Developer: Stainless Games
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 hit the online stores this month and as a frequent player of the tabletop card game, as well as possibly having the most free time out of the entire GAMElitist staff, I managed to work the dark forces behind the scenes and the game appeared in my Steam library, as if by magic… See what I did there?
If you’re not already aware of the franchise, Duels of the Planeswalkers is one of the online versions of the popular Magic: The Gathering card game. The other is Magic: The Gathering Online, which I played for all of thirty minutes before wanting to kill something, but less of my psychotic tendencies and more about this game. The third iteration in the series, 2013, adds both welcome changes and wholly new additions to the game that were not present in 2012.
A new game mode, Planechase, has been added and is all kinds of fun. No really, I’m not being sarcastic. Officially released in 2009 (though it had been a well known casual variant before then), Planechase adds an extra element of chance to the entire game, a new set of cards enter the game that represent the planes that make up the Magic universe. Each of these planes have an effect on the gameplay as well as a ‘Chaos’ effect that is triggered by rolling the planar die. The planar die is a six-sided die that has four blank sides, a ‘change plane’ side and the chaos symbol. The first two being pretty self-explanatory, the chaos symbol invokes the current card’s chaos effect which is usually a powerful boost for the player. For example: indestructible creatures this turn. This mode is featured in both multiplayer and has its own short campaign ladder which is unlocked after defeating the first boss (Garruk).
Speaking of campaign mode, 2013 actually has something that resembles a story. Nicol Bolas is up to his (very) old tricks and is trying to take control of the multiverse again. Enter you, un-named planeswalker. It falls to you to defeat the 5 signature planeswalkers (Garruk, Liliana, Jace, Ajani and Chandra) and then eventually Nicol himself. I haven’t yet managed to finish the game as I’m stuck in Ravinca duelling a very nasty White and Black deck, even with the difficulty down I’m losing, which makes me sad.
Multiplayer is also featured in the game, with two headed giant (2v2), free for all and Planechase being the featured styles of play. Multiplayer plays similarly to campaign and indeed the tabletop game as one would expect with each player choosing the deck they want to use and then duking it out.
The game is still missing the part I love the most about Magic however, custom decks. I’ve found these decks to be more interesting than 2012′s as they are most often built around a single core mechanic. The ability to create my own deck from scratch is something I would really love but that is pretty much the selling point of their other game and not really in line with the goal of Duels of the Planeswalkers, which is to get more people into the game.
As part of this initiative, each copy of the game comes with a code for a free six-card booster pack that contains a mythic rare (a really powerful card basically). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to redeem mine as my local shop went out of business some years ago and the nearest is a train ride away. Along with that the game also heavily advertises the release of the 2013 Core Set for the tabletop on the 13th of July. If you’re in America, where I’m assuming the majority of our readers are, you can head down to a participating store and play with free decks.
Essentially, the game achieves what it sets out to do. It provides a fun, slick MTG experience for both accustomed and new players. However, without the inclusion of true custom decks I cannot give this full marks because that would indicate perfection where it is not.