Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers

Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers is a digital card collecting and strategy game based on the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering.  It was released on the 26th June for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, iPad and Android tablets.

Magic 2014

As I’ve not played any of the previous Magic games, and only had a brief introduction to Magic: The Gathering, I started at the beginning: the tutorial.  The tutorial section is set up as a set of matches against AI opponents with the basics of play explained as you go.  At the end of the tutorial you face Chandra Nalaar and her red deck of fire, a match which is a little tougher than the previous matches, requiring you to practice what you’ve learned.  Beating her gets you your first deck unlock: 30 cards for the Firewave deck.

Firewave Deck

More cards can be unlocked through duelling (and winning) with that deck, and other decks are unlocked by beating the other Planeswalkers, found in each plane / chapter.. there are ten decks in total.

I really love the artwork on the cards, especially the animated creatures on rare or powerful cards which seem to come to life on the screen.  The game board is fairly plain, but it doesn’t distract from the gameplay.  The same can’t be said for the timer, however, which I found particularly distracting during the tutorial.

Though there is a timer, there appears to be no time limits in place.  The game allows me to take as long as I want to play my card, but swiftly moves on if I can’t make any moves.  When this happened during the tutorial I assumed I hadn’t been quick enough, rather than realising that I just didn’t have any valid moves to make.  During the AI’s turn, cards are drawn and displayed and you must click a button to continue; the same happens when the AI attacks and you are given the choice to block and another button to click to continue.. so the timer feels rather redundant.

The single player campaign has a fairly simple story: as a Planeswalker, you are helping Chandra Nalaar track down an enemy Planeswalker, Ramaz.  In each plane the story is advanced by a number of Encounters, with a final boss that proves a tougher fight.  In early encounters, the AI opponent plays their cards in the same order every time, so you can learn the patterns in their play and put together a winning strategy.  There are five planes in total, and a Revenge mode for when you’ve completed the standard Campaign, so there’s a fair amount of gameplay just in this mode alone.

There’s also a Challenge mode, with ten different challenges to defeat.  The first of these challenges you to defeat the enemy on the next turn of a partly-played game, while the second challenges you to use Equipment to win the game.

Magic 2014 is the fourth game in the series, and the first to introduce deck building, which comes in the form of Sealed Play Mode.  Sealed Play Mode gives you six sets of random booster packs to build your own deck, making the most of what you get.  Once you’ve put a deck together.. or had the game auto-build you a deck, as I did.. you can then test your deck out against six AI opponents, or play in online PvP matches.

Sealed Mode

I don’t even know where to begin in selecting cards which will not only work well together for combat but also balance out in terms of mana requirements.  I think this mode may provide a good challenge for those who have a little more experience with Magic, but for newcomers deck building may be daunting.

Multiplayer modes include Two-Headed Giant and custom games as well as Sealed PvP.  While the game is available on a range of platforms, the multiplayer sadly isn’t cross-platform.

Magic 2014 costs just £7 on Steam, but you could end up spending more as there are microtransactions built in.  You can pay to unlock all the cards in the game, for instance, instead of unlocking them through winning duels.  In Sealed Play, you have just two slots for your custom decks, with no option to delete them or start again later.  If you want more slots, you can pay to unlock them.. at £6.49 for five slots.  Fans of the game may like the mode as you can finally build your own deck, but may be frustrated by these restrictions.

4/5

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