I have always been a big Magic: The Gathering player ever since I was a kid back in middle school. I was always looking for other players, usually to no avail. I got out of the Magic scene after high school and had pretty much forgotten about the collectible card game. A few years ago, I was reacquainted and fell back in love when Duels of the Planeswalkers was released. Last year, 2012 was released, improving on the formula. Now the 2013 edition is here and further refines the addictive game play.
If I were to explain the entire game of Magic, it would take a good three days. Luckily, I don’t have to do that because 2013 does a fantastic job of explaining every aspect of the game to new players and Magic veterans. The tutorial is fully interactive and eases players into the mechanics of a match. There are also tips that will appear during the regular matches that explain everything. You can turn them off if you’d like, and see card-specific explanations with a press of a button. I’ll go this far: if you have never played a game of Magic: The Gathering before, you will learn how to play the game to its full extent after playing the tutorial and a few matches of Duels 2013.
The game features a full campaign mode in which you take on other planeswalkers as well as new confrontations that serve almost as random encounters against simplistic battles. There are other modes to play as well. The archenemy mode makes its return where players join forces to take on a buffed up villain that can change the rules with special cards. Two-headed Giant mode comes back, too. Here, you and a partner tag team against two other players. The newest mode added to 2013 is called Planschase, where four players go at it free-for-all style. There’s a twist, the game takes place in across planes in the MTG series. These are determined by cards in the middle of the battlefield. Every plane has a special rule that affects play. There is also an option to roll a die that may change the plane via planewalk. Another side of the die will activate the other rule on the plane card. It’s very involved, and I would suggest it to only experienced players playing with 3 other human opponents.
That brings me to my second biggest problem with 2013. The computer AI in this game can get brutal. Even when lowering the difficulty, the AI can take you down in a flash if you’re not careful. Sure, it offers up a decent challenge but after four or five lost matches in a row, it gets a little frustrating. Some of the cards in the game when played, can be a game changer, and when your opponent (and not you) takes the upper hand with said cards, it seems almost unfair.
My biggest gripe with 2013 is the fact that you still can’t fully customize your decks. You can unlock new cards for each deck when you claim victory with them. This will allow you to customize your deck to a small extent, but you can’t fully pick and choose. The biggest problem with this is that you’re stuck with the number of lands in your deck. If I could remove some from my deck, that would alleviate many of my problems. There honestly are too many land cards in the decks. You’ll end up with a ton of mana, but no spells to cast with all of it. Advanced players will see this as a big disappointment. Of course, you can’t make a deck from scratch, but there are a handful of good decks at your disposal. I do find that with only one multicolored deck, the highly coveted manual land tapping that was implemented is sort of unused. My blue/white deck is still missing in action. Of course, this can all be remedied with some decent DLC.
The overall presentation and aesthetic have had some major improvements from 2012. Everything from the menus to the gameplay is more streamlined. You now have more options during the after battle screen that keeps you from having to always go back to the menu to do anything. Even the music is well composed and thought out.
Free-for-all, Two-headed Giant, and Planechase modes are all in the online multiplayer. You can take on ranked matches as well as player matches with your friends. There is a little lag here and there, but it’s never a game breaker, and if you’re playing with more than one other person, be ready to play for a long time. Some of my matches, especially in Planechase with four players, took close to an hour to complete. Still, for those guys wanting some friendly competition, you’ll find plenty of it here in the online multiplayer.
If you’re looking to get into MTG for the first time, or if you want to rekindle your love for the game, 2013 is a must own. The game explains everything in detail, and the amount of content and modes are robust enough to keep players going for hours. This is the best Magic video game that is on the market today, and its all yours for 10 dollars. That is a great deal for what you get. I can not suggest Duels of the Plainswalker 2013 enough.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.