Magic: The Gathering has been in existence for the best part of 20 years, and is by far the most recognised trading card game (TCG) of the modern age. Though initially adopted by tabletop gamers and other hobbyists, Magic: The Gathering (M:TG) has always had a firm casual fan base too, some of which having been roped into the popular TCG after playing one of many video games carrying the franchise name, the most recent being Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012.
Sequel to the original Duels of the Planeswalkers (DotP) which launched in 2009, Duels 2012 modernises Magic: The Gathering, offering an ideal, hassle-free access point, addressing a number of issues fans had with the first game. Whether a die-hard deck-builder or a novice magi, Stainless Games’ fantastic adaptation is definitely worth investigated.
- Comes free with vouchers for a real M:TG deck.
- Beating the campaign will unlock exclusive PSN, XBL, Steam items
- Future DLC will include new playable decks, personas, battlefields
Despite any connotations of the opening trailer, Duels 2012 doesn’t have a persistent plot, even though the singleplayer component is titled “Campaign.” Instead, players are presented with a tournament, new duels and challenges becoming available as you progress. Unlike Magic: The Gathering in real life, in Duels 2012 players are forced into adopting one of three pre-built starter decks instead of having the freedom to create their own. Defeating an opponent during the campaign will allow you to use their deck in future battles as well as unlocking new cards for the deck used to beat them. In between duels, there are also optional puzzles which can be played; these task players with mini-scenarios which can only be solved using in-game spells and abilities. They can be brutal at times, but ensure that you are well prepared against any in-game difficulties.
One of the main gripes fans had with the original DotP was that it suffered from the absence of a deck editor; though not completely remedied in Duels 2012, players can now remove unwanted cards from any of the playable decks as long they don’t fall below the minimum card quota.
The main objective of the game is to reduce your opponent’s life points from twenty to zero, whilst also maintaining a line of defence strong enough to withstand any direct damage against you. Creature spells are by far the most abundant, each one having their own strength and toughness statistics. Not only will you be able to order your creatures to attack, they are also used to block enemy creatures too. Unlike most trading card games, when assigning attackers in Magic: The Gathering, they will always target the player and not their creatures. The defending player then has the advantage of choosing which of their creatures will attempt to block. It’s an incredibly defensive and tactical game, enhanced by the numerous sorcery, artifact and instant spells capable of completely changing the direction of a duel.
For those wanting more from the single-player experience, Duels 2012 also offers two additional campaigns of similar length. The Revenge campaign is near-identical to its standard counterpart, though opponents benefit from stronger, more complex decks. However, if you crave for deviation from the standard one-on-one duels, DotP 2012 also includes the Archenemy campaign. In these matches, three players team together to face off against a single “boss” opponent. Though each active deck remains the same, bosses benefit from the use of “scheme” cards which alter the playing field, often empowering the boss player or eroding the capabilities of you and your allies. It’s an inventive twist on the original M:TG and like all other game modes, including four-player free-for-alls, can be played online with other human players, each game tracked via leaderboards.
- Core mechanics have stood the test of time. Every duel is unique.
- A variety of multiplayer modes, both online and local.
- Archenemy mode allows for some intense co-op encounters against the AI.
- Decks now come with a degree of customisation, can effectively “level up” too.
- In-game artwork is breath-taking.
- A number of tweaks and preferences are available, allowing you to play the game as you wish.
- Can offer endless replay value if you happen to become addicted.
- A fully-functional deck builder is still absent.
- Could benefit from some form of narrative.
Though by no means perfect, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is the best way to experience Magic: The Gathering without actual playing physically. After almost two decades of circulation the core mechanics of Richard Garfield’s masterpiece are as strong and refreshing as ever.