Review

Magic the Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 Review

  • Game release: July 9, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

Limited resources.

Aside from being the biggest, most important card game of the past 20 years, Magic: The Gathering has become a nexus point for different types of players. Some people get a kick out of building clever, efficient decks using powerful cards. Others love the thrill of outsmarting their opponents. And the countless variations that sprung from the original game speak to even more people, such as formats that force you to build decks from a limited pool of cards. A game like Duels of the Planeswalkers, which exists to speak to the greater game-playing community outside of Magic, should reflect this diversity in play. But even though Magic 2015 makes some significant additions that people have been asking for since the first Duels was released, its feature-light foundation and odd limitations keep it from being the joyous celebration of Magic's virtues that it should have been.

Of course, Duels was always meant to be a limited experience to some extent. It's the video game version of the most popular physical card game in existence, a simulation that allows interested parties to avoid the massive money pit Magic is associated with creating. The built-in Campaign mode also means you never need to worry about finding someone to play with, because the AI is more than capable of piloting the wide variety of enemy decks the developers programmed into the game. The game exists as a convenience, leveraging the power of the medium of video games to give us a way of playing Magic on our own terms, even connecting players across the world thanks to online play.

The game interface point of view makes it look like you're playing at a real table.

Ultimately, however, the primary function of Duels of the Planeswalkers is to be a big, fat advertisement for the physical game aimed at the video game enthusiast crowd. You need only look at the menu for proof, as an entire section is dedicated to promoting Friday Night Magic, the centerpiece of Wizard of the Coast's organized play for tabletop game stores, even going so far as including a store locator. As such, Duels condenses 20 years of Magic into a complete, standalone package designed to entice people to check out the paper game. A carefully-curated selection of cards ensures players aren't overwhelmed by choices, and premade decks eases them into the game without needing to worry about deck building until they're used to playing. As always, Duels of the Planeswalkers provides neophytes with a nice little cross section of the game proper without taking anything away its core.

In this light, 2015 represents a holding pattern. You still get a Campaign mode in which you face AI opponents using your pick of premade decks, you still win cards that can enhance your base deck, and the interface is still as friendly as it ever was, breaking down the many phases that make up each turn into easy-to-understand segments. The timer still makes thinking out turns awkward; you must rush to stop the countdown before you map out your next, a necessary conceit to make sure people don't stall out in multiplayer that feels unnecessary in Campaign mode.

2015 takes you on a tour of six worlds in the Magic universe.

One previously glaring omission that 2015 remedies is in the deck-building options. Until now, you couldn't meddle much with the decks you're given: the cards you won could only be swapped in and out of the deck it was paired with. Switching between decks wasn't allowed, and though this kept with the innate simplicity of the Duels series, it deprived players of one of the cornerstones of the Magic experience. 2015 allows you to put whatever cards you want into your deck; you may even tear the whole thing apart and start from scratch if you wish. Instead of winning individual cards, you win boosters from each Campaign game which let you further customize your deck and build a virtual collection of Magic cards. As a result, newer players can gain better understanding of the game beyond what was allowed before, encouraging experimentation and on-the-fly deck testing, an aspect that should have been possible in the series in the first place.

This new, necessary feature comes with an odd limitation: You're only allowed one premade deck before you're sent on your way and left to your own devices. This doesn't sound so bad at first; after all, that's how it works in real life. You get enough cards to build your own deck, and then you add to it as you get more cards. But giving players access to a multitude of premade decks in previous games showed off the true breadth of potential play styles, and, more importantly, what's possible in Magic. Limiting players to a single deck restricts them to one type of play style no matter what. It's difficult to change gears if something doesn't work for you because most of your cards are in the two colors you started with. Changing to a new color is out of the question until you build your collection further, which you can't do until you win more matches. It's a catch-22 that is only compounded by the way in which certain decks are weak against others, and since you now can't swap out decks, you will often find yourself bottlenecked.

The primary function of Duels of the Planeswalkers is to be a big, fat advertisement for the physical game aimed at the video game enthusiast crowd.

Beyond its new deck-building options, 2015 is characterized by a complete lack of modes beyond the single-player Campaign and multiplayer matches. Previous versions of the game included extra modes like puzzle matches, Archenemy, and Sealed Deck, each of which tested Magic skills in different ways. What you have with Magic 2015 is a stripped down version of what came before, which is a shame. The multitude of different ways that people enjoy Magic beyond the base game isn't represented in the slightest.

