Review: Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (XBLA)

Review: Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 (XBLA)

I used to be a big Magic: The Gathering player. I started in 1994 with a group of friends, and stayed with it until the summer of 1997, when I moved from Oklahoma City to California. After spending three years playing with the same group, it just didn’t feel the same trying to play against anyone else, so I retired my deck and moved on. Fifteen years later (by Odin’s beard, that’s a hell of a long time), and I have picked up Magic: The Gathering yet again…in a different form. Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 marks my return to cardslinging for the first time since I set my deck aside. Do my hands remember their skill, fifteen years later (man, it doesn’t get any easier saying that)?

Let’s just say that Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 was released to chew bubblegum and kick my ass, and it is all out of bubblegum.

Not having played the past iterations of this title, I can’t (and therefore won’t) comment on any potential improvements or continued flaws in the series. What I can approach this as, however, is a Magic: The Gathering player long out of practice, looking for a quick thrill of nostalgia. In that, the title both succeeds and fails.

There can be no doubt that this is Magic: The Gathering, even if it is not as robust or flexible as the card game itself. There is still a mixture of strategy in planning and luck of the draw that makes the game both exhilarating and infuriating, and the deck manager gives you a great summary of your deck’s contents in order to maximize your ratio of creatures to support cards. The AI opponents are challenging; brutal, at times, which leads me to my one and only complaint about the game.

It’s Magic: The Gathering, but it’s not Magic: The Gathering. Magic: The Gathering is an absolutely phenomenal card game for various reasons. First and foremost is the in-person gameplay experience itself. There’s something about having a battle-worn deck of cards at your side, and an opponent on the other side of a table, that gets the adrenaline rushing in a particularly unique and wonderful way. I can still recall the feeling, and Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 did not evoke the same reaction. Second, randomness in reality is different than programmed randomness. Programmed randomness still follows rules, so as much as you may want to say that a digital opponent’s draw is random, it only is within the confines of the rules it is given. Third, there is a variety of cards that you come across in a real game of Magic: The Gathering that simply does not exist within the digital title. With a real game of Magic, you may find yourself in a match against someone that has a selection of cards ranging from the original releases in 1993 to the latest creatures and items, which creates so many variable possibilities for strategy and luck that every game can be full of surprises.

Of course, Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is not meant to be a substitute for a real game of Magic: The Gathering; it wouldn’t make any sense to treat it as such, given its digital limitations. That aside, though, it is a truly entertaining Magic: The Gathering experience to hold you over between trips to the game store, and is definitely a good gateway drug for those of you who have yet to feel the thrill of seeing the look of realization and fear in your opponent’s eyes as you decimate his or her deck with a well planned strategy or a lucky draw. If you enjoy strategic card games, you will enjoy Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013. It is available now on XBLA, PSN, PC, and iPad for 800MSP/$9.99.


Great functionality
Good deck management
Good online options
As much as it may
try, it's just not the same
as a real game of MtG
90 out of 100
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