Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012

7 Overall Score
Gameplay: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Staying Power: 6/10

Easy for beginners to get into | Good representation of the card game

Limited deck customomization | Presentation and controls hinders gameplay | Leaves longtime MTG players wanting more

Magic: The Gathering, the card game, is a hobby not for the faint of heart. It is a game that’s built upon 2 decades of existing and new mechanics, constantly evolving and dynamic. Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, like the original, is yet another attempt by