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Review

Review: Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2012

Stainless plays its strong hand.

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.

Info:
  • 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
Set in a matured fantasy universe composed of numerous inter-linking planes, for the uninitiated Magic: The Gathering is a game which depicts the duels between warring mages, capable of calling upon the elements as a source of mystic power. Mages are usually dedicated to one or two certain elements, which are represented by colour. White is the symbol of order and justice, represented by the Plains element. Green echoes the power of nature and raw instinct, personified by the Forests. Mountains fuel the power of Red magic, based on impulse and brutality. Sourced from the tranquil Islands, illusion and manipulation are the only two weapons which a Blue mage requires. Finally, we have Black magic, festering in the rotting Swamps, capable of granting the power of death, corosion and decay.

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.


In terms of basic mechanics, Magic: The Gathering is played in turns, which are also broken into phases. Every card in a deck represents one of the many spells available and come in several variations. Each card also has a mana cost which needs to be paid in order for a that spell to come into play. Mana is generated from casting land spells which are available in five colour variations; if your deck consists mostly of Green spells, you will likely need plenty of Forest land cards in order to build an appropriate stock of mana.

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.


As a TCG, it would be unjust to look to DotP 2012 for its visual prowess and audio effects. However, what it may lack in three dimensional flare is more than made up by the game’s exemplary artwork, sported by every individual card. Magic’s dedicated team of illustrators bring the vibrant universe to life, and it’s a shame Wizards and Stainless Games didn’t employ their talents further to produce comic-style cutscenes to narrate the campaign portion of the game. Though not essential, it would also be fantastic to see the creatures of M:TG come to life as they did in other console TCGs including the original Yu-Gi-Oh and more recently in Japan Studio’s The Eye of Judgment, represented by rendered models instead of just the cards.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

Score: 8/10

14 Comments
  1. Mick939
    Member
    Since: Forever

    ……. To the general public, i imagine pokemon tcg is the most recognized :-P

    Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 09:17.
  2. scaramanga1973
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Whilst browsing the store this Wednesday, looking for something to fill the void over the summer (there are no game releasing I am interested in until F1 2011 in September) I stumbled across this.

    I thought to myself, this looks interesting and for £7 would be worth a punt. If it sucked I wouldn’t have thrown to much money down the PSN shaped drain. I bought it with the intention of being able to dip in and out, a quick 20 minute game here, 30 minutes there. How wrong was I? I have found myself completely hooked, losing hours of my time as opposed to the minutes I had originally intended.

    I haven’t quite figured out why I am so attached, there is no real story line to speak of to draw the player in. I am gradually coming to the conclusion that it is the challenge, because for a new comer to TCG’s, it us fecking hard. I like a challenge.

    The tutorial is good, providing an adequate understanding of the basics but beyond that the learning curve is step, if not vertical.

    That said, I am thoroughly enjoying the game. Progress through the campaign is slow, but that is good. It means my £7 investment will most likely last me until September where I will be able to engage KERS and DRS for my electronic kicks.

    If you enjoy a strategic challenge I can’t recommend this game enough. If you are on the fence then it’s inky a few pounds, give it a go you don’t have much to lose. Plus there is free trial don’t forget.

    Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 10:59.
    • matthangzhou
      Member
      Since: Sep 2010

      Have you played the older one on plus? If so how big a difference is it as I enjoyed that one quite a bit.

      Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 15:48.
      • scaramanga1973
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        Not played the other one so I can’t make a comparison.

        Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 16:00.
    • bacon_nuts
      Member
      Since: Mar 2011

      Having played the demo, and after running through the tutorial and understanding the basic rules, I agree that the difficulty curve is insane. I find the game fun, but am slightly ashamed to say I cannot beat the demo AI, no matter how hard I try. It’s infuriating to watch him send all my creatures to the graveyard and then get me down to -6 health…

      Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 16:42.
      • scaramanga1973
        Member
        Since: Jul 2009

        I too got annihilated at first, in fact I still do more often than I win. I think that is why I keep coming back.
        Feel free to add me (GTP_scaramanga) if you want some online games. We can be shit together.

        Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 17:39.
  3. Boiler
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    Is that Triple H on the picture? The pic that accompanies this article on the TSA homepage.

    Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 11:00.
  4. moshi
    Member
    Since: Jun 2009

    I got lost on the tutorial and never returned

    Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 12:40.
  5. Barumaru
    Member
    Since: Mar 2011

    Played the first one a lot recently and im wondering if this is worth the investment? Are the prebuild decks the same as they were in the original planeswalkers?

    Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 17:01.
  6. Snakefingers13
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    Which is the version released free on Plus? This one or the old one?

    Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 17:16.
    • a inferior race
      I'm special
      Since: Jul 2009

      The old one. Which is still a good game.

      Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 18:05.
      • Origami Killer
        Member
        Since: May 2010

        ahh i was thinking the same thing, anyway i noticed it has disappeared off plus now even though i have downlaoded it

        Comment posted on 24/06/2011 at 19:28.
      • ruinereraser
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        It’ll be in your download history.

        Comment posted on 25/06/2011 at 21:26.

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