So the question for anybody in the same boat is whether Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 is a good place for novices to start. In the interests of brevity, my experience with the Xbox 360 version suggests the answer is absolutely yes.
It turns out that Magic isn’t that tough to understand, and once you’re done with the Planeswalkers tutorial you’ll be itching to start taking on players from around the world. Whilst there are several advanced variations of the rules available for long-term players, the core experience is that of a one-on-one duel. The objective is simple: reduce your opponent’s 20 health points to zero by attacking with creatures and spells that are placed onto the battlefield on a turn-by-turn basis. Each card comes with an associated mana cost in order to be fielded, and creatures can’t usually be introduced and activated on the same turn, forcing players to think ahead and anticipate tactics for both attack and defence.
In practice, the concepts of mana, summoning creatures and casting spells are straightforward enough to wrap your head around, but Stainless Games also gently introduces advanced concepts like blocking, instants, activated cards, “tapping”, equipment bonuses and all the other minutiae that make up Magic’s tactical framework. There’s a lot to take in of course, however the pacing and practical demonstration make light work of most of it.
But while the concepts and application of those basic rules are covered in suitable depth during the tutorial, bending them to your tactical advantage is only lightly discussed. This is largely because Magic’s core appeal lies in coming up with your own systems; your own favourite cards, attack and defence strategies, and your own approach to dealing with the many variations that come right back at you across the table. In that sense, the real heart of Magic 2014 lies not within the entertaining campaign mode that sees you pairing off against characters focussed on themed decks, but rather in ‘Sealed’ mode, which apes the real-world experience of mixing and matching booster packs of cards to build your own unique style.
You begin by opening a selection of foil packs and filling out your roster, before picking your favourite combination of cards (auto-select can be applied at any point), customising the box art and name of your deck, and facing off against a series of AI opponents that unlock further boosters to mix and match against your originals. By the end of the process you’ll have acquired a fairly fearsome lineup that can be taken online against other players, or alternatively the process can be started afresh in another slot, allowing multiple specialist decks to be acquired for those that want them. Once you’ve filled out two decks however, you’ll have to pump some cash into the game to unlock the ability to save more.
- Excellent tutorial
- Sealed mode
- Good AI opponents
- Functional controller interface
- Resolution a little muddy
- Only two free decks in Sealed mode
- Campaign could be better
Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 Xbox 360 Review
That’s another bridge entirely though, and for now, Duels of the Planeswalkers will do just fine.
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