Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (XBLA) Review

magic2014_1
What we liked:
+ Customizable sealed decks
+ Fantastic tutorial
+ Great online play
+ Tons of content
What we didn't like:
- AI is still brutal
- Sealed decks are somewhat limited
Rating
9.7
Excellent
DEVELOPER: Stainless Games   |   PUBLISHER: Microsoft Game Studios   |   RELEASE: 06/26/2013

Review
Remember when I said 2013 was THE Magic game? Now it’s 2014.

Another year, another version of Duels of the Plainswalkers finds its way into the hands of players. Every year around this time, I start to get a little giddy. I’ve been a huge Magic: The Gathering fan ever since I was a kid. Stainless Games manages to come up with new ideas and mechanics for their yearly game as well as improving on the formula. This year, they finally implemented something players have been clamoring about for years: sealed deck building.

Like I said in my review of Magic 2013, if I were to explain the entire game in this review it would take up 20 pages, but for those unfamiliar with the game, Magic: The gathering is a collectible card game that has players dueling each other using specialized cards that represent creature summons, powerful spells, and other useful equipment and enchantments.

Finally, I can make my own deck.

So, the big question on fan’s minds is “Are the decks really customizable?” Well, yes but with some limitations. The past Duels of the Plainswalkers (DotP) games used pre-made decks that could have certain cards that unlocked through play be substituted in. Players couldn’t build their own deck from scratch. In this iteration, there is a new mode called Sealed Mode. Here, players will start off with booster packs containing random cards in them. After opening all the booster packs, players can use the cards they acquired to build their own personal deck how they see fit. So, yes, players can finally build their own decks.

The limitations come in the form of how they can use the decks and how many they can have. Players are allowed two sealed decks to use. If the player wishes to start a third deck, they can, but they will have to pay for an extra deck slot through the store; an extra slot costs $1.00. The other limitation is that the sealed decks can only be used in a specialized campaign for sealed decks. Players can’t go into the standard campaign mode and use them. Sealed decks are also allowed in online multiplayer matches when the match is designated for sealed play. Through the sealed campaign, players will unlock more booster packs to use in their personal deck.

The standard campaign makes its return. Players will use pre-made decks just like previous iterations, and unlock new cards that can be used in those pre-made decks. The game also has many new unlocks like titles and avatar pictures.

The online multiplayer features a free-for-all with standard Magic 2014 rules. Two headed giant mode makes its return as well and features a co-op versus play where players join forces to take down a team. Sealed deck mode is the one that the hardcore players will be getting into. It’s always fun to see what kind of decks other players come up with, and using my own personalized deck is always a great way to learn both how to build a good deck, and how to strategize while playing with a custom one. The online is seamless and works without a hitch.

Never played Magic before? NO PROBLEM!

Speaking of learning, I have to mention, just as I have in my 2013 review, that DotP has possibly the best tutorial I have ever seen in a game. In fact, it has an even better tutorial than before, showing exactly what things do and how to strategize. Newcomers will not feel lost while playing, and even if they don’t remember everything from the tutorial, helpful tips will pop up whenever they encounter something new while they are playing. It really is impressive to see such a complex game being shown in such a simplistic way.

Now, I will say, being a veteran Magic player, I still see that the AI in both campaigns is both brutal and relentless. Of course, there are multiple difficulties, but for someone who knows the game inside and out, I should be able to play on a harder difficulty and be able to handle my own. I’m starting to believe that the difficulty setting is not just for the AI but how cards in my deck may be drawn. If that’s the case (and I’m just speculating here) that needs to be worked on. Still, playing Magic 2014 is like visiting with an old friend that you only see for one week in a year. You’re still friends, you love each other’s company, and you have a great time.

There is still a ton of content in DotP 2014, enough to last players for multiple hours. Newcomers should fear nothing. The series has always had an amazing tutorial and 2014 improves on it even more. The online play is still a blast to play with friends, and while somewhat limited, players can finally make their own personal decks and show them off to their friends. Magic 2014 has all the bells and whistles that the previous games had, adds some new things while refining almost every aspect and lets players customize their hard work. Those who liked the past few games and even those looking to play Magic: The Gathering for the very first time should all pick up Duels of the Plainswalkers 2014. I can’t suggest it enough.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Screenshots

Drew Leachman

Drew is the Community Manager here at ZTGD and his accent simply woos the ladies. His rage is only surpassed by the great one himself and no one should stand between him and his Twizzlers.

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