Posted on July 9, 2013 AT 09:16am
Like sports, trading card games are an ever-changing medium. To that effect, each year a new video game version of each comes out annually to reflect the new cards that have surfaced for the current season. With a new title coming every year, it’s easy for the newer games to quickly feel like the same software with different cards each time. With a slew of new features, Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 makes a clear effort to avoid stagnation and keep the series fresh.
The hardest thing, when producing a table-top game in video game form, is spicing the game up without adding more than is necessary. Magic 2014 has just enough added flair without overpowering or forcing you to wait through needless animations. While much of the animation is pretty standard, flames light up the screen when a fire creature performs an attack and so on, one particular effect was a standout. You’d barely notice it at first, but in a few of the cards the beautifully illustrated picture animates just enough to both surprise and delight you at the same time.
Keeping the flow of the game similar, if not a bit faster, to a real game is another fine line to tow. One new feature in Magic 2014 that is in service of making things more convenient, is the ability to attack with all your available creatures with one button press. Some of the strategies of the included decks involve creating armies of creatures to send at your foes, so this feature is a welcomed addition.
Playing the PS3 version of the game did leave me wanting in the area of feeling like a had a good view over the entire game. In certain instances, I either couldn’t figure out how to look at some cards or it wasn’t possible and it’s important to be able to see every card on the field so you can properly plan your strategy. This may be different in the other versions of the game, but it was frustrating at times to not be bale to zoom in on every card.
Keeping your audience engaged is another challenge for any card-based game. It’s easy to just throw together a few opponents and let people go at it, but Magic 2014 has gone all out to make sure this year’s game is interesting and re-playable. The single-player game has three main things that you can do: the campaign, challenges and sealed play modes.
The campaign pairs your avatar with hot-headed Chandra Nalaar as she hunts down the villain Ramaz. Some of the encounters you go through involve conquering a deck that will always draw the same cards and, at the end of each of the five planes, you fight against a deck that can then be unlocked for your play. Whenever you beat any encounter, the deck you used gets a random new card to strengthen it even further. Each encounter also includes a little blurb of text which adds just enough context to keep the scene set properly. There are even some cutscenes, just a few, but they are entertaining.
Challenge mode is something I’ve seen plenty of times before in other card-battling games. They set up a perfect table where you can win the game in one turn if you play your cards just right. This is perfect for when you want to stare at the screen until your brain starts to smoke just a little bit. Some of the challenges are quite tough and there’s one or two I swear can’t really have a solution.
The real gem of this new release is the sealed play mode. This option allows you to open several packs of cards and build a custom deck from what you’ve gotten. It’s a great way to shake things up if you’ve gotten sick of the decks that the game provides for the campaign. For advanced players, it gives you full control over what goes inside the deck and even rates the deck for you automatically to help you along. For beginners, you can simply add a few of your favorite cards and then it gives you the option to auto-complete so you can have a strong deck with the cards you’ve chosen. It even adds the correct proportions of mana for you, which was the toughest thing for me when I played a while back. Once you’ve crafted your new deck it throws the creation into its own campaign and faces you against several Planeswalker opponents.
This mode creates an experience which can be almost infinitely replayed. Creating a new deck feels fresh almost every time and I’ve had a lot of fun just auto-building some decks and letting myself be surprised by my cards.
I Loved The:
- Awesome replay value of Sealed Play Mode
- Effort towards creating context with the story
- Beautiful artwork I’ve come to expect from Magic: The Gathering
- Snappy speed of the gameplay
I Wished it Could Have:
- Been easier to zoom on each card in the console version
- Given more specific feedback when I was losing constantly
- Had just a few more cut-scenes for the story
To Sum Up:
Magic 2014 shows that Wizards of the Coast are willing to listen to player feedback and implement new features year-to-year instead of remaining stagnant with their design. The focus on providing a better story to provide some context for a campaign made for a fun single-player run-through. Sealed Play Mode is an amazing new feature for both beginners and advanced players to enjoy more game after they’re done with the story. This game lives up to its reputation by bringing you a great way to play with some of the newest cards digitally before they you buy them in stores.
An Enthusiastic – 8.5 (out of ten)
Review code of PSN version provided by Wizards of the Coast.
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