Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers

Magic Duel of the Planewalkers - Ipad game

Developer:  Wizards of the Coast
Download:  Get on iTunes
Official link:  Magic: The Gathering Duels of the Planeswalkers FAQ
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers is the latest iteration of the virtual representation of the incredibly fun and popular collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. The 2015 edition brings with it some improvements over past entries such as the ability to create and customize your own decks. But it also takes some steps back with its clunky and at times irritating interface. Regardless, it’s Magic at its core, and more of that is a good thing.

For the uninitiated, Magic: The Gathering is a very complicated game with a whole lot of different rules. The basic idea is that you battle an opponent to the death with a deck of cards consisting of various creatures, spells, and resources. As you gain more and more resources, you’re able to cast bigger monsters and more powerful spells. You’ll have to decide when is the best time to attack, to defend, and to cast your spells in order to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses. You’ll also need to pay careful attention to the countless special abilities and traits associated with just about every card.

While this can certainly be intimidating, you’ll come to appreciate the complexity of this game when you see the depth of strategy that arises from it. In fact, if you’re completely new to the world of Magic, this 2015 edition is a great way to get started. There is a very detailed tutorial that will walk you through almost all facets of the game. Though slow at times, it’s certainly an improvement over the thick, dry manual that first-time players had to digest a long time ago.

Beyond the tutorial, there’s not that much available in the free portion of Magic 2015. Players get to choose one (and only one!) preconstructed deck to do battle with. You’ll then have the opportunity to face four different bosses, each playing with a different deck and strategy. Once you defeat them, you’ll win several booster packs of cards that you can use to make small changes to your deck. All of this serves to give you a taste of the full game and to expose you to its controls.

Unfortunately, you’ll end up fighting the interface as often as your creatures battle your opponent. An odd choice of touch controls dampens the experience of an otherwise fun game. Actions that seemingly could be performed with a general tap or swipe are instead relegated to tiny buttons on the side of the screen. Whereas double-tapping could be utilized to speed up several actions in the game, it’s instead used to zoom in on cards in place of the usual pinch command. But the worst thing of all is the countdown timer bar between every single phase of every turn.

As previously mentioned, Magic: The Gathering is a very complex game. Players can play during their opponent’s turn at just about any time. Thus, it’s understandable that the designers implemented a system that gives you (and your opponent) enough time to make a move at any point. However, there are many, many times when no player can do anything, and the game still makes you wait. This is such a frequent annoyance that you may find yourself willing to sacrifice all of your resources if that would enable you to just double-tap and speed up the game.

However, if you can handle the interface, there’s a lot to like about Magic 2015. Seasoned veterans will be most thrilled with the addition of a deck creation tool. You can now make your own deck completely from scratch, a feature not seen since the original Duels of the Planeswalkers back in 1997. You can quickly sort your library by card type, rarity, cost, or color. A stats panel is also available that will give you a breakdown of your deck by color distribution, creature/spell balance, and mana curve (how many cards you have of a certain casting cost). There’s even an auto-complete option that will round out your deck based on the type of cards you currently have in it.

It’s essential to note that a recent update has removed much of the microtransaction model that the game was originally based on. You can still choose to acquire cards instantly through in-app purchases, but now all of the cards can be acquired through gameplay once you buy the full version of the game ($9.99). Though you may have to grind a little to get the exact cards you want, if you like the core gameplay, then this should be a fun pursuit. Unlocking the full version of the game also gives you the option of playing against other humans online.

Magic 2015 is a great way to play Magic: The Gathering without the hassle of the physical cards (as well as the funds needed to acquire a decent library). Whether you’re completely new to Magic or an experienced player, if you can get passed the annoying interface, there’s a lot of fun to be had, a lot of strategy to try, and a lot of unique cards to discover and acquire.

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