This week, Wizards of the Coast will release the latest core set to the Magic The Gathering Card Game, aptly titled "Magic 2014 core set". To prepare players for this release, a couple of weeks ago, they released the latest edition of "Duels of the Planeswalkers", their video game adaptation of the card game. How does this game stack up to the previous editions? Well, I received a review copy of the Steam version of this game, which I will gladly talk about past the break.
I mentioned that I got the steam version of this game, and I'd hate to start off with a frustration, but I want to quickly get it out of the way. The game is available for several different platforms such as Xbox, Playstation, Steam, iOS, and even Android this time around. As they add more and more platforms, I always struggle with figuring out which edition to buy. Usually I end up picking up the platform I think ill get more playtime on. Last year, I was grateful that I bought the iOS version, as I got so much farther in the game than ever before due to playing small games while on the couch. However, I always seem to get the Steam version as well, and it always annoys the crap out of me that the different platforms do not "sync" with each other, unlocking content and decks with other copies of the game. I would pay much more money buying the game on multiple platforms to play it wherever I want if I knew that I could continue the progress I made on my Xbox or iPad. This is just a small frustration that I have had on the series from the get go, and 2014 does nothing to change it.
Most of the game plays out like the previous editions: you select one of a variety of decks and play through a campaign against other "Planeswalkers". As you progress, other game types unlock, such as harder versions of the people you have beaten previously. Not only that, you can modify these decks with cards that you get from winning in the campaign; and even use these decks against your friends in the Multiplayer mode. The other games did a fabulous job of all of this and Magic 2014 carries on the torch in these regards extremely well.
For this iteration though, one of the big draws is that of the "Sealed Deck" mode. In this mode, you are given 6 "booster packs" filled with various cards and are tasked with creating your own custom 40-card deck. You then can use this in a similar campaign mode, which can earn you further booster packs, or against your friends. It is in this mode that this game shines over the previous versions, as a common complaint against the Duel of the Planeswalkers games was that deck customization was very much downplayed. This version has an entire game mode designed to appeal to those who want to build their own deck from the ground up. If you have no idea how to do that, the game can either auto-build you a deck with the cards available, or provide hints to you as you go along in the building process.
I enjoyed the previous iterations of Duels of the Planeswalkers, and I REALLY like this new version. One of my weaknesses in Magic (the physical version) is that I don't do a very good job of building my own decks. Magic 2014 shined a bright light on this fact when I tried out the new Sealed Deck mode myself. I did a horrible job at it. I went through all the cards, tried to come up with a theme to build my deck around, and managed to put together some cards that really made me feel confident in it. I had an idea that it might not go so smoothly, but I thought the good cards I put in would balance out the risky ones. Boy what I wrong. The first game I played I was ripped a new one, and I'm not even playing on the highest difficulty. The second game started off equally as horrible to the point where I gave up knowing how the game was going to play out. It might sound like this would affect my opinion of the game, but actually I am really glad this feature is available. Previously, I'd have to wait until a tournament to test my deck building skills and see how I'm improved. Now I have an easy environment for me to experiment with, adjusting and perfecting my deck building skills which should help me out in the physical game. Not only that, but I can access this anytime I have some spare time to sit down in front of the computer, giving me lots of potential practice time.
So if you have any interest in Magic at all; from having played the game in the past, currently playing it, or have been curious as to what this game is about, I highly suggest that you pick up this game. I'm sure that you will have lots of fun and develop a new love for the card game.