Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 – E3 Preview
Magic: The Gathering was something that always interested me while growing up. I watched players from afar, wondering what it was all about and how it all worked. Unfortunately I wasn’t in the market for extra ammunition, to pass to the ‘cool kids’ hounding me for being a gamer so, regrettably, I passed. Now that I’m older and wiser, other people’s opinions don’t tend to bother me so much. That, and all the ‘cool kids’ are in prison or awaiting trial, so I can crack on, regardless.
Last year I did just that, purchasing a copy of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, and, after playing the demo, realising this was one of the most awesome things I’d ever played. Flanked by two friends, we’ve sunk a combined three hundred and thirty one hours into this game to date. That is just shy of fourteen days – a ridiculous amount of time to be putting into any game, let alone one that is based on a card game. For my sins, one hundred and eight of those hours are mine and gives you some idea just how addictive this game can be.
So when the opportunity came to look at the 2013 edition at E3, it was something I couldn’t turn down. A sneak peak at 2013 would no doubt whet my appetite for the game’s release on June 20th, although I was concerned that there would be changes to the formula that made the current edition so addictive. For the uninitiated, Duels of the Planeswalkers is based upon the real life card based game, Magic: The Gathering. Played with two or more players, the challenge is to drain your opponents’ life points, while ensuring they don’t do the same to you first. This is done through various means, including casting creatures to fight and defend for you and spells of various effects.
If that all sounds very simple that’s because, on the face of it, it is. Some games are so straightforward you wonder if this is a step by step guide to kicking someone’s ass. I say some games and I mean one in fifty. The reality is that unless you pull exactly the right cards from your deck in the right order, chances are you’ll face an uphill struggle.
The beauty of the game is that you have to rely on so many variables. The amount of mana you have to lay your cards, what your monsters do when they enter the field, how much health you’ve got, what spells you have to hand, can you attack and sacrifice defence, should you save the mana for a counter spell or lay this defensive card? These are all thoughts rushing through your mind and that is without considering what strategy your opponents might be employing. One versus one is bad enough; playing four versus four is a balancing act comparable to carrying a piano over a rope suspended across Niagara Falls.
What of the new game then? Well, it looks beautiful. I don’t personally think there is much that can go wrong, graphically, with a card game but everything looks incredibly crisp and tastier than a Saddle Ranch steak. There seems to be an extra layer of finesse to the cards, and the creatures are looking brighter and bolder than before. It certainly looked impressive, and that was before we’d even got underway.
The game boasts ten brand new decks; some old characters return with a fresh set of cards, some new characters sporting totally different decks than in the previous game. You’ll take one of these decks through the single player campaign, which has been expanded upon from the last game. Where you had perhaps ten missions and a few puzzle rounds, it now appears you’ll have approximately twenty to thirty main and puzzle missions. Developers, Stainless Games, stated that the fans’ reception to the puzzle missions had been largely positive and they wanted to see more in the next edition – a request the developers were more than happy to grant.
I was lucky enough to see Ajani Goldmane and Garruk’s new decks in action. They were both favourites of mine in the 2012 edition so I was quite happy to be seeing them in the thick of it. I got a more in-depth look at Garruk’s deck and am happy to say that it seems more balanced than before. The problem with his deck is the lack of creatures of a lower mana cost; you have to ride out the early waves and hope the land turns up to cast your powerful creatures; there was also a lack of spells to combat some of the more creative decks. Thankfully, Garruk retains his brute force, while getting some cheaper and tactically interesting cards.
I got a brief look at Ajani’s new deck and, although I couldn’t tell you how it plays, it looks to be along the same lines as the 2012 edition. The creatures certainly looked similar but I can’t confirm if it is mainly focused on boosting weak creatures with the awesome aura spell cards. Regardless, it is a personal favourite of mine that I hope returns to wreak havoc on my friends.
One of the stand-out features from last year was the Arch Enemy game mode, whereby you could have three players versus one player who had command of the Arch Enemy deck. Although somewhat disappointed this isn’t making a return, players will have the Planechase game type to enjoy. It is a little complicated to explain, but, essentially, players roll a die at the start of the turn to determine what ‘plane’ the fight will take place on. I like to think of them as multiple universes as it makes the concept a little easier to understand. Each different plane will influence the gameplay in a different way and each Planechase card has various instructions to be followed in the event someone rolls something different, such as spawning a creature or losing all your cards. It could be a very tricky game type to master due to its constantly changing state. Another new feature is a much needed records area that details all your statistics, from your most used deck, to the amount of wins and losses, to your favourite card and so forth. It was something that, personally, I thought was missing from the last version and the news of its introduction, I’m sure, will be very well received, not just by me.
Coming away from the hands on session, I was left feeling very excited by the imminent release of Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. It looks set to be just as excellent as the last and I have a feeling that the one hundred and eight hours that I’ve sunk into the 2012 edition will easily be dwarfed in the coming months.
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