Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013

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8.5 Overall Score

Solid gameplay | Interesting game modes | More new features for experienced players

Limited multiplayer | Same core game

Written by on July 22, 2012 in [, , , , , , ]

Stainless Games has released the 2012 edition of their now annual Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers series. The third in the series so far, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (it isn’t a car year, honestly) introduces some series-first mechanics, some for the casual player and some for the more advanced Magic gamer. These extra features are a welcome addition and show that the Magic: The Gathering series on consoles is not quite tapped out yet.

The first thing I noticed when opening up the game was a hat tip to the returning gamer. If you own Duels 2012, as I do, you’ll receive a splash screen the first time you enter the game rewarding your loyalty with a free deck key. This nod to the returning gamer isn’t unprecedented, but hardly common, and it was appreciated.

MTG Free Deck Key

A nice thank you for returning customers

A new option greets the player once the game loads up. Duels 2013 has a “Player Status” pane that centralizes statistics across every game you play, from campaign to multiplayer and everywhere between. Once I played with a number of different decks, it was an interesting look into some of the higher achievements of my gaming.

DotP Player Status Screen

A Sample Player Status Screen

Duels 2013 single player has eschewed the “Archenemy” mode that appeared in 2012 in favor of a new mode called “Planechase”. The “Planechase” bolt-on sets were first introduced to the real collectible card game in the fall of 2009 during the active run of the 10th edition of the Magic: The Gathering Core Set. These bolt-on sets allowed the duelists to roll a “Planar” die to potentially change the plane on which they were battling, or to activate a “chaos” attribute of the plane. The changes to the gameplay from these plane attributes ranged from minor to severe, and can completely alter the momentum of play.

“Planechase” in Duels 2013 is an excellent representation of the real life bonus sets. You engage in a four player battle royale to determine a winner. This game mode, while an excellent representation of the true game was quite difficult and I found it necessary to build up my decks with unlockable cards before encountering any kind of success.

In addition, Duels 2013 has reintroduced the separate “challenges” mode from the original game. (These were blended into the campaign mode in 2012).

Revenge mode has reappeared as well in nearly the same format as before, but the presentation is slightly different.

DotP 2013 PlaneChase

The Plane shifting in Planechaser can quickly change everything

Instead of the nodes of 2012, the campaign mode of 2013 separates the campaign into six different planes. These planes don’t appear to have an effect on gameplay, but function more like levels.

There are a few notable additions to 2013 that make me happy as a more advanced Magic player.

Manual Mana Tapping – Despite what seems like a simple feature, the previous two iterations of Duels didn’t provide the ability for the player to manually determine what land to tap for a particular mana color. Obviously this didn’t matter in single color decks but for multi-colored decks where the mana color you use can be part of the strategy, this limitation was a blemish on an otherwise stellar gameplay experience. Delightfully, it is no more. You’ll have to activate it in the settings, but if you’re interested in the minutia of carefully managing your mana, you can now do so.

Deck Evaluation – Much like the introduction of different song metrics in Rock Band helped aspiring rockers know what they were getting into, the better deck metrics help digital Planeswalkers determine the best deck for their play style. While choosing a deck in 2013, 1-5 star metrics for Creature Size, Deck Speed, Deck Flexibility, and Card Synergy are displayed.

Magic Duels of the Planeswalkers Deck Metrics

A simple glance tells how powerful your deck is in certain aspects

New Decks – Not only are there 10 decks new to Duels 2013, but this iteration also marks the first time the deck versions are synchronized with the real-life CCG release. The 13th Edition of the Magic: The Gathering Core Set was released on July 9th, 2012, more than two full weeks after the release of Duels 2013.

All in all, Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 features the same solid gameplay of its predecessors. The previously mentioned new features in 2013 are all solid and reasonable additions. There are a few small adjustments made to 2013 that are helpful as well. Most notably, the text size on the screen was increased just enough so it isn’t painful to read.

Despite the excellent implementation and various options for gameplay, there is something to the fact that, for the third year in a row, you’re playing the same collectible card game. It’s an unavoidable fact, but it is undeniable that there is a little something that feels tired about playing the same core game once again. Some of my other critiques of the game, like the fact that you still cannot read or zoom into the text on the cards you win in duels, seem like nitpicking.

There are a few gameplay elements I wish were implemented as well. On the Xbox 360, I would love to see Smart Glass implementation with the Magic games, enabling more than just Two-Headed Giant as the only local multiplayer mode. I would love to have the ability to play a free for all four person game with some of those players on my couch (an arbitrary number) but each players hands on their respective devices.

Another element that would be far easier to implement is backwards compatible decks. I can’t come up with a good reason why the same company making the same licensed game for the same content owner would be unable to carry forward content from previous games, were they installed on the system. Drawing another comparison from the Rock Band franchise, this has been proven to work and be a desirable trait. As the licensing company is the same as the content providing company across the entire game’s content, this should be relatively simple from a licensing perspective. While the newer decks may get more play, Rock Band has proved that more options make for a better gaming experience.

If you haven’t played Magic: The Gathering before, or if this is your first foray into the digital M:TG world, I recommend Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. Not only is this the only way to play Magic on the console\PC, Stainless has made iterative steps in quality that have only served to deliver a more polished product in the end.

A copy of Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 was provided to The Married Gamers for the purposes of this review.

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Author: Guest Editorial View all posts by

One Comment on "Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013"

  1. Marcia Webb July 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Nice review “guest” 🙂

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