Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 Review

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Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (Hasbro)
Developer: Stainless Games

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: 2 GHz Processor, 1 GB RAM, video card with 256 MB VRAM, 700 MB HD space, Windows XP service pack 3 or more recent operating system

Magic: The Gathering, the collectible card game from Wizards of the Coast that's been running since the early '90s, has a new game for consoles and the PC. Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is an updated version of Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers, featuring updated graphics, more polish, a new multiplayer mode and ten decks.

Kyle Ackerman

Feel like a game of Magic: The Gathering, but don't have anyone to play with (and don't feel like jumping into Magic: The Gathering - Online)? Don't have the cash to buy a load of cards and construct a polished deck, or just want to learn the game? That's where Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 comes in. This game is Wizards of the Coast's gateway drug, here to help lead more gamers into indulging in the collectible card game that has players tapping land for mana, summoning gargantuan beasts and ensorcelling opponents.

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is a polished presentation of Magic: The Gathering, a pleasant way to play and a great way to learn the game. As in the prior version of the game, the real flaw is that you only really get to enjoy half the game of Magic: The Gathering. There are ten pre-constructed decks, some of which have to be unlocked, all of which can be pitted against the AI or other players. Half the fun of Magic, though, is carefully constructing a deck to defeat all comers as quickly and elegantly as possible. In Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 the best you can do (after fully unlocking a deck) is choose which 60 cards (of around 80) you want to actually play with. It's just not the same fun and freedom of choice you get in conventional Magic, even if you pay for that choice by purchasing a ton of cards.

Even on the "Planeswalker" level of difficulty (the highest), the AI won't challenge a skilled player nearly as much as a bad draw. The campaign is a good way to get to learn the decks and unlock them, but the real depth-of-play comes from the multiplayer formats and the strong online matchmaking. The game still has "Two-Headed Giant" and "Free-For-All" modes, but adds the new "Archenemy" format. Archenemy is a new format from Wizards of the Coast that adds an extra, oversized deck to help one player defeat three allied opponents.

I don't like Archenemy, and for good reason. Archenemy isn't Magic. Free-For-All and Two-Headed Giant both reward the clever construction of decks, even if the strategy is slightly different. The special Archenemy cards that the Archenemy draws each turn destroy play such that deck construction (even if it was done for you) is almost irrelevant. Archenemy cards do things like cause players to discard almost half their deck, take control of creatures on the board or give the Archenemy an extra turn. It's necessary to make a one-on-three match roughly even, but it's not Magic. Deck strategies, particularly combos, become almost irrelevant. The only thing that works is brute force, speed, and hope that the Archenemy won't screw with you. This isn't a fair criticism of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, since they're just dancing at the command of Wizards of the Coast, but Archenemy excises the things that are fun about Magic and makes the game frustrating for everyone except the Archenemy. Since that's the major new feature of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, I find the game a disappointment.

If you can stomach playing Magic without constructing your own decks, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is easy to learn and equally fun for experts. I did experience very occasional slowdowns when the AI had to "think hard," but my only other irritation (that wasn't with the lack of deck construction or "Archenemy" mode) was the occasional offers to purchase upgrades to my deck or buy foil versions of cards. I understand that in-game purchases are a big moneymaker for many games, but it's still a minor irritation. You can fully unlock a deck by playing a set number of matches, or just shell out sufficient cash. And foil cards are purely a vanity item. Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is a decent version of the physical card game. It's limitations are offset only by its low cost-of-entry.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 29, 2011 10:34 PM.

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