them with anything groundbreakingly new, I can see that creating a backlash and making the game nothing more than another Madden. 

Unless you just want the new cards, or are a video game completest I cannot recommend buying this game.  The addition of the deckbuilder, while it is something that has been taken for granted is not enough to outweigh the removal of features and feeling that this version of the game was just a small update.

On the other hand, I feel this game is perfect for mobile devices.  It's small, bare bones, and I think clearly designed with iPads and smartphones in mind.  I cannot imagine how hard it is to control the menu screen using a controller, but the menu seems perfectly made for a few swipes on the iPad.  While it does not seem to be getting release on Playstation systems, I can see a world where Duels of the Planeswalkers stops making appearances on consoles.  Mobile gaming seems to be where Duels should do the best.  Easy to use menus on a touchscreen, space constraints meaning features are removed, and microtransactions seem to point in that direction.  What I would like to see is this.  Continue to make Duels of the Planeswalkers, because at its core it is a very good piece of promotion for the game.  Drop support for console systems.  Make a new Shandalar for PC and the consoles.  I'll forgive you for V4, the reserved list, the sixth edition rules changes, the new card faces and things in the future!  Shandalar was great and it would be amazing if in the future that is what Duels turns in to! 

Duels of the Planeswalker is a strategy game developed by Stainless Games and published by Wizards of the Coast.  It is available on Steam, iPad, Android and Xbox Systems.  It costs 9.99 to purchase and is supplemented by in game purchases.  It comes with a code for a promotional booster pack.  The reviewed copy came from a Steam purchase.


Supposedly you can mod DotP by doc_brietz at Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:12
doc_brietz's picture

Supposedly you can mod DotP 2014 for the PC and add every card that has been hard coded in by the modders. I would never buy any of the DotP series, as maintaining a collection the other broken PC game is enough for me. I avoid any game with micro-tranactions like the plague. Apparently, that model makes money otherwise people would not still keep making games that has it.

"Supposedly you can mod DotP by Parabola at Mon, 07/28/2014 - 20:07
Parabola's picture

"Supposedly you can mod DotP 2014 for the PC and add every card that has been hard coded in by the modders"

That, and then some.

Once you start to understand the code, and believe me I'm terrible at coding, you can copy and paste sections of code to make other cards. Heck, I've made a few simple, fake cards just for the computer to run because it can't understand how to run some of the more complex cards I made. I've made over 30 cards myself and have collected over 5,000 (with duplicates). It's worth mentioning that 2013 had mods as well.

Oh, and I haven't given a dime to micro-transactions. I'm right with you, there. I just like it as a nice way to chill and play with friends who aren't willing to buy into MTGO.

It's usually a decent way to by IYankemDDS at Mon, 07/21/2014 - 13:42
IYankemDDS's picture

It's usually a decent way to hold me over until the new core set comes out, but this year I couldn't play it until after the set came out. I have played it enough to be worth the $10, but it's not super exciting or anything like that.

Wizards continues it's by Wikki at Tue, 07/22/2014 - 08:06
Wikki's picture

Wizards continues it's downward ascent. I used to love the planeswalker games just like I used to love MTGO. Now it's questionable for both...

I wanted to update this a bit by JXClaytor at Sat, 07/26/2014 - 12:37
JXClaytor's picture

I wanted to update this a bit after playing the game on my iPad.

Game is insane on that device. Menus are easy to control, loading times are smaller than on PC, art is just as visually stunning.

This is a mobile game being pushed on PCs and consoles. Play it if you have the iPad or Android device, I really enjoy it there!