Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers
Duels of the Planeswalkers review: Finally this MtG game has made it to the PlayStation Network
It only took a year, but Magic: The Gathering — Duels of the Planeswalkers — one of the most consistently popular Xbox Live online games — has come to the PlayStation Network. For those without an Xbox, it's a must-have.
- Supremely balanced, unlike the real Magic: The Gathering game you don't need to spend thousands of dollars to be competitive
- The fact you can't customise your deck of cards is going to upset Magic veterans
If you want to introduce a new player to Magic: The Gathering, this is the game for them. But it's also a game for experienced fans, too - all the nuanced strategies and tricks are present and correct.
The most famous example of a collectable card game, Magic: The Gathering has killed the savings of many people over its 17 year history. Over that time, rules have been changed, professional Magic: The Gathering players have emerged, and rare cards have fetched some insane sums of money on eBay.
But at its core, Magic has always had a simple premise: use a deck of 60 or so cards that you build out of your entire collection (for most players, 1000s of cards) to summon demons, dragons and fairies to beat the bejeebus out of your opponent. There's a bit of luck involved, a lot of strategy, and it's one of those games that are endlessly replayable.
It's just as well the game behind that deck building is so strong as well, because Magic: The Gathering — Duels of the Planeswalkers removes the collection aspect from the game entirely. Here, you'll select one deck from a little over a dozen, complete with pre-assigned cards. You can add a few extra cards if you've unlocked them through gameplay (or paid to have them unlocked for you), but for the most part you'll be making do with the balanced decks the developers have made for you.
That's going to upset a handful of Magic veterans, because there is a definite joy in coming up with a killer deck of cards, but the upside to this decision is that it effectively removes all barriers to entry to the game for newcomers. Magic: The Gathering is a hardcore, unfriendly game for the absolute newbie. Duels of the Planeswalkers is not. Throw in a useful tutorial and clever "mentoring" system and just about everyone will be able to get into this game.
There's a decent single player mode on offer, with a surprisingly talented AI that can be genuinely challenging, but it goes without saying that playing online is where the fun is at. Because the decks are set and carefully balanced, it's a strategic game online, and it's rare that you'll feel cheated or unfairly done by.
Unfortunately, as with every other online game, there are quite a few irritating people out there playing it who will ragequit when you're on the cusp of victory. There also seems to be the occasional glitch in the servers that means some of your victories won't be recognised on the leaderboard, but those seem rare enough.
For a card game, the presentation is top notch — with perfectly rendered, gorgeous art work decorating the cards, and some classy visual effects to keep the playing environment from looking too static. The only downside is the music, which is just a little too repetitive. After a few four-hour+ marathons of the game, the music is permanently lodged in my brain and is slowly driving me insane. A simple option to use music stored on the PlayStation 3 hard drive would have been very welcome.
All up, Magic: The Gathering — Duels of the Planeswalkers is accessible, entertaining, and a good digital version of a great card game, and one that just might win some new fans to the fold.
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