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Magic: the Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 [XBLA] Review

By
Posted on July 9, 2012 AT 10:46am

My introduction to Magic: the Gathering wasn’t until rather late, in my honest opinion. I had seen some of my friends playing through middle school and high school, but never really gave it a chance. Just before I headed off to Navy boot camp in Fall of 2003, a friend decided to introduce me to it. We created decks out of his collection and battled for hours. I was swept into this colorful world of fantasy and wonder.

The Navy gave me a lot including a circle of completely geeky and nerdy friends. Some of these friends attended Friday Night Magic with me while others held Wizards of the Coast sanctioned Magic tournaments while I was on deployment. My love of Magic continued and grew thanks to these awesome and knowledgeable players. Now, my decks are never too far from my reach by chance that an impromptu game pops up.

It is no surprise that when Wizards of the Coast debuted the first two Duels of the Planeswalkers games that I bought them and spent countless hours battling the likes of Nicol Bolas or Liliana Vess. At the time, I was stationed in Italy and didn’t have anyone to play Magic with. There is always Magic: the Gathering Online for the PC, but Wizards of the Coast took it a step further by bringing it to the center-stage for gamers, Xbox LIVE. When Magic: the Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (hereby known as Magic 2013) was announced, I was excited. Having played through the two previous incarnations, I thought I’d have an idea as to what to expect with this new version. I was right, but I was also wrong.

If you have never experienced the close to 20-year-old card game, Magic 2013 offers extensive tutorials for beginners. Seasoned players could benefit from these as well, especially if you haven’t played in a long while. The object of the game is still the same. Beat your opponent and get their life total from twenty to zero before your own. Magic 2013 hosts three different campaigns: normal, Revenge (which is unlocked by completing the normal campaign), and Planechase. Completion of the normal campaign unlocks the Revenge campaign, which is basically replaying normal with mightier foes that have a closer resemblance to playing against real players. My current challenge in the Revenge campaign is the red goblin deck. As with the previous games, the campaign battles start out rather easy and steadily increase in difficulty.

Besides the campaign selection, Magic 2013 offers challenges for players to take a stab at. Those Magic strategists will love this mode. Players are inserted into a game-in-progress scenario and must figure out how to survive the onslaught of the opponent. The campaign mode also offers encounters, where the card order is scripted to repeat and players must figure out how to defeat the encounter.

I am not at all pleased with Planechase, nor was I impressed with Archenemy in 2012. The player and 3 A.I. opponents compete against each other to win the match, but there is a twist, in the middle of the game space is a deck of overly large cards that can change the fate of the match in an instant. To activate these cards (or planes), the players roll a corresponding Planar die. The symbol that the die lands on decides if an action is to be taken or if there is to be a change of plane. This deck also includes one-off cards that can change the course of the game, such as a card that could clear all creatures off the board and into the graveyard or making all creatures black with deathtouch.

As stated previously, you are playing against 3 A.I. opponents and as such some of the tactics and strategy are questionable. It’s to the point where the A.I. does not make the obvious choice, such as rather than killing off the Planeswalker with 4 life, it would focus on the one with 15 life. The A.I. mode of this game is completely unbalanced. I suspect many hours to be lost trying to defeat the Planechase campaign. Online play for Planechase takes longer as there are real people playing and strategizing. The trade-off, A.I. for actual humans, is worth it, but you better not make any plans for the next few hours.

Magic 2013 offers 10 brand new decks for players’ enjoyment. Whether you enjoy Red, Black, Blue, Green or White, there’s a choice for everyone. Personally, I am a bit saddened by the lack of an artifact deck, but I guess I can always go back and play some 2012 when I need my Artifact kick. The decks range from a fast red goblin deck to a white life-gain deck that in my last Planechase battle landed me with 132 life. The only multi-color deck is a black/white Exalted deck, everything else focuses on one color. If you are like myself, then this is a big disappointment. One can only hope that multi-color decks will be included via downloadable content.

As you play, Magic 2013 now offers 15 unlockable cards per deck. Unfortunately, there still isn’t a deck editing tool, but players can customize their decks how they wish. Another drawback is the lack of four of each card, the maximum is usually three. While it does take a long while to unlock each and every card, Xbox LIVE offers previous Magic players a token to unlock all the cards of any deck they prefer. If you are a new player or a returning player that wants to unlock more than one deck, Xbox LIVE offers these Magic 2013 Consumable Deck Keys for 80 Microsoft Points a piece.

A major issue with the first two games was the lack of being able to choose which mana cards that you wanted to use for casting a spell. You’d have a great strategy in your head, but then the game wouldn’t cooperate, thus using mana cards that a player would need for the next spell they wanted to cast. This problem is no more as developers listened and have introduced manual mana tapping in Magic 2013. Another addition to the game is the Player Status section which tracks items like “most damage done in a turn” or “most creatures in play”. This sector also includes leaderboards as well as tracking how much you’ve played with a certain color deck.

As with the previous Magic games, there isn’t any “action” persay, but the stunning artwork (via the cards themselves along with the loading screens) and cinematics make up for it. This even includes the icons for the achievements. While they just seem to be smaller versions of the artistry within the game, the amount of detail can definitely be seen compared to the achievement icons of other games. The actual game effects are pretty awesome, a great example is when using Chandra’s deck (a red/fire deck), it attacks the opponent with a fire effect. The same can be seen with blue/water decks.

Speaking of achievements, I was a bit disappointed. In my first four and a half hours of gameplay, I had unlocked exactly half of the achievements offered. Currently, I am sitting at 19/20. While I understand the need to cater to new players, I do think that the achievements have been made to be a bit too easy here. Again, here’s to hoping when it comes to possible DLC.

The music for Magic 2013 changes tone depending on the intensity of the play or as to speak of tension. I will say that the music does get repetitive, as it did in previous versions, and it is then that I’ll don my PC headphones to listen to a podcast or some music as I play. I do wish that as much thought went into the sounds of this collection of games as it does for the art.

All in all, the game holds a ton of replayability from the different campaign modes and then to the multiplayer. Not to mention that some players strive for unlocking every card for every deck. Years later, I’m still playing the original Duels of the Planeswalkers as well as 2012. The only drawback is still the lack of customizable decks. I do have faith that since the developers and publishers heard the cries for manual mana tapping that the next incarnation could hold that for players.

SUMMARY: With a presence on Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network, Steam, and the App Store for iPad, Wizards of the Coast and Stainless Games have reached out farther than ever before. Whether you are new to Magic: the Gathering or an old friend, Magic 2013 is a definite buy. Get Magic: the Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 on your preference for gaming today.

  • THE GOOD: Manual Mana Tapping, about damn time!
  • THE BAD: Lack of customization still holds this game back.
  • THE UGLY: Hours upon hours of the unbalanced Planechase will screw with your head.

Score: 8

Amanda "Mandie" Marron is a US Navy Veteran, Gamer, Reader, Poet, Xbox Community Ambassador, Battlestar Galactica Aficionado, Wine Connoisseur, and all around geek. Follow me on Twitter: @Caprickah


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