Review: Magic 2014
Let's take a journey to a land where pieces of cardboard come to life and kill each other.
- Worth The Time?For Magic fans it's certainly worth the time, but to newcomers it might be a little intimidating.
- Things LovedIt's still the Magic we know and love, new decks and strategies, animated cards are beautiful and add a nice touch to the gameplay, long time Magic fans will love the added challenge, the Sealed campaign is a very nice idea, streamlined main menu for quicker access than previous installments, battle and menu music is composed very well, provides more streamlined options in duels, challenges return with even more brain breaking puzzles.
- Things HatedThe attempts at a story are very poor, some encounter decks are borderline broken, I'm personally not a fan of the new look, decks are really limited in usage, Sealed campaign wastes some great potential, advertisements everywhere that takes away from the experience, credit music is incredibly out of place, inconsistent difficulty curve, doesn't really provide anything truly new to the yearly franchise.
- RecommendationMagic fans would surely have it by now and it's still a good introduction to the game for newcomers, but it might prove a little too daunting.
- Name: Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014
- Genre: Collectible Card Game
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Yes, 2-4 Players
- Platforms: PC, Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, iOS, Android
- Developer: Stainless Games
- Publisher: Wizards Of The Coast
- Price: $10 across all platforms
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Otherwise known as Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014, but Poseidon be damned if I’m going to repeat that title throughout the review. I’m only a recent fan to the Magic: The Gathering universe and like many people I only really got introduced to the series through the Duels of the Planeswalkers series of games. I don’t have any local friends so playing the actual card game is out of the question, but thanks to the games, I got the opportunity to fully experience this magical world. DotP is now a yearly franchise and with each installment we only really get more decks and more opponents, but can Magic 2014 really stand out from the crowd? Let’s find out.
The first thing that you would undoubtedly notice is that the game now features a story mode, not just a campaign mode with a series of opponents anymore. It involves you and Chandra, a fire focused planeswalker, on a journey to defeat a nature wizard by the name of Ramaz. It features CGI cutscenes and voice overs, but it’s only limited to a few instances in the campaign. The negative is that it’s just severely tacky. It plays out like a cheesy wizard movie with none of the charm. You know it’s going to be corny when the phrase “are you a powerful enough planeswalker to take him on?” gets uttered. It’s a shame because Magic has an overwhelming amount of lore and stories that can be told, but they rather focused on a generic and almost cliche storyline. A gigantic waste of potential and one I hope gets realised in future installments.
The “story” campaign plays out much like previous installments, but there is a new pattern involved. In every plane there is a single boss character that needs to be taken out for an artifact that you need. To do that you have to defeat a series of three encounters. Encounters are not planeswalkers, but rather decks that have a predetermined set of cards that you have to overcome. Trust me when I say this, they are tough as nails. I don’t mind a challenge at all, but these just seemed unfair. The decks that some of these encounters posses are overwhelmingly broken and would make you scream at your screen. In one specific encounter I was literally shouting profanities at my opponent because of how unfair the duel was. Many long time Magic fans would take this as a sort of “challenge accepted”, but I’m really fearful that new players might be scared off because of these unfair duels.
It’s not like I was a bad duelist, but rather the decks that you possessed at those encounters are extremely limited. There isn’t any form of strategy involved other than trying to get lucky and hope for the best possible cards on the draw. The thing that really baffled me was the inconsistency of the difficulty. In one encounter I might lose straight up around five times and then when I finally defeat it and move on to the boss opponent, I would absolutely destroy it in one match. Even the final boss was a pushover compared to some of the encounters.
The dueling mechanics are no different than what they were in previous installments and I won’t waste my time explaining exactly how Magic works because you can easily find that out for yourself. They have changed things up a little in the actual dueling gameplay such as making things a bit faster and less boring to watch. There’s also a new option where you can simply command to attack with all creatures rather than selecting each creature individually. It’s a small touch, but one I very much welcomed. There are also animated cards that are limited to legendary and ultra rare cards where the once static image now animates in one way or another when you zoom in on the card. It’s a cosmetic touch and has nothing to do with the gameplay, but it’s just so beautiful to watch.
A new addition to the franchise is Sealed Play. In this mode you can construct your own deck using booster packs that you open. It adds great amount of variety and strategy, but unfortunately it’s also limited. There are only a few booster packs that you can obtain and you really have to be lucky to pull some good cards. There is an extensive deck builder that you can use that provides many options for a streamlined experience. You can arrange the cards in your pile in a specific order such as cost or rarity. With this you can create your own deck with a colour you prefer and creatures you like. It’s a great addition, but one where I feel they could have done so much more with.
The card graphics are beautiful as always and the artstyle is still magnificent. The game did receive an overhaul in the looks department of the actual dueling arena. It features mostly blue and red colours and is very minimalistic in its presentation. I’m not a big fan of it though and wish they return to the previous look that worked great. The main problem I have is how small the actual font is and how everything is just hard to spot. I was constantly struggling to see how many cards my opponent has left and that can make for a strenuous experience.
Music was always a high point in the DotP series and it’s no different in this installment. It features very striking orchestral scores and well arranged musical pieces that are just a joy for the ear. Like many things in the game it did struggle with consistency once more. When you finish the game and the credits roll, an indie bubblegum rock band starts playing. I seriously thought the game was trolling me at first, but it clearly wasn’t. It was just so foreign to me how throughout the entire game we get this orchestral score that’s worthy of being played at a philharmonic and then by the end we get something that a bunch of teenage girls would obsess over. Truly bizarre.
Challenges make a return in this installment and they are still as difficult and mind breakingly complex to solve. They provide a real challenge to any long time Magic fan and provides a tremendous challenge to anyone willing to take them on. The last challenge had me consulting a guide because I just could not figure it out and the solution was amazingly complex. A true test of your mental capabilities can be found here.
Multiplayer is exactly how it has always been with players dueling each other, but this time you can take your Sealed deck into battle. It adds a new level of strategy and intensity because you no longer know what cards your opponent has like in previous installments where you only have a set number of decks.
There’s also the slight issue of the game whoring itself out at any possible opportunity. After every major duel you will get an advertisement for the Friday night dueling or encouragement to buy a real starter deck. It’s incredibly obnoxious and just takes away from the overall experience. I understand their reasons, but it could have been done in a much better way.
Magic 2014 doesn’t do anything to really redefine the game, but you can only innovate so much in a game where you play with a bunch of cards. It’s more Magic and if you crave some more decks and dueling then it will definitely suffice. Be warned that the game’s encounters might frustrate the living daylights out of you and it certainly is a barrier for newcomers. If you have never played a Magic game in your life I highly recommend playing the previous installments and then moving on to this version.