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Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013

[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”Wizards of the Coast LLC/Stainless Games, Ltd.” publishers=”Microsoft Studios” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”June 20, 2012″]

Magic: The Gathering Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2013 is the third game in the now yearly series. Developed by Stainless Games and Wizards of the Coast, the Duels of the Planeswalkers series brings the storied card game to its most accurate electronic portrayal yet. Magic: The Gathering started back in the 90’s combining luck of the draw gameplay with ruthless strategy. Players would form their own decks via starter decks, booster packs, and trading with friends. They would then duel other people as Planeswalkers a.k.a wizards building up mana and using it to play their cards. The popularity has died off some over the years but Magic 2013 is continuing the tradition of its predecessors by bringing old players out of retirement and new ones into the fold.

Core game mechanics have improved since the 2012 version with the big improvement being manual mana tapping. When you play a card that requires mana, the mana or land cards you played get turned to mark they have been used and this is called tapping. If you have a deck based on more than one color, you can now select specific mana cards to tap rather than them randomly getting tapped like in prior years. This makes multicolor decks much more viable and brings Magic 2013 more in line with the card game. There are other small things such as access to the Deck Manager being more readily available, stat tracking, and deck comparison ratings.

Magic 2013 brings new challenges and modes this year. The campaign breaks itself up into six sections with multiple encounters and opponents to face before you reach the boss opponent in that section. Decks and cards are unlocked in this mode allowing you to customize and build your own decks. A second campaign called Revenge takes all of the opponents from the regular campaign and amps up their aggressiveness. Planechase is a campaign that has you fighting a free for all battle against 3 AI and has its own special set of rules turning Magic into more of a meta game for a board game where you roll a die and depending on the roll you can move to a different plane and activate special plane cards. The last piece of single player goodness is the Challenge section which has 10 challenges that drop you in the middle of a situation with preset AI making the same moves. It is like a puzzle with only a couple solutions on how to get out of.

Outside of the single player campaign goodness, there is a custom game option with the ability to play Two Headed Giant mode with a local friend or AI against 2 AI players. There is also Free For All mode with you against one to three AI players and Planechase mode with the FFA with Planechase rules against AI. All of these modes can also be played in multiplayer with player and ranked matches. Playing real people might take longer in the games but it is a huge improvement over the strategies formed by the AI opponents. The AI tends to do strange things outside of the scope of the 1v1 battles. They also love to focus on the real player in the free for all modes making them seem more like 3v1 modes.

The major problem with the game is that when you play and you aren’t great the games tend to be a bit of a crapshoot and really dependant on the AI. Sometimes games would be quick but other times they turn into long drawn out battles usually with you on the losing end making Magic 2013 to be a frustrating game when you just wasted 45 minutes to lose. There seems to be no middle ground in this regard. Low skilled players lose quickly, high skilled players win quickly, but middle ground skilled players suffer excruciatingly long games unsure of their victory. This might be more of an issue with the core game mechanics and rules rather than the video game itself.

Score: 8.5/10

Magic 2013 is a superb entry for the series and card game. It is also a great primer for those that might be interested in the nearly 20 year old card game but need more of a holding hand in regards to the rules to avoid the embarrassment when playing more experienced players. While still not allowing all the freedoms that the actual card game allows, improvements in this iteration of the series makes it the best electronic representation of Magic the Gathering yet.

Brandon Koch

I write stuff. I play stuff. I code stuff.

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