Review: Duels of the Planeswalker 2014 can’t top the real game

“What’s your experience with Magic: the Gathering?”

This is the first question Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers asks people when they start the game up for the first time. Without hesitation, I chose “a lot.” The first time I began my cardboard cocaine addiction was the fourth grade, back when Tempest was the most recent set. Over a decade later, I still can’t get enough of the collectable card goodness. Despite this addiction, the Duels of the Planeswalker franchise has never been something that caught my attention, though it had one feature I was particularly interested in: The campaign takes place in various planes of the Magic universe.

There’s a story to be told starring Chandra Nalaar, a planeswalker who specializes in fire, but truth be told I have no idea what’s going on. She’s travelling through the various planes to collect this thing to complete some quest… I don’t know. The campaign opens with a big cinematic cutscene, and then proceeds to completely forget it’s telling a story. No matter; the story isn’t the main appeal of the game anyway.

The campaign, however, is a good draw. The novelty of travelling through various planes in the Magic universe and battling against themed decks is as interesting as I thought it would be. It’s just a shame that the entire “lolzendikar” effect is out in full force. Zendikar, for those unaware, is a block in Magic: the Gathering that had some pretty insane potential for mana acceleration and placing out huge creatures fairly early. Using the Zendikar-themed deck made my matches feel pretty uneven.

Just because the campaign’s decks are pre-constructed doesn’t mean they’re finished. You’ll be able to unlock additional cards to put into the deck as you progress through the campaign. However, getting access to the deck manager can be a bit of a pain at times. The unlocked card will always be immediately placed into your deck, which means you won’t have the recommended 60-card deck count. You’ll need to race on over to the deck manager to fix this. I hope you clicked the link when you unlocked your card, because if you didn’t, it’s time to backtrack to the main menu.

I hate Merfolk...

This is far from the only time the game’s presentation creates problems. Another issue is with the card mechanics. At times, I’m not sure if things are actually going the way they’re supposed to: Did they really sacrifice the appropriate amount of cards? Was I just shorted lands after playing a spell? Why can’t I cast this card? There’s both trouble indicating what’s going on and not enough emphasis on making sure you correctly do your moves. For the longest time, I was being cheated by the card’s wording, since some cards say you “may” do an action. Of course, since it says “may”, that doesn’t make it necessary. The game knows this and makes absolutely zero effort to remind you that “Hey, you can get two lands instead of just one.”

There have been times when I attempted to copy a spell I recently casted, only 1.) I couldn’t cast the copy because the first spell didn’t resolve yet and 2.) Once the first spell resolved, it was gone and couldn’t be copied anymore. That’s totally fair. Not.

If traversing through planes isn’t your thing, there’s still the sealed deck option in Duels of the Planeswalkers. Just like in traditional sealed play, you’ll be given booster packs from the Duels 2014 set. Based off the cards pulled, you’ll make a 40-card deck to use in matches. These matches can take place between computers or human opponents online. Sadly, your sealed deck isn’t allowed to come with you into the game’s campaign.

Truth be told, there’s very little reason why you’d pick the game’s sealed deck mode over taking part in an actual Magic: the Gathering sealed event. Duels of the Planeswalkers doesn’t even come close to matching the enjoyment of sitting down across the table from someone. The presentation is lacking, the interaction is virtually nonexistent, and the game’s mechanics can be costly. The campaign taking place in various Magic locales is nice, but not enough to warrant a recommendation.

Stick with the cardboard cocaine. It’s too diluted in digital form.