Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 is the latest version of the Wizards of the Coast’s Duels of the Planeswalkers series. Is it the best? Well, depends on your angle. I’ve read terrible reviews about it, but I don’t necessarily agree with those reviews. However, I’m a casual gamer, not a hardcore fanatic, and maybe this version only appeals to more casual gamers. In general, Magic is a game better suited to the tabletop than to a computer, so I tend to lose interest after a few hours just because of the general slow way the game itself plays no matter which version I’m actually playing. I’ve spent quite a few hours with the 2015 game on my PC and here’s my take on it.
For those of you of unfamiliar with the game, you are a Planeswalker battling other Planeswalkers with your magic. The battle is fought with a 60+ card deck full of creatures and spells. You use mana to conjure these spells, there are manas of all different colors. Black, red, green, white, and blue. I won’t get into specifics, but each color has its own strengths and weakeneses. The color you choose depends on your style of play.
There’s a 5-mission tutorial aimed to teach you the basics of the game. You begin by choosing a color, then you get four starting decks to choose from. You have to complete the final quest in the tutorial mode before you can proceed to a campaign. It took me a few tries. It kept kicking my ass. It probably should have been a little bit easier considering it’s only a tutorial round. The starter decks you have to choose from are no match against the AI deck. I can see newbies getting fed up pretty quick. I’m not a great player, but I’m slightly skilled and I had trouble with it. I had to switch decks a few times. And it looks like once you complete the tutorial round, the starter deck you used when you defeated it is the one you’re stuck with from then on. That kind of sucks. Sometimes you want to switch things up depending on what you’re facing. Maybe you can swap colors later in the game, but it hasn’t happened so far for me. I’ve searched through every menu option, I can’t find anywhere to change to a new starter deck. That’s definitely a drag.
Though, you do get a small booster set for each duel you win and you can rebuild your deck to suit your tastes. You can even make a new one, but you’d have to build up cards for quite some time to get enough to build a full deck. The cards you get aren’t anything special, nothing from the current set, which might have been nice, but the cards aren’t bad either. They’re not useless cards, although the AI opponents get much better cards than you. I’m not sure how large the card pool is going to be, but like I said, you can use the cards you do get to to build your deck up any way you want, which is a nice addition to the game. You can also buy booster packs. I mean, I wouldn’t. I’m not into pay-to-play when I’ve already paid for the game. But you can were you so inclined to do so. You can supposedly get more premium cards this way.
Now, once you complete the final tutorial quest, you move on to battle your way through the planes of Innistrad, Theros, Ravnica, Shandalar, and Zendikar. And these battles are HARD and again, while you can rebuild your deck, you can’t change to a different one, which is something I liked to do in past versions of the game when I got stuck on a certain Planeswalker. It would also have been nice if it curved the difficulty based on the player’s skill. I mean, after at least 4 iterations of this game, there should be some actual intelligence to the artificial intelligence right? But there isn’t. But then again, the big new thing about this game is the deckbuilding ability. So, I suppose they want you to swap cards in and out and build your deck to win rather than being given one already ready for you to win. It might take some time to get there, but great decks aren’t built in a day. After you defeat the Innistrad boss, you unlock the land of Theros and multi-player campaigns.
The Theros battles are even harder than before. Too difficult to beat even on the easiest difficult setting. At least in Innistrad my losses were close. It’s no contest in Theros. The multi-player isn’t any better. I don’t know what they match players by but they’re certainly not matched based on skill level. I don’t want to play against expert gamers who’ve paid a lot of money to have good cards. If I wanted to do that, I’d put on pants and go to Magic tournaments. I want to play against people with similar skill on a more even playing field. Otherwise, the game is no fun.
As for the design, battlefield and gameplay are the same as they’ve ever been, though with a sleeker look. Everything moves a little smoother. I keep reading the words “clunky” and “like a steam engine” in other reviews, but for me, I find the whole new layout to be very sleek and sci-fi. I remember in the past having trouble controlling gameplay with just my keyboard, but this version seems to be made to work that way. I like it, as I play on my laptop. I can easily scroll through the menus, I can zoom in and out and flip through my cards without having to mess with the trackpad or hook up a mouse.
One problem I noticed is that the game kept skipping ahead before I had a chance to do anything. I hadn’t even begun my main phase when suddenly it skips to the attack phase. My entire turn was skipped several times. Another problem I’ve noticed is that when you play any creatures with convoke (meaning you can pay for the card by tapping other creatures instead of mana) it forces you to tap a creature. I’m pretty sure convoke is an option you can use if you want to, not something you have to use. But those hopefully are bugs they will work out soon enough.
So, I know that my review is all over the place, but I can’t form a very solid opinion about the game. Overall, it’s definitely better than 2014, which I hated, and if I was a more skilled player, I would consider it a better game than 2013, but the inability to switch starter decks and the difficulty of the AI opponents are turning me off. I can’t decide if I like it or hate it.