A large part of my childhood was spent in basements and libraries playing the collectable card game Magic: The Gathering with my brother and our friends. Sure it may have been a nerdy pastime, but I can honestly say some of my fondest memories are drawing the right card and just the right time to secure victory.
Thanks to Wizards of the Coast and Stainless Games, I can relive my former glory in the newly released Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, a follow up to 2009′s Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Magic: The Gathering, allow me to try and explain it. Basically it’s a collectible card game like Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh. You and the other players take on the roles of powerful sorcerers who draw power from lands to summon creatures and cast spells. The way the game actually works is pretty complex, at least it can be to newcomers. Basically, each player has a deck of cards consisting of lands and spells. Lands are used to generate “mana,” the resource needed to cast spells. What makes this tricky is that mana comes in five colors: Red generated from Mountains, Black from Swamps, Blue from Islands, Green from Forests and White from Plains. Different cards require different combinations of colored or colorless (mana of any color) to be cast. Spells can be anything from sorceries which have a one-time effect, to summoning creatures which can attack and defend. Players start the game with twenty life points and alternate turns playing land cards, casting spells, and attacking opponents. This goes on until all but one player’s life total is reduced to zero.
While this may sound complex, the good thing about DotP 2012 is that it takes care of all the rules for you. The game features one of the best tutorials for learning how to play Magic that I’ve ever seen (keep in mind I’ve been playing and teaching my friends to play since the mid-90s). If you have never played Magic but would like to learn, DotP 2012 is by far the best way to get into the scene.
Once you have the basic rules of the game down, you’ll quickly realize how much strategy and depth the game has. DotP 2012 features ten playable decks, all with a different theme and strategy behind them. For example the “Apex Predators” deck revolves around getting weak creatures out early and then buffing them through various enchantments. If that doesn’t fit your style, there’s the “Unquenchable Fire” deck which uses sorceries to inflict direct damage to your opponent and their creatures.
One thing that bothered me about DotP 2012 is that you can’t make your own deck out of the cards you have available. You can only use their pre-made decks. From my experience with Magic, half the fun was going through all your cards and trying to make your own unique deck. I understand that the purpose of this game is to pull gamers, who may not be familiar with Magic, into the scene so they will start playing the real card game. It wouldn’t be the best business decision to let gamers get the full Magic experience with a $9.99 videogame as opposed to having them spend $4 for a pack of 12 cards or $20 for a starter deck.
I should mention that you are able to edit the decks, however only in a limited sense. You can only modify your deck with cards that you’ve unlocked for it (16 unlockable cards per deck). You unlock cards by defeating your foes in the singleplayer campaign. For example, if you keep using “Apex Predators” deck, you’ll start unlocking new cards for it the further you get in the campaign. My only complaint about this is that you cannot remove lands from your deck. There were many time where I would be drawing land after land after land as opposed to the powerful card I actually wanted. It’s a minor complaint, however it really does get annoying to be twenty minutes into a game and end up losing because you kept drawing lands that you should have been able to remove before the game started.
The singleplayer portion of the game features three campaigns, each with eleven duels. There’s the standard campaign where you defeat your enemies to unlock new opponents, cards, decks and puzzles. The puzzles are similar to Chess puzzles, where you are put into a certain scenario and have to think of a way to use your cards creatively to win. After you beat the campaign you’ll unlock the “Revenge” campaign. Essentially the same thing as the standard campaign, Revenge features the same opponents however they’ve upgraded their decks making the duels substantially harder. After the Revenge campaign, you’ll unlock the completely new and unique “Archenemy” mode. Basically, you and two AI allies will be going against one super powerful AI opponent. While it can get frustrating when your AI allies make a stupid move or miss an obvious card combo, it doesn’t happen as often as you’d expect and doesn’t really negate any of the fun.
After you’ve completed the singleplayer portion of the game it’s time to take it online with the three multiplayer modes. There is a free-for-all mode where up to four players can duke it out (you can limit it down to two players if you just want a straight up duel). There is also the “two-headed giant” mode which is essentially a two vs. two team game. The last multiplayer mode is the Archenemy mode from the singleplayer, except this time it’s you and two buddies versus that buffed up AI.
DotP 2012 is a drastic improvement over the original DotP (which I liked quite a lot). Everything from the music to the interface has been given a complete overhaul resulting in a slicker, more user-friendly experience. There are more cards, more options, more game modes and generally more content than the previous game. There is even a better sense of balance to game making for a more interesting metagame (my opponent uses this deck so I’ll counter with this one as opposed to making one unbeatable deck).
Priced at $9.99, I have a hard time not recommending this game to everyone. It’s a great way to introduce new gamers to the world of Magic the Gathering while also providing enough of a challenge and new game modes to keep the old veterans entertained. DotP 2012 is available on Xbox Live Arcade, The PlayStation Store and Steam.
The visuals are superb with each card's gorgeous art flawlessly recreated in game.
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While not being able to fully edit your deck or create your own from scratch is a bit of a let down, the rest of the game easily makes up for it.
The music sets a perfect backdrop while you play. It never gets repetitive or annoying.
The 10 decks, each with 16 unlockable cards, will keep you entertained for a while as you learn how to master each one. Plus there's the promis of new decks as DLC.
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is great for both veterans of the card game and newbies looking to get into it.