Instead, the biggest "feature" in 2015 is a new in-game store that lets you buy premium packs made up of cards that you can't earn within the game. Perhaps the game was meant to be more like Hearthstone or Magic online, games in which you're able to pay to add to your collection, but in reality, 2015 needlessly nickels and dimes, making it far less than a complete experience.

And yet even with all these problems, Magic: The Gathering is still the fun, challenging game it's always been. Learning the complex interactions between cards is a joy, and the game is extraordinarily replayable. 2015 also features newer cards from the Theros block and the Magic 2015 core set, so fans of previous installments can play around with cards and mechanics they've never tried before, which is enticing for existing Duels fans. People who want more Campaign mode and straight-up online multiplayer of the core game may be satisfied, if annoyed by the unnecessary deck limitations. Nevertheless, they are still better served going to their local store and checking out the physical game.

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 gives players what they've wanted for a long time by implementing deckbuilding, but it doesn't excuse the bare-bones package and needless extra monetization. The game within the template is still as fantastic as ever, and once you get into the groove, you'll enjoy stomping your enemies with your tuned deck. It's just a shame that 2015 never aspires to be anything more than a shell and delivery service.

The Good
Lets people experience Magic: The Gathering in a simpler, self-contained package
Friendly user interface
Deck-building for the first time in a Duels release
The Bad
Removes previous versions' additional modes
Deck selection is far too limited
Unnecessary monetization
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Jeremy Signor started playing Magic: The Gathering ten years ago and got back into the game with Magic 2012. He played Magic 2015 for 13 hours, getting through the main campaign, playing online matches, and browsing the in-game store.

Discussion

48 comments
Anteares
Anteares

This game flat out sucks.  It is inferior to its predecessors in every way.  Its clunky thanks to the 'tablet' friendly gui, its harsh on the eyes, it is devoid of the features or modes that made its predecessors really fun like 2 headed giant, sealed deck play, planechase and archenemy, etc...and it wants to gouge your ass for microtransactions that are laughably not even worth it....ie, the cards that should come with the game when you buy it!  

All thanks this to greedy EA-esque marketing model:  Sell an inferior product that has one or two features its predecessors don't have along with an 'updated' roster, and charge more for it and its 'pieces' so that we can ream fanbois for all they're worth...

Necrotron
Necrotron

Still have the timer in campaign mode?  Sounds like a pass.

mlozano_88
mlozano_88

FYI: Anyone considering purchasing this game for $9.99 on Xbox 360 or any platform should know that the EXACT SAME GAME IS FREE on apple and google play stores for mobile. So far it seems to only work on tablets, not phones

----------- ---------- ---------- ---------- --------- ----------

Quick Review: Deck Building and Customization +1, solid magic game play and great looking artwork +2, Lack of Starter Decks for Beginners -1, Lack of features which include challenges, two headed giant, planeswalker modes -3, Dearth of Micro-transactions -1, unbalanced game-play by forcing players to buy the best cards which are unobtainable in the game otherwise -2. This game, while the gamep lay is solid, because the card game is solid and that is why its still popular after 20 years, based on the removed features should be about >4<. Seems like the series is going the free to play route on tablets, its an identical version of the game for those interested.

fgjnfgh
fgjnfgh

What I feel like should've been done is keep microtransactioned packs, but release the game as free. Atleast Pokemon does it that way. But this one has the best simple battle theme and the menu music is so sick

linkinparkrox11
linkinparkrox11

MTG's greatest flaw is that the real life game is pay to win. rarer cards are just better than less rare cards. people with money can just go to a card shop and build $300 decks that win every time. I like the videogame more than real life because i'm sick of playing people like that.

Dordledum
Dordledum

I'd like this for PS4 please

advocacy
advocacy

Magic: The Microtransactions (Pay To Win)

xantufrog
xantufrog

It's so strange to me that these videogames are so popular - please don't be offended if you love them. I just feel like collecting the cards and having them in your hands was part of the appeal back in my day when dinosaurs roamed the brick and mortar game stores

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

yea, 2015 is nice, but 2 things really hurt it for me. One is the "premium" cards in a game I already paid for. It's Pay2Win at its' core once you add in a single % of difference imo, and 2015 does this by keeping a ton of cards from you. 


