Geek Culture

Geek Review: Magic Duels

Magic: The Gathering seems to be getting out of hand. Having played both the earlier two versions from previous years, you start to wonder if the hardcore fans are actually moving from yearly release to yearly release. Similar to FIFA and Call of Duty, as the community shifts with each newer version, I’m guessing we are seeing the same with the Magic community. But there is a critical detail that Magic: The Gathering forgets – with each new release, you start from scratch and the grind begins all over again and your luck is tested once again to see if you snag the ideal cards for your deck.

Does the community really go through that all over again?

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The latest Magic: The Gathering title for all platforms has been renamed Magic Duels, which I hope signals the end of yearly releases because we’ve finally reached a UI that is fast, responsive and it is the best that we’ve seen thus far. You can’t shake off the unmistakeable feel though, that it’s still made for tablet first and un-optimized for PC.

Similar to previous titles, you would still need to play through the single player campaign in order to build up your initial card pool but if you choose not to, you can jump straight into traditional duels if you prefer to do so.

It’s great that the single player game builds in tutorial sequences into the main single player game itself. Such tutorials pop up when you encounter a new card mechanic for the very first time. As a seasoned Magic player, you can always choose to skin the tutorial prompt but the game awards you coins (more on that later) to give each tutorial prompt for attempting it, so why not?

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While it does break the flow of the game, I feel that this system is preferred over playing an entire tutorial campaign first, then fumbling over the card text to figure out what a particular mechanic does again.

I hope the game sounds great to you so far because this is where is all goes wrong. While I understand the need for an online DRM system of sorts for unlockable card boosters, the game is literally unplayable if you do not have a connection. Losing your connection while in the midst of a match will make your progress unsavable as well which is infuriating because the game is VERY CHALLENGING.

In single player you would always start off with the most gimped decked possible and as you progress in the mode, the deck gets better (but the game does not tell you what’s new of the card composition in the new build). The enemy AI seems to have the best opening hand combinations and you will see yourself getting assaulted by turn 2 onwards.

My most frustrating experience was while playing as a pure Red deck which should be filled with it’s signature nukes and small fast creatures. Instead, I’m constantly given a hand/deck that allows me to start putting out a great deal of hurt from, say, the fifth round of the match.

If I were a new player to the game, this would definitely give me plenty of negative vibes. Who would like to sit around of five rounds before being able to retaliate against the enemy’s advances? In addition, the punishment is piled on when you attempt the restart the game. The load times for Magic Duels is far longer than required. Couple that with the fact that you’ve been beaten by the AI’s deck over and over is just more salt in the wound.

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The single player scenario only serves to illustrate one point – if your deck sucks, it’s time to pay more to win

Microtransactions return once again and I’d say after completing the single player campaign, Magic Duels is generous enough to give you a fair amount of coins to open a couple of boosters to round things up quite nicely. I’ve love to figure out how fast I’m able to earn coins but because the servers are constantly down, I have no honest idea how much a grind this game is.

Magic Duels is probably the worst iteration that I’ve ever played in the series because of the DRM. This is a big pity because they’ve nailed down everything else. If you’re interested in Magic, the offline version with actual playing cards is still by far the superior version of the game.

Magic Duels will be available in July for iOS, Steam and Xbox One with PS4 later in the year.

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