Jun 19, 2011

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Review: Magic: the Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012

Whether you are a long-time Magic pro or if you are trying the game for the first time, Duels 2012 has something for everyone. Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 was released June 15, 2011 on PC (Steam), the Playstation Network, and Xbox LIVE as a follow up the the first Duels of the Planeswalkers game from Wizards of the Coast. Some major differences between the first iteration of Duels and the newest one is an Archenemy campaign, which teams you up with two other planeswalkers to defeat one planeswalker that will set schemes against you and your allies to even the odds, also this is the first Duels game that offers online multiplayer matches.

While the game does not offer much in regards to a story, it does have a small one. Since the last game, Gideon, the main character of the story, has made other planeswalkers into allies. Together they will combat against the evils destroying the planes. Unfortunately, that is all the story you get for the game. It is implied by the beginning cinematic that your planeswalker allies are Sorin Markov, Garruk Wildspeaker, Chandra Nalaar, and Jace Beleren, but you do not see any hint of that throughout the game itself. The closest to feeling like you have allies is when you play Archenemy, but you can ally yourself with almost any character in the game and Archenemy would serve well on its own without a background story.

The gameplay is, for the most part, self-explanatory if you have played Magic: the Gathering before. If you have never played a game of Magic before, do yourself a favor and play the tutorial match before starting the campaign. The tutorial gives a great break down on how to cast spells, when you can cast certain spells, and how to cast them. Also, keep all of the tips enabled so you know what is happening in the game while it is happening. You will never be left asking, “Why was he able to do that?” The game also helps first-time players by accessing a “How To Play” option in the pause menu, which includes a legend of the symbols used within the game. The point of the game, at its most basic level, is to have your opponent’s life total reach zero before your life total reaches zero; this is done with a plethora of creatures, sorceries, enchantments, artifacts, etc.

campaign

 

You can choose from three difficulty levels: Mage (easy), Archmage (medium), and Planeswalker (hard). Choose a difficultly based on how much experience you have the with the actual card game. The game also has three different campaigns that you can play through: Campaign, Archenemy, and Revenge. Campaign is the single-player mode in which you face other planeswalkers, but you also face optional challenges along the way. Completing the challenges will teach you tricks in the game that you may not have known before (especially good to learn for new players), and it can get you more Steam achievements. The challenges get more difficult as you progress in the Campaign. Archenemy leads you through the campaign of playing only Achenemy matches, with challenges of its own. Since you play along side others in Archenemy mode, you are given the option of playing online co-op through the campaign. Revenge unlocks late in the Campaign mode. Revenge allows you to play the single-player mode again, but it is much harder than before, and the opponents have new cards.

As you progress through the game, you will unlock new decks and new cards to play. When you choose a deck to play, you are forced play with only the cards in that deck and the cards you unlock for the deck. You cannot mix-and-match decks. You can, however, use the “Deck Manager” to change out cards in your deck to stay close to the sixty card minimum. Within the Deck Manager, you are also given the option to unlock the full deck if you have not already, and to unlock the foil premium version of the deck. Both features are available to download for a fee from Steam.

 

deckmanager

The controls of the game are simple to grasp on PC. You can click to cast everything if you choose, or you can use the hotkeys the game has set by default. Unfortunately, you are not able to reassign hotkeys, which would be a plus while playing on PC, but simply using the mouse is easy enough. Access the pause menu by pressing your (Esc) key and you can view the hotkeys under “Controls.” The most useful control you will come to learn is zooming. On PC you can scroll the mouse wheel forward and back to zoom in and out of a card so you can read the text easier.

The graphics are not anything to rave about; it is a card game after all. The loading screens and card art do showcase some masterful illustrations by the artists, though. No animations in the game exist aside from some quick splashes of “damage” or “magic” across the screen, which will vary between the different types of creatures and spells. The sound of the game, however, is more varied, and more varied than the first Duels game. In the first Duels game, it was painful to hear the same music in each and every match. In Duels 2012, the music playing depends on what type of game you are playing and the music is more in the background and not as pronounced as the first game. As for the sound effects, you will hear them more than the music. The sound effects, like the quick splashes of animation, vary between the different spells being used. For example, a white spell, which causes you to gain life, will have a much different animation and sound than a black spell that instantly destroys a creature. While the game does not have many animations, it is pretty flashy, making it a game that someone with a low-end PC may not be able to enjoy.

After playing through the campaigns and mastering one deck, unlocking all the cards, you have the urge to play more. Knowing that you have nine more decks to complete keeps you going back. The campaigns themselves do not take much time depending on the following factors:  your skill level, the difficulty level you have the game set to, and the luck of the draw. However, the addictiveness of collecting all the cards for each deck has you playing again and again.

spattack

 

As far as the new multiplayer goes in the game, it is not great, but it is not terrible at the same time. Updates to the game will be able to fix the issues with multiplayer. It seemed tougher getting into a “Quick Match” random game than a custom, player-created game, which was surprising. Once into a game, which you can choose from “Free-for-All” (every player for himself), “Two-Headed Giant” (pairs of players versus another pair) and “Archenemy.”  If you have a microphone, you can chat with others in the lobby while waiting for more players to join and also during the game. The voice chat works well. It did not seem to lag, and the players’ voices were only ever distorted if their microphones were poor. While in a game, it plays just like playing against the AI in offline mode.

While no major issues were present in the game, the fact that joining a multiplayer match was sometimes hard to do was a bit frustrating. Also, the Leaderboards option for the moment is not working; it instantly crashes the game. That will not have any affect on your gaming experience, however.

The game, overall, is well done and a definite improvement upon the previous version. It has less annoying music, new cards, more challenges, different campaigns, online multiplayer, and co-op. Of course, it also has the “gotta catch ‘em all” factor that keeps you glued to the computer screen for hours. At the same time, it is a good game to sit down with for an hour or so and just play a game or two. The game can get challenging, but you will always be able to figure out what you are doing wrong and improve upon it. This will help you in the PC game and in the actual card game if you play it. Duels 2012 presents the game’s mechanics as simply as possible for new players, as well as presents the greatest challenges, even for seasoned veterans.

Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012
"Platform: Xbox LIVE, PSN, PC (reviewed)
Genre: Strategy
Release Date: June 15, 2011
Developer: Stainless Games, Ltd
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
ESRB Rating: T
MSRP: $9.99


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About Michelle Varsallona

Playing some Pandaland, aka Mists of Pandaria. Follow me on Twitter, @astrellas. I may have some interesting things to say.