I have a confession to make: I am a Magic: The Gathering newbie. Sure, I got the basics from some friends back in high school, and I’ve even participated in a few low-key matches. But when it comes to deck-building or playing in any kind of serious manner, I have no clue what’s going on. However, I think people like me are exactly who Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is aimed at. The game is formatted in such a way that it courts gamers who have heard of Magic, but have been a bit intimidated to jump in full force. And on that front, this game is a total success.
Like anyone relatively new to a game, the first place I went to was the tutorial mode. While the tutorial wasn’t as exhaustive as it could have been, it gave me a good handle on the basics and introduced me to the flow of the game. After an easily-won test match, I thought I was ready to launch headlong into the single-player mode. And then I got my butt handed to me. Over and over again. And on easy as well.
It wasn’t one of my most proud moments as a gamer, but the A.I. was slick—even on easy—and I was forced to examine the intricacies of the game and devise a real strategy instead of just throwing cards around. This is one of the things that kept me so engrossed in the game. There’s a certain type of gamer that may balk at the mere mention of playing a role-playing card game, but I would caution those people to think twice before writing this one off. Though the action is admittedly slow, if you are a fan of slow-building strategy and great A.I., Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 has what you need in spades.
Needless to say, I got myself pretty obsessed with Magic in fairly short order. The game’s rules-based strategy is so simple to pick up, but the game’s 10 different decks and special challenge modes offer enough variation that you’ll keep finding reasons to get back into the game. The challenge modes in particular are really interesting, and put you in very specific situations with a set amount of life points. It’ll be up to you to figure out how to use the cards you’re given to get out of whatever diabolical situation the game has set forth for you. These challenge modes are particularly good for players like me who need to develop their own personal strategy, as they coach you through some of the game’s more interesting intricacies.
There are three different single-player modes that advance in difficulty as you plow through each. Finishing different single-player modes will unlock new decks and special cards for you to use. Though it can be a bit of a pain if you are an advanced user, it is highly advisable that you complete all the single-player modes and challenges before jumping online so you can work with the best deck possible. However, the good news here is that the single-player mode is deep and very engaging. There is easily at least ten hours of gameplay in this mode alone, which is more than enough for a $10 game.
Like any good competitive game, Magic: The Gathering 2012 relies heavily on robust online offerings in order to keep the game fresh and interesting for those who consider themselves experts on all things Magic. There is a standard duel mode that allows you to face off one on one against an online opponent. However, if you want to make things interesting, there’s a new co-op mode that allows several players to team up against one super-powerful enemy. There is also a split-screen co-op offering if you want to team up with someone locally and take on another team of two online. Though I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with the multiplayer offerings (I am a self-described n00b, after all) I’m sure that those who are more experienced will have plenty of fun online.
However, what might annoy those who are more experienced with Magic is the fact that there is no true deck editor. Part of what makes Magic such a compelling experience when played in person is the fact that advanced players can make decks that are completely suited to their strategic play styles. Unfortunately, you can’t really do that in Magic 2012. Sure, you can add unlocked cards to your decks, but as far as controlling the number of lands or spells in your deck, you don’t have any way to trim or add cards, which can be a little annoying. Of course, when you think about it, this decision was probably made to help protect poor newbies like me, but an “advanced” mode where only experienced players could gather and use custom decks would be a nice improvement in future releases.
On the technical side of things, Magic 2012 works extremely well. The game doesn’t have extremely strong technical specs, but it really doesn’t need too terribly much in the way of fancy visuals. In fact I really enjoy its minimalistic interface, as you’ll be thinking more about the gameplay than about fancy animations. There are only two real weak points for this game on the technical side of things. First off, the music is extremely repetitive. No matter whether you are planning on sitting down to marathon the single-player mode or just want to play a couple rounds the music will get on your nerves at some point. The second complaint I have is about the controls, and I will say that this one is a bit nit-picky: you can’t select cards with the d-pad. This only applies to the console versions of the game, but it is something that got on my nerves consistently. For me, the d-pad feels like a very precise control method, and the natural choice to select cards with. However, for whatever reason, you are locked into using the left stick instead, and that choice feels counter-intuitive and awkward.
Magic 2012 is a great downloadable game, and is certainly worth your $10, no matter whether you are a Magic fan or just a fan of strategic games. There is plenty of content to unlock, the single-player mode features plenty of depth, and the online modes give the game unlimited replayability. And in case that wasn’t enough for you, Wizards of the Coast has announced that there is planned DLC for the game, which will give you even more excuses to jump back into the game when it releases later this year.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Graphics look smooth and well-polished. Though there’s not a lot of variation in the visuals, they get the job done well. 3.8 Control
Though the lack of d-pad functionality is annoying, the control scheme works well overall. 2.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music is very repetitive, but at least the opening voiceover sounds good. 4.2 Play Value
With a deep single-player mode, 10 decks to unlock, and new online modes, you’ll get plenty of value from this $10 package. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|