The Magic the Gathering franchise has found a comfortable home on the current-generation of consoles, thanks to the advent of digital distribution. So much so in fact, that nearly every system which can offer a version of the card game as a downloadable product is receiving its own edition of the latest title, Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, to offer to its respective audience. Some may call it marketing gone mad, but as far as the Electronic Theatre team is concerned, we’re just happy to think of it as giving the audience what they want: something that Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 does in spades.
The basic rules of the Magic the Gathering card game are translated into the virtual adaptation perfectly well. Matches begin with players each drawing seven cards from their deck, and then alternately taking turns to place cards and action any moves they have available. Each turn has a strict structure to it, which involves placing cards into action first during the ‘main phase, followed by a combat phase, and rounding out with a second main phase. Players need to play land cards in order to generate the mana required to use creature or spell cards, which can do damage to the opponent. Creature cards can also absorb damage inflicted upon you so it’s always good to get a number into play as soon as possible, as the match ends when your health has been depleted. When using land cards to summon creatures or spells they become ‘tapped,’ which is essentially the term for cards which remain in play but are already being used to the full extent of their capabilities. Creature cards also become ‘tapped’ when attacking, and all tapped cards become untapped at the start of your next turn.
While the above is the basic rule structure upon which Magic the Gathering is based, there’s far more to it than that. Spell cards can have great effects on the way combat is dealt (both when attacking and when on the defending side of a phase) while artifacts and enchantments can quickly turn the tide of a match when used correctly. Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 presents ten new decks, all of which are customisable and benefit from an unlocking system which can add new cards with progress through the videogame’s small but perfectly formed selection of gameplay modes.
An extensive campaign – which, thankfully, features a fairly comprehensive tutorial – offers players the opportunity to practice their Magic the Gathering skills when no human opponent is available, as well as allowing them to test out new deck constructs or even specific cards. The popular puzzle challenges of previous Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers titles return also, with brand new challenges designed for both beginners and experts. The real meat of Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 of course, lies in it’s multiplayer gameplay, playable by up to four players online.
The visual quality of Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is not to be knocked. True, it’s little more than a virtual presentation of pre-existing material, but it’s still presented in such a manner that all the necessary information is available on-screen at any time. The option to zoom-in to specific cards to check the finer points of their abilities is no different to simply picking them up from the table, and that the player can spin said table to get the opposing view is a pleasant, if somewhat unnecessary, addition to the viewing options. The voice over offered during tutorials is clear and well written, allowing players to jump in with the basics after only one bout.
It could be said that Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 offers little to compel players of any previous year into yet another purchase, but doing so would be to miss the compelling proposal of Magic the Gathering altogether. There’s a reason why the card game benefits from seasonal releases, and the videogame adaptation should be no different. This is a deeply engrossing rendition of a card game for which the greatest strength lies in its addictive quality, none of which is lost in the transition from physical media to virtual representation. On top of all of this, Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 also comes with a redeemable code for a special six-card booster pack – including an alternate version of the Primordial Hyrda promo card with brand new art – making it near-essential for all fans of the real-world card game.