HIGH: Getting a good card that I know is going to wreak havoc on the next turn.
LOW: Having that card taken away by an opponent's insta-removal card.
WTF: No real deck customization options.
I have never played Magic: The Gathering. Not because I didn't want to, but it just never came up. Some of my teenage acquaintances played it, but they were all douchebags. In my college years I was simply too busy with class and lovemaking. Now that I'm in my late twenties I thought I'd never get a chance to get into Magic, that mysterious game of mystery. Then along comes Duels of the Planeswalkers, a video game adaptation of the card game. My interest was piqued. Piqued like a Spined Wurm arching back and going for the kill.
Planeswalkers does a great job of initiating the uninitiated into a very complex card game. The tutorial game is thorough and explains the rules and structure of the game very well, including turns, combat phases, and the propensity of some cards to completely shatter the rules. I was into my first game and understanding everything within about twenty-five minutes. The gameplay (much like the real game I imagine) is extremely engaging, with lots of depth and strategy going into each turn. Originally introduced in 1993, it's easy to see why Magic has maintained a following for so long. The easy to learn yet tough to master playstyle is simply brilliant.
The advent of online play is a blessing for a game such as Planeswalkers, since my old problem of finding non-jerk friends to play with is no longer relevant. Of course, playing a real game is far different than playing the computer, and I was promptly spanked by our resident podcast master, Tim Spaeth. But even in losing to Tim's blue deck of death, the appeal that online play holds for a game such as Magic is undeniable. If there was ever an old-school card game that could benefit from the rise of the internet, it's this.
Of course, there is also the question of how well Planeswalkers recreates the actual feel of the card game. This of course is a question I cannot answer, but according to friends who are well-versed in the original game there is a visible lack of customization options over your deck. While this is a good thing for new players (like myself) so they don't get overwhelmed by the massive amount of cards and options available, it does leave veterans with a sense of confinement. Still, both of the people I spoke with said that the game is certainly worthwhile, especially due to its use of online play.
Duels of the Planeswalkers is a faithful, if watered down, representation of a classic game that excels at drawing in new players and reigniting the old fire in seasoned veterans. And I got into it without having to deal with those assholes from high school.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 1 and a half hours of play was devoted to single-player modes and 30 minutes of play in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains: mild blood, mild suggestive themes, violent references. While smaller children might be put off by the complexity of the rules, content-wise there's nothing here I would worry about for any age.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There are no spoken lines and no auditory cues.
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