Robert Chesley

Duels of the Planeswalkers PC review

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round 1 fight.

So I’ve been asked to review the latest release of Magic: The Gathering, “Duels of the Planeswalkers” for Steam. I quickly launched the code into my Steam account. Waited for the download, installed all the drivers, and hurriedly launched the program. While I knew going in this was just like the Xbox 360 release that came out a while ago (I want to say close to a year ago.), it is still interesting to play this version of the game.

The game in a nutshell is quick games of Magic. You play resources (lands) and creatures to try to attack the opposing Planeswalker’s life down to zero. This version has many different decks and cards you can add or take away to make the decks better or worse against the gauntlet of decks to choose from. This release contains both the original 360 Arcade title plus the first expansion, “Duel the Dragon.” There are eight decks in all, with at least fifteen unlockable cards in each deck. The expansion adds three new decks plus at least fifteen in each of those as well. Thats a lot of cards and a lot of time will be spent unlocking cards. There are online modes for both co-op and 1v1 duel format. There is an offline Co-Op mode but you are required to plug in a game pad and it is single screen. This seems to work much better on a 360 in a living room and not suited for PC play.

I’m obviously not the target audience for a product like this. I, however, live, eat, and breathe all things Magic. On intial start up, you’ll be asked how much you’ve played the game proper in the past. I told the game “A lot” and pretty much was able to jump right into the bulk of the game. I skipped past the prompt if I want to play the tutorial. Since I was familiar with the product, I chose not to. The tutorial is very helpful in learning the interface. Which while exactly the same as it’s 360 counterpart, it works a lot better with mouse and keyboard controls. In fact, I love games that I can use the mouse exclusively, this lets me control that way. I like the way they did it in this version, in the 360 version you are required to play the tutorial, and you have to change the settings on your own if you have played in the past and the AI is a little easy.

You can draw comparasions to this product and Wizard’s other PC Magic product, Magic Online. Both of these products allow for online play. Both are very different in execution. While this product esentially provides cards and decks for you, on Magic Online you must procure the cards yourself. Which to many players like myself, the ability to expand and build your own decks is one of the most appealing aspects of the game. There are some rudementary deck building in “Planeswalkers”, but you are mostly limited to adding cards you win from games to your decks. I think this is another missed opportunity to guide newer players to the Paper or Online equivilent games. However, it was pointed out to me that this product is great for players who want quick in and out games at a very low cost of entry. I have to agree, for ten dollars, you can’t even get your foot in the door on Magic Online, and here you are given at least eight decks to work with. Looking at it for a budget player’s perspective this is a great buy.

You can learn a lot from this product. It is made primarily for people just getting into the game. If you are familiar with Magic but haven’t yet jumped on the 360 version, this is a good choice. You’ll have fun for a few hours and unlocking cards becomes mega-addicting after a while. But then again, you don’t have much choices when it comes to customization of the decks themselves. Which is a major selling point of the game proper. The interface is nice and the graphics are appealing, you do get to play actual Magic against an AI. Something that Magic Online (or Paper for that matter) can’t do.

As an experienced player, I don’t see much appeal to this version of the game. Most of us have played the 360 version last year and those hardcore fans that do have a PC will most likely find Magic Online a better alternative. But for those just starting out and wanting to learn some of the games finer entricities, this is an excellent choice and one I would fully recommend. Here’s my pros and cons of the game:

Pros
Magic against AI opponents.
– The Challenges or Puzzles are some of the most fun you can have with this product something that isn’t done every day.
-The decks are fairly balanced and there is a good variety of them.
-It’s less than a price of a theme deck in the store and you can get a lot out of it.
– As a teaching tool, I’m not sure there is anything better to get people interested in the game and to teach it properly.
– This game will have the most legs depending on the online community.

– Great option for budget players looking to play some quick games of Magic.

Cons
– Has very few options when it comes to customizing decks.
– Pretty much the same game from almost a year ago.
– The music is horrible and the game can be a little buggy from time to time. For instance, when going through the challanges I found a bug that wouldn’t unlock the achievement for it. I completed it a few times and didn’t work I got sort of discouraged. I hope they fix that for the retail release.
– Takes a long time to unlock decks and then the extra cards for the decks. You’ll get tired of playing with the same deck close to twenty times each to fully unlock all the cards.
– This game will have the most legs depending on the online community. I say this here as well as the pros is how much market this can drag away from Magic Online. Which is where the majority of the players will probably end up eventually.

– Requires a separate controller for co-op. While an interesting diversion from the main game, I’m not sure if this mode works that well on the PC version.

In conclusion, it is very hard for me not to recommend this product. If you can live without robust deck construction, this is a fine product for a great price. If you’re a person who has always “wondered what these Magic cards are all about?” this makes the intital investment very low and you’ll have a lot of fun with it. I intially learned to play Magic from the original “Duels of the Planeswalkers” from Microprose in the mid-90s. Its how I caught the bug, and I imagine many more future Planeswalkers will take their first steps with this product. If you are an experienced Magic player, I’m not sure if this product is for you. You’ll find it flustrating that you cannot really upgrade the decks more than a few cards, and even then you can really only add extra cards, you don’t get to take cards out. I feel if you are an avid Paper player looking for an online solution you should look to the official Magic Online and not here.

Robert Chesley has been playing Magic since 1997. He’s been an author at several Magic related websites including PureMTGO and CardShark. You can find Robert on MTGO under the user namer Urzishra14. You can also find him on twitter @urzishra.

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