Published on July 17th, 2013 | by Firzan Fauzi0
Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers Review
My earliest memory of playing Magic: The Gathering was around 1997, and it was by far the most popular collectible card game (CCG) at the time. The game was unique because of the endless possibilities, players would come up with outrageous ideas for decks and insane combos that would break the game. Wizards of the Coast would have to ban cards or issue erratas (corrections) to cards, just because the players could come up with ideas that the designers never could predict.
So now, more than 15 years later Magic is still apparently going strong, and has made the jump to Android. Granted this is not the first time Magic has gone digital, but to my knowledge it is the first time Magic is being released on touchscreen devices. That should make for a close-to-real-life experience, but is it enough to warrant its pric?
Price & Compatibility
So since we’re leading off with price, yes the game is free on the Play Store. But there is a catch: at the time of writing, the game is only compatible on tablets, and unlocking the full game requires an in-app purchase of $10. First of all, the tablets only requirement makes sense. Since Magic requires a lot of reading of the cards’ abilities, it really does require as much screen real estate as possible. Playing it on a Nexus 10 is a true joy, you get a clear view of the playing area and clear reading of the cards.
The $10 in-app purchase is a little bit hard to swallow. It is expensive no doubt, especially on the Play Store where the average price of paid games is about $3. The $10 price is to unlock everything, as the free version locks some campaign stages and decks. And if you thought paying $10 was ridiculous, here’s the clincher: there are more in-app purchases to buy.
Well, Magic is a card game so the graphics are nothing to shout about. What you do get is a game with an authentic feel of the original card game, from the cards’ appearance to the awesome art on the cards. The developers have also added some bells and whistles, with some rare cards having minor animations in the art when zoomed in, and also some animations when your creatures attack. And if you feel that spending $10 wasn’t enough, you can spend another $1 to turn a deck into foil, and make it look shiny. That should probably win the award for “Most Pointless In-App Purchase Ever”.
If you are familiar with the game, you can skip this. Basically this is the same Magic that you know from the card game, all of the rules have remained intact. If you’re like me though and have lost touch with the franchise, you may need some catching on some of the new abilities.
If you’re totally new to Magic, it is a game full of possibilities. There are 5 colours of Magic that you can use, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. To win, you need to reduce your opponent’s life to 0, or the opponent can no longer draw cards from his deck. There are also some cards that grant you the win if you meet the stated conditions.
I could paste the rule book here, but the basics of the game involve summoning creatures that will do battle and deal damage. In battles you’ll be able to use spells that can affect the outcome of the battles. There are also some spells that deal direct damage to your opponent, which will help to reduce your opponent’s life.
The single player campaign has you traversing 5 worlds, defeating enemies in each and at the end, fighting a Planeswalker. Defeating the Planeswalker will unlock his deck for you to use. In fact, the main focus of the Campaign is to unlock all the decks available. Each deck is pre-made with a certain theme; There are decks revolving around certain creatures such as Zombies, Humans and Slivers. There are also decks that concentrate on a specific mechanic, e.g. a land deck which focuses on putting out as much land as possible and playing high-cost creatures.
As said there are so many possibilities and each deck that you gain is unique. Unfortunately there are only 12 types of deck available, so after you’ve gotten used to all the decks, there isn’t much to go on with. So essentially, this game is missing an important element that was present in the card game: Building your own ultimate killer deck. Sure, trading cards is not so easy in a digital game, but still I hoped that Wizards could’ve come up with something to allow you to build your own deck.
The closest you’ll get to deck building is playing through Sealed mode. Those who have played Sealed tournaments will surely be familiar with this. In this mode, you open up 5 random booster packs, and from these initial pool of cards, build your own deck. So yes, you can build your own deck with this but it’s a little limited as you only get access to certain cards.
Still, it provides a nice variation to the game. Compared to the predictable Campaign, Sealed Play is actually quite interesting as you’ll always be fighting against different decks. With your deck built, you can bring your deck through 5 opponents in a Sealed Campaign. Within the campaign, you can still change your deck with different cards in your pool, and also win booster packs to add to your pool of cards.
The killer here? You can only have 2 campaigns running at one time. If you want to start an additional Sealed campaign, you need to pay $2 for a new slot. This is frankly ridiculous, as Sealed Play could’ve been the ultimate single player mode, as it would provide you with a new deck to play each time.
Magic is a game made for multiplayer, so it is disappointing to find that there are no online multiplayer options at all. The only multiplayer option available here is direct Bluetooth, which means only local multiplayer. That’s good only if you have friends who also like Magic, but if you do, you’d probably be playing the real card game instead of this. Being able to play against millions of Magic players around the world would’ve been a great draw, and there’s still a chance they could add this later on, but for now this is a huge, huge miss for the game.
Magic 2014 is a very faithful recreation of the card game. It’s still an incredibly fun card game with lots of strategies to explore. Each game is never the same and will provide you with hours of entertainment. However, without proper online multiplayer, this game gets old quick. You can blaze through the Campaign and the subsequent Revenge campaign in a few short hours, and after that you can try your hand at Sealed Play, even if it’s neutered by in-app purchases. After that there’s nothing much to go on.
For newbies to Magic, it’s really hard for me to recommend the game. The $10 price tag and lack of multiplayer is already big, plus there’s a huge learning curve as you try to understand how Magic works. If you’re patient enough you’ll discover a great card game that has proven itself to be one of the best in the card game space.
All in all, if you have a tablet, give it a go. The free version is enough to show how well the game plays, whether you are familiar with Magic or not. Personally I enjoyed Magic and will probably continue playing it until the 2015 version comes out, hoping that online multiplayer will eventually be open for Android users.
Summary: Fans of Magic will find a lot to like here, but the price of the game is a bit hard to swallow, and lack of proper online multiplayer is really puzzling. Still, Magic is Magic, and you'll find a game with great depth here that you can spend hours exploring all the different decks and the different strategies.