Second is the menu system. I dread logging in or doing anything in game. Some matches last a few minutes, but you can expect to spend a full minute navigating menu inside submenu inside submenu to get to that match and heaven forbid you need to log out. Another minute to exit via the menus (I get around this by cntrl+alt+delete and ending that way).

Poodger
Poodger

Hmm, the addition of the ability to create a custom deck from scratch is good. I got the 2013 game and I was sorely disappointed by that feature not being included.

gix47
gix47

premium packs really unbalances everything. i mean you can get Kozilek, Butcher of Truth from them and other madness, which all makes it feel like a cash grab or something.

wowwow27
wowwow27

the whole 'the gathering, is lost on magic today.  this was meant to combat video games, not become one.  but i guess we can just blame junk food, and the inability to get out of our beds due to extreme obesity 

Stiler
Stiler

It's like they are scared to simply make a good MTG game and allow people to build their decks with a full deck system and all the cards. 


They instead want to nickle and dime their customers anda think they have to make it like real life and charge you for every little card and pack. 


At least hearthstone does it better and doesn't hold back.

zanelli
zanelli moderator moderator

What a disappointment, I was really looking forwards to finally having the deck builder in the game, but they've stripped out too many features. Also when are they going to do an EDH mode?!

svaubel
svaubel

Would it kill Wizards to release a Magic game where you can duel other people and CPUs with the entire history with the cards available and you can make any deck you want?

Yugioh has been doing that for years now. 

Ronny411
Ronny411

Really dont recommend this game to anyone. Two steps forward but like 8 steps back, stripped away so much. Sad to see really, always enjoyed the yearly DOTP releases but with no co-op, no two headed giant, no archenemey or planchase or any of the sort just a practice duel and campagin. Not to mention the ridiclous microtransaction stuff that has been mention everywhere. Only 250 cards also, in the free version, or well, no not free. Just without paying anything extra beside the actual game. I honestly feel like giving this game 6 is lying to people (just my opinion), cause you dont properly convey how bad this actually is, and im not blind, game has it good sides, but the bad is just really really bad and a whole lot of it. I cant remember to be honest, the last time i actually regretted buying a game, I actually do with this one, and to me that is crazy.


Ps: I would give it a 3.

DigitalDame
DigitalDame moderator moderatorstaff

Where's my cool alternate art M15 promo.... Also, seems like a big step backwards for the DotP series... which is a shame. 

Sixmoons
Sixmoons

A shame they got rid of the puzzle mode. Some of those puzzles were very difficult and required some serious thought. But I feel they genuinely made me a better MtG player. Puzzles were like a personal brain trainer.

kindlewithcare
kindlewithcare

I want to get back into this franchise, but they don't seem to want to make a good enough electronic version of the game a grew up loving. 

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

I would say here that these companies which operate table-top games, e.g. Wizards of the Coast and Games Workshop, have very, very little understanding of what game consumers want.

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

Was quite looking forward to the game until I found out it was just a quick grab for cash. It is made like a free to play game that you have to still pay for.

Stogin
Stogin

I couldn't be more disappointed with this game.  Me and my friends loved playing online together with 2 Headed Giant, or Archenemy.  I can't believe they ditched these modes when they were so popular.  I look everywhere and people are complaining about it.  Now I can't even be bothered to play it anymore since building decks to just use against the computer or in free for all isn't as fun for us.  Such a bummer, they better add this feature in a DLC pack at some point.

Tripwolf
Tripwolf

Agreed with everything written here. Solid review. Playing it now but the extra microtransactions are just plain ridiculous, 

jcscraps
jcscraps

@mlozano_88


It's not free on ipad. You can download it and start playing for free, but you have to pay $9.99 to continue playing after the first plane. 

linkinparkrox11
linkinparkrox11

@Poodger should try out m14. it's a huge upgrade from m13 in everyway. there's no build your own deck but you can do sealed pack which lets you build from random boosters.

MigGui
MigGui

@wowwow27 yeah, because magic the gathering is a real game of fitness that is completely different from playing a videogame

wowwow27
wowwow27

can't blame me, i tried.

MigGui
MigGui

@Stiler they can't make a good videogame without hurting the cardgame. so they don't.

Delston
Delston

@Stiler That's exactly what it seems like.  I wanted to reinject myself into the world of MTG having been away since it's first few years.  I tried to ignore the poor reviews and play it on my iPad, quickly to realize the game is totally locked down unless you start throwing money at it.  


