By: Jeff Cater
Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 pits you as a neophyte Planeswalker, unknowingly being hunted by another ‘walker that has taken it upon himself to hunt others like him down and destroy them. In Magic 2015, hone your deck with a much fleshed-out deck customization system in order to prepare for battle with Garruk The Wildspeaker, the Planeswalker who has snuffed many sparks.
Nearly all actions carried out in game are done via the mouse, save for a few actions like cycling the combinations of mana to use for a given spell and pausing a sequence or ending a phase. The controls during the actual gameplay registers your selections with a snap, but in the various menus you’ll likely have to click your selection several times to get it to trigger.
That, and the menus are completely tailored for a touch-screen device, swiping left to right on the touch screen or using the mouse wheel, which is overly sensitive and leads to relying on the good old fashioned arrow keys to navigate the menus. This is a tremendous step back from the previous installments.
It is also advisable to disable Automatic Land in the options menu, here’s an example why: You want to play two spells and have enough mana to do so, but one spell costs one white mana, and the other requires one black mana. Of your four available mana, the first spell you choose will likely use up the mana combination required to cast the second spell — it’s seriously as if the computer is aiding you in making awful decisions. And hell, one slip up with your mana can change the tide of an entire game, so just make sure you disable the damn Automatic Land.
Magic: The Gathering has always featured top-notch artwork for their cards, and the new and refashioned cards look just as magnificent and varied as always. The lack of animated cards, however, marks another step backward from Magic 2014, so it doesn’t make sense removing such a badass feature.
The battlefield itself is also very minimalistic and uninspired, making you feel like your epic Magic duel is taking place on a futuristic paper shredder. At least last year’s title tried to resemble something mystifying and fitting of the theme, but this table is just drab and boring.
The menu system is also very attractive at first, until you realize that the chosen aesthetic of it prevents any sort of quick navigation through options due to everything having to slide around the screen and fog itself away before transitioning to your chosen menu about 5-7 seconds after you click it.
Not so different from the last installment is the quality of the sounds effects and voice acting. Anyone who speaks in this game feels like the second or third choice the casting office had to go with, so it provides little to no immersion. The battle music is done well enough and doesn’t become repetitive, due to its subtle but tense tones. Also keeping with its lineage is the reuse of several sound effects, which is really just a nitpick given the sheer number of cards that share creature types and such.
Whether you’ve played Magic before or are new to the game, the concept is both complicated beyond all belief and simple. In order to cast spells, one must have enough Land cards to do so (Lands are the mana source of your deck, or known in-game as your Library). There are countless rules, sub-rules and technical aspects of the game, but the objective remains the same all these years: break the rules more than your opponent and make them weep.
Something to keep in mind is that for every rule in Magic, there is a way around it or a way to break it completely, so it can be pretty daunting to new players. And although there are tutorials explaining how to play, only facing real opponents or the AI will actually allow you to get a grip with the game. High learning curve aside, there are tools in-game that allow both new and hardened players alike to have fun, as long as they are willing to pay a bit more past the initial admission fee.
As you start your journey to fight Garruk the Wildspeaker before he destroys every Planeswalker in the Multiverse, you’re presented with several extremely limited decks of cards to start with. Keeping with this year’s theme of traveling backwards, they have put a truly heavy emphasis on buying digital packs of cards, with the best cards only being accessible through purchase, even though you can grind to your heart’s content and gather several repeat cards.
Trying to beat the campaign with a vanilla deck is nigh impossible and an exercise in patience. Magic: The Gathering has always been a pay-to-win game when it came to the tabletop versions, but it seems that this year Wizards of The Coast has decided to model their digital game directly after it’s physical counterpart.
As expected, the multiplayer modes are also heavily pay-to-win so don’t expect to even be able to compete at all unless you drop additional dollars into the game. Also, they’ve rid the game of the two most popular multiplayer modes: Two-Headed Giant and Planeschase. Sadly, those are likely to be seen in future DLC packs.
Magic: The Gathering —Duels of The Planeswalkers 2015 is a fun game to play as long as you have the extra money to throw at it, and unfortunately that is what pushed players away from the tabletop card game. If this title is any indication of what’s to come from Wizards in the future, the Duels series might be running on limited time. It makes no sense to make a sequel to a highly accessible, popular and fun game and take away every single thing that made it so.