Magic: The Gathering, and for Magic fans, it is well worth the wait. The game is beautifully executed with high resolution cards, an angled view of the table that creates a sense of depth without adding confusion and a variety of different gameplay options, including multiplayer.
For those new to Magic: The Gathering, the tutorial does a great job of walking through the basics of game play without overwhelming the player with all of the possibilities. The four opponents fought during the tutorial phase are easy to beat, but allow the new player to execute strategies from different decks, which is where the true fun begins in Magic: The Gathering.
The game has ten decks in total, each building upon a special theme. The decks are well-balanced and offer a great deal of variety. Unfortunately, Duels of the Planeswalkers doesn't allow for custom deck building, which is really at the heart of the Magic: The Gathering experience.
Duels of the Planeswalkers is easily the best digital version of the trading card game, making Magic: The Gathering Online look like a reject from the dark ages of gaming. And best of all, the iPad version of the game is fully-featured with plenty of options.
The campaign is divided into four different game modes: Campaign, Revenge, Planechase and Challenges. These game modes offer a great range of variety, and because the difficulty level of the computer-controlled opponents can be toggled between Mage, Archmage and Planeswalker, players new to the game can play back through the campaign modes and engage in new challenges.
The campaign game mode guides you through different planes, each of which has a series of Planeswalkers for your to challenge and defeat. The first world, Shandalar, is essentially a mini-tutorial that will guide players through the user interface. It's also a great refresher for players who have been away from the game for a while but don't need a full tutorial. After Shandalar, the real campaign begins.
The revenge game mode is similar to campaign modes, but your opponent will be using an optimized deck. This creates a greater level of challenge, and if you get an unlucky draw, you will have to use your cards to the best of your ability to emerge victorious from the duel.
Planechase is a truly fun twist to your traditional Magic: The Gathering game. Instead of going up against a single opponent, it is a four-player free-for-all. As an added twist, players jump from plane to plane, each producing a different effect on players. For example, one plane forced the players to sacrifice a creature card at the beginning of each turn, while another had us putting multiple cards into our graveyard and then picking a single card out to put in play. Planes are jumped through a roll of a six-sided dice, and each plane has an instant effect that can also be accessed through the roll of the dice.
Challenges make up the fourth game mode and will test your skill with both the deck and your knowledge of the game. Challenges can be anything from from winning the game in a single turn to overcoming specific adversities. They are designed to increase in difficulty as you plan and fully test your ability as a Magic player.
Multiplayer and Custom Games
Multiplayer is the ultimate Magic experience. It's one thing to defeat a computer-controlled opponent, but how can you do against the Magic: The Gathering community? The multiplayer mode allows you to engage in a free-for-all two-player match or an online version of Planechase.
If you just want to play a quick game by yourself, there is also the option to create a custom game. Custom games can consist of the same free-for-all and Planechase matches from multiplayer and an exclusive Two-Headed Giant mode, which creates two teams of two players each who share both lives and decks.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013: Worth it?
Duels of the Planeswalkers is free to play, but the free version only offers you a small portion of the game. Once you get past the tutorial stage, you will need to unlock the full game to continue, and the $9.99 price tag for unlocking the full game is a little high compared to most premium iPad games.
But if you are an avid Magic: The Gathering player, it's a bargain. Magic is already a rather expensive habit, with players buying booster packs to add to their decks. Duels of the Planeswalkers may not offer the full Magic experience, but it is a great way to play against opponents online or just kill some time in the single player modes.
Those new to Magic: The Gathering will need to judge for themselves, but anyone who loves both strategy games and card games will quickly fall in love with the Magic experience. Few games offer the deep layer of tactics featured in your standard Planeswalker duel, and the variety of different game modes makes Duels of the Planeswalkers a great introduction to the world of Magic: The Gathering.