Magic 2014 - Duels of the Planeswalkers Review

Joshua Vanderwall | 28 Jun 2013 12:30
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Duels of the Planeswalkers was originally introduced back in 2009, with a genuinely approachable interface, a detailed tutorial, and a huge amount of replay value. In 2011, Duels 2012 hit the market, improving on the original with important gameplay options that appealed to higher-level players and a new game mode, while retaining the accessibility to newcomers that the original title was known for. Duels 2013 launched a year later, with more minor improvements like manual mana tapping, as well as a new, although not entirely well-received gameplay mode, Planechase. Stainless Games has more or less perfected their craft. Duels gameplay is now proper Magic for all intents and purposes. Without anything further to improve on with gameplay, Stainless took the longest-standing complaint about the franchise - the lack of legitimate deck building - and remedied it in Duels 2014.

If you've played previous installments in the series, you've already got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the core game. One all new addition is the semblance of a story which you'll see in the campaign mode. The story stars Chandra, who is hunting down an enemy planeswalker, Ramaz, with a little help from you, her planeswalking ally. It's not terribly in depth, but given that this is the first shot at any kind of story in a Duels game, it's not a bad attempt. Not to mention that stories in Magic are typically told through the sets, planes, and cards, rather than through actual matches. Throughout the campaign, you'll be traveling between planes, from Zendikar to Ravnica, pursuing Ramaz via a clue from each setting. Instead of having you play real games with random draws, however, most of your Campaign matches are going to have you playing against a stacked deck "challenge." You get a random draw, but your opponent will be doing the same sequence of moves every game. On the one hand, it's nice to know exactly what to expect and be able to plan for it. On the other hand, that's boring compared to playing actual games of Magic, although it's still got some appeal as a simple test of your deck's effectiveness in the given situation. The final boss of each plane you travel to, however, does seem to be a properly random game, with all the variance you've come to expect from Magic.

In addition to the standard campaign fare, there's also a new batch of puzzles to check out. These puzzle challenges vary from very easy to excruciatingly difficult, and knowledge of the cards and interactions is hugely beneficial, but by no means required. You'll likely develop a love/hate relationship with the puzzles in Duels 2014, and the best advice for when you get stuck is to take a break for a while, and approach it with fresh eyes later.

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