Magic the Gathering's popularity is as high as ever, and this game is certain to please its fans
- Strong gameplay typical of the card game
- Thousands of cards to collect
- Four-player traditional multiplayer
- Earn new cards through the campaign and explore mode
- Microtransactions are near-mandatory to remain competitive in Multiplayer
- UI is difficult to manage, with an excess of drag and swipe menus
Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers, developed by Stainless Games, is a digital version of the highly popular TCG (trading card game) Magic: The Gathering, available for PC.
Experience Magic in a Whole New Way
Magic: The Gathering has been a fan favorite amongst trading card games for decades (alongside Yu-Gi-Oh) mainly because of its rich lore, its simple but methodical gameplay, and its regular updates of cards and booster sets to keep players interested. With various formats and rulesets in operation within the game, the game also has a diverse set of players, from casual to competitive. Magic 2015 attempts to emulate the enjoyment players feel when playing face-to-face by creating an elegant, smooth-running, and suitable facsimile, which caters to all player types.
The idea of Magic: the Gathering is to use land to summon creatures, perform abilities, and so on, all while assaulting your opponent with your creatures. Each player is given 20 health points. Depleting an opponent's points wins you the game. The game starts off well. Rather than jumping into the action, it offers players a tutorial so that even those who have not previously encountered the game but who want to play will be introduced to the basic mechanics of land for summoning, using abilities and so forth, as well as the decks you can choose from, each emphasizing a particular property (healing, conjuring, etc.). While you are not spoiled for choice, these options facilitate a decent learning curve, allowing players to learn to play more intuitively.
Create your Custom Deck
The deck you choose at the tutorial is the one you will be using for a while. Decks are of a particular theme, and have associated strengths and weaknesses. Initially this can be challenging when battling against opponents with a natural advantage over your deck. Earning new cards is done through the campaign mode, strengthening your deck and expanding its strategic options. There are thousands of cards you can potentially win, mostly from the modern era or ones which have retained popularity. This feature, however, often feels like a grind, taking several hours just to achieve a handful of decent cards. An Explore mode also lets you try your luck against a group of random decks in order to expand your collection.
By design, even hours of grinding will not yield the best cards. These are only made available through small microtransactions on the online store ($2 approx.). Explore mode, similarly, requires a $10 buy-in.
Gameplay in Magic 2015 emulates what fans love: the strategy, the dramatic comebacks, and the overall feel of the card game.
While building a custom deck might be an attractive feature for most, Magic 2015 makes it uncompromisingly difficult to do so. Card rewards are sporadic and random and nothing that is in any way decent is free. In order to remain competitive in multiplayer, players are often forced to pay.
Gameplay in Magic 2015 emulates what fans love: the strategy, the dramatic comebacks, and the overall feel of the card game. Turn-based combat is facilitated by a rotating camera, and any major changes to the gamestate (removing or discarding cards) never interrupts the flow. Multiplayer offers traditional three or four-player battles. The interface, however, feels like a slog at times. Magic 2015 was clearly developed for a tablet (on which it was also released), and as such its menus revolve around a series of swiping and dragging actions to access key options during gameplay. An interface is an essential part of a trading card simulator, since a simple, efficient one allows one to concentrate more on the game, and less on how long it's taking you to manually select a land card (for example). Magic 2015 simply does not deliver on this front.
What Magic Players Want?
Overall, the game is a decent facsimile of the ever-popular MTG card game, with good card graphics, images, and similar mechanics. Its campaign mode keeps players busy for hours, offering them new cards as they go. The multiplayer remains as strong as the game itself. The negative points, however, are too apparent to ignore. The awkward user interface, the grinding required to advance and improve your deck, and the blatant pushing of microtransactions remains a true disappointment for me. If you're a fan of Magic, you'll definitely enjoy this game, but this Duels game pales in comparison to its predecessors.