It’s unlikely deck-building will ever be included in the videogame adaptation of Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers. While fans clamour for the feature, it hasn’t been included in any digital interpretations of Wizards of the Coasts’ tradeable card game, and it won’t feature in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013.
The reason is obvious, and it’s the same reason companies such as Games Workshop haven’t yet made fully digital, fully customisable, fully authentic versions of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, much as we’d like them to. To do so could kill off the real, physical market for cards and figurines – even if, arguably, the age of microtransaction gaming and real-money auction houses serves to make the concept increasingly viable, even attractive.
Instead, Duels of the Planeswalkers is designed to bring more gamers – the videogame kind – into the Magic community fold. Wizards believes the game is great for new and intermediate players, and a raft of new features makes it clear that the company wishes to ease these players into the game. Nonetheless, advanced players will also find a challenge, and returning gamers will discover a range of their requests have been implemented.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 features 10 new decks and new puzzles. Story elements have been included, too. The player will choose their deck and set about defeating the four remaining Planeswalkers – each defined by their deck colour – before facing down a final boss.
A new user interface will include online leaderboards, achievements, and player statistics including what mana players most frequently tap. In 2013, mana can also be manually tapped, a much sought after feature that will provide more options for advanced players.
While deck-building is out, 2013 does include a robust deck manager that will allow players to customise their decks within the boundaries prescribed by Wizards. Each card has a star rating that will help new players to build decks, and the total casting cost of each deck and its constituent elements – such as land and creatures - is also broken down.
Encounters have been added to the singeplayer campaign. These one-off events each require a particular strategy, and a particular deck construction to be defeated. For example, one encounter might see the player’s AI opponent placing a 1/1 hawk every turn.
On the playing table itself, tips and hints have been added for newer players, showing recommended cards to play. Players can also zoom in to read any card.
Plane Chase has also been added to Planeswalkers 2013. These oversized cards can affect all players at the table. Each turn, a player can roll the Planar die for one of three outcomes: nothing, Planeswalking, and Chaos. Planeswalking sees the next Plane Chase card overturned and a new passive effect come into play. Chaos sees an alternate effect occur, usually to the benefit of the roller, for example, nominate a target player’s land for destruction. There are also phenomenon cards within the Plane Chase deck that have effects such as reversing the turn order.
In keeping with Wizards’ objective of bringing new players into their local tabletop and card gaming store, Planeswalkers 2013 comes with a voucher that can be redeemed for a real booster pack at participating outlets. Each booster pack will include one mythic rare alternate set. The game is also releasing on the 20th of June, some weeks ahead of the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 tradeable card game on the 13th of July, meaning it also provides a first look at what players of the card game can expect from this year’s edition.
But perhaps the most important announcement is that Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is coming to iPad, a platform that lends itself to card game adaptations better than any console, and exposes the game to a much wider audience.
Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 looks set to please existing fans of both the card game and previous digital iterations, and to provide a great introduction to new players. Our time with the game at E3 suggests it's the strongest digital outing for the hallowed card game to date.
The game releases for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and iPad next week.