I’ve never wholeheartedly thrown myself into the world of Magic: The Gathering, but I have spent enough time and money on it to have more than a working idea of what makes it one of the world’s biggest, most compelling and longest-standing collectible card games. So when I first heard about the Duels of the Planeswalkers video game conversion, I was more than just a little interested.
I was pleasantly surprised by the game’s slick interface and seemingly flawlessly implementation of the card game’s basic fundamentals, and before long I found myself battling head-on with other players from around the world. However, Duels of the Planeswalkers suffered from a fatal flaw which resulted in me ultimately losing interest before too long. In Duels of the Planeswalkers, you can’t customize your decks, which means that M: TG veterans are likely to become frustrated and lose interest quite quickly. This was a major issue, and it had a lot of gamers lobbying for Wizards of the Coast to enable this functionality, and essentially convert Duels of the Planeswalkers into a fully fledged digital M: TG experience.
So, when I heard that it was getting an overhaul with the release of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, I immediately hoped that this revision had been made. It hasn’t, and a lot of fans are disappointed as a result, but don’t take it from me. Here’s what an IGN commenter had to say: “This would be worth buying if you could customize your deck. Otherwise you may as well just play the real game. Building a deck based on a card combo or idea is what makes Magic fun.” And that’s pretty much how I feel.
So on a personal level, I’m disappointed, and don’t feel like there is any reason to continue playing the game. However, reviews are not personal rants, and I’ve already taken up too many words telling you how I feel about it. The truth, is that Duels of the Planeswalkers is intended to be a digitally based introduction to the world of M: TG. Magic: The Gathering Light, if you will. And from that perspective, it succeeds. Also the entire game costs significantly less than what you’d expect to pay for a single decent real-life deck.
For the uninitiated, the basic concept is not too hard to grasp. You start out with your deck, and each card represents a creature, spell, resource (Mana) or artefact. It costs Mana to bring a card into play, and your goal is to whittle your opponent down from 20 points of life to zero. He will of course be using his own selection of cards to do the same to you. While it sounds simple, there is a staggering number of cards on offer, although, again, Duels of the Planeswalkers is limited in this regard.
Duels 2013 doesn’t do much different to what the last iteration of the game had to offer. It does, however, make a few welcome interface tweaks, introduces a comprehensive stat tracking system, and gives us a brand new campaign, which is admittedly quite substantial. There is also the new Planechaser multiplayer mode, which is a free-for-all mode featuring a six-sided die and the chance to uncover planar cards that can force all cards in play to be removed from the table.
There is no denying that Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is the best iteration of the sub-series released to date. The introduction of new decks, a tweaked interface and a new gameplay mode make it the Duels of the Planeswalkers game to buy. However, without customizable packs, I feel like it’s missing the heart of what makes M: TG such a great game. Still, if you’re looking to learn how to play, or are a veteran looking for a cheap distraction, then you could do a lot worse than Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, I suppose.