Long story short, I'm enjoying Hearthstone now.  It's polished and still approachable as a free-to-play card game (which was what I was looking for).  

PyreofKoL
PyreofKoL

@zanelli Agreed, man. They're so close to doing this right. Back to Magic WorkStation for another year, I guess.

zanelli
zanelli moderator moderator

@DigitalDame Did you give yourself those two mod tags so it looks like you have a lightsaber next to your name?

kindlewithcare
kindlewithcare

@DigitalDame I just don't understand why this series keeps going backwards. Really a shame, because Magic the Gathering was huge for me growing up. 

Adser26
Adser26

@kindlewithcare well, if you want to play alone against a bot you can download magic forge, its a fanmade that has almost all the cards in existence and its continuously updated, google it.

xantufrog
xantufrog

@Gelugon_baat @xantufrog shpeak up shonny, I can't hear you. *mumble* how do I make the font bigger on this personal computing device thing *grumble*

Stiler
Stiler

@MigGui @Stiler How would it hurt the cardgame?

You mean like they don't have digital versions of monopoly? Or Warhammer or Dungeons and Dragons or any other kind of board/card game and still do fine with boht?

PEople won't stop buying cards and playing with people in real life becuase they have a digital version. 

 

DigitalDame
DigitalDame moderator moderatorstaff

@zanelli Not sure why tags are showing up twice... weird. 

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@xantufrog

I don't find your brand of humor to be entertaining. :|

Also, I suspect that you don't know that the mouse-wheel is tied to font-changing features for some frequently-used software.

Adser26
Adser26

@DigitalDame @Adser26 @kindlewithcare No idea, given that I have not seen Cockatrice, but I can describe better Forge.

Forge is a little java program (so it can run on anything that supports java) that simulates a common magic game. 


Visually it looks like this official game, obviously a lot more simple and with almost no animations. You also have to download the cards art if you don't want to use the common placeholders the game uses. ( there is a button on the game settings to download them from their servers or to import them from another folder, if you have them already downloaded)

In gameplay, the game enforces the rules, so all cards work as they are supposed to do, similar to this official game again. It also has many different game modes AND game rules, so you can play Vanguard or Commander no problem. It also allows you to play against multiple computer enemies (or allies if you use teams) and the AI is good enough to give you a fight using random generated decks. Or rip you apart with one of like 300 pre-made legacy decks, each one using a specific strategy.

At last, the deck builder allows you to create and save as many decks as you want, giving you access to almost all cards ever created (not counting the joke sets) since the first edition.

The proyect is still alive and updating, so you should download it and try.

http://www.slightlymagic.net/forum/viewforum.php?f=26        (the game forum and download page)

xantufrog
xantufrog

@Gelugon_baat @xantufrog You made the "good ol' day" joke about me being old so then I played along. My font is fine - that was joke about being hard of sight (which I kind of am, but I have glasses and know how to manage my fonts).


Not sure why we're always on the wrong foot with each other...

kindlewithcare
kindlewithcare

@Adser26 @DigitalDame @kindlewithcare Great I will check it out. The last set I played was when they brought slivers back many years ago and I don't really want to get into the physical card game again. These planeswalker games are just depressing. 

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@xantufrog 

I want to annoy you. ;P

With that said, be careful about self-deprecating humour (even if the joke isn't true) - it has a tendency to bite you in the ass.

xantufrog
xantufrog

@Gelugon_baat @xantufrog 

"I want to annoy you. ;P"

^bah, that's not very nice :-P


I agree on the Wizards / Games Workshop thing, btw - they don't seem to know how to manage their assets in a digital world/with digital consumers

Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 More Info

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  • First Released
    • Android
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    • + 3 more
    • PC
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Magic 2015—Duels of the Planeswalkers will take the game to a whole new level, deeply engaging fans like never before. With new features including the ability to build customized decks, new booster packs with premium downloadable content, and an even more robust deck builder, players will take on their fiercest opponents culminating in the ultimate battle against Garruk. Magic 2015 will offer gamers the perfect way to start playing the world’s best strategy trading card game priming them for even more action with the upcoming Magic 2015 Core Set.
    4.2
    Average User RatingOut of 11 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Wizards of the Coast
    Published by:
    Wizards of the Coast, Microsoft Game Studios
    Genres:
    Card Game
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
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