Robert Chesley

“Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 expansion: Ascend Into Darkness” – Review

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How does the first expansion to the hit downloadable Magic title fare?

I had a great time with the original “Duels 2012” game that came out this past summer. It expanded on the original “duels” and fixed many of the “problems” that the original title had. That isn’t to say that this game didn’t have it’s problems. The most glaring of which was the ability to “play as the Archenemy”. Well, the first expansion, “Ascend Into Darkness” fixes some of these issues.

The first thing you’ll notice with you turn on the game with the expansion installed is the new splash screen featuring “Liliana Vess”. Getting into the game proper, if you had purchased any “keys” to unlock cards or decks in the past, all the new cards will be unlocked from the get go. That makes them worth it a bit more. To unlock the three new decks, you’ll need to fight the single player game. Which the campaign this time around focuses much more on “you get to be the Archenemy” there are only six single player matches to play through before you unlock all the decks. This took me about forty minutes to unlock the new decks.

The new decks feature a Green White “Auramancer” deck which relies on weenie style creatures and enchantments to pump them with. A Black “Grave Whispers” deck, which is reminiscent of the discard deck featured in the original game. A Blue Red “Cloudburst” deck. This deck uses creatures and spells that benefit each other when others are played. Of the new decks, “Auramancer” looks to be the most original, it seems the other two are highly derivative of previous decks. Nevertheless, that means there are more cards to unlock and new decks to play. One of the selling points of this expansion is that you can play cards from the upcoming “Innistrad” expansion before they are technically available to the public. While that is cool, none of the cards featured in the game are particularly powerful or exciting.

The feature I was most looking forward to was the ability to “play as the Archenemy”. This was something that I’ve said previously I have a hard time accomplishing in the paper Magic world. You have to gather friends and Archenemy cards and it always seems to be a bigger hassle than it is typically worth. One of the most appealing aspects of Magic to me is interactivity and skillful plays. Some of the best games I can remember involve a really skillful move (either for or against me) or games that seemed to be very evenly matched until the game “luck” striked one of competitors. That makes Magic fun for me. “Archenemy” took all of that out of the game. Yes, it is a 3 vs. 1 format. Yes, there should be a way to “even the field”. But should all the cards in my Archenemy deck be so obscenely favorable to me that it was impossible to lose. Making a bunch of tokens and then using the card Mass Polymorph in the Green Blue deck meant that I cheated out practically all my biggest and best creatures far earlier than should be allowed. Giving the “heroes” nothing to stop me when I can attack all three for lethal on turn 3 or 4 wasn’t very fun. In fact, I don’t think I will play much as the Archenemy. It seemed too swingy for my tastes.

My favorite part of “Duels” is the puzzles. Unfortunately, there were only 5 new puzzles and all of them were “Archenemy” puzzles. I really want a game dedicated just to the puzzles. None of the puzzles were incredibly hard, a few stumped me for a moment, but were all easily finished within an hour.

– New cards and New decks. This is what you are paying for the bulk of the content. Getting 4 cards per deck and 3 new decks is worth the 4.99 if you play this game as much as I do.
– “Play as the Archenemy”. While I may have mixed feelings about it, this is a major selling point. I feel that this should have been part of the original game proper, but it is nice to finally have it now.
– Few puzzles. I know I may be in the minority, but I want more puzzles, I’d even pay more just for puzzles.

All in all, I feel the DLC is worth the price. You get plenty of new cards and new decks to spruce up the old ones you may have been kicking around with. While I don’t think playing as the Archenemy is something I’ll likely continue to do in the future, I did have a good time playing it.

A copy of the DLC was provided for review, the reviewer finished all the campaign content in just under four hours. I unlocked 2 of the 3 achievements and I did not play online. This review is in reference to the Xbox 360 version of the game. The DLC is available on all systems for around five dollars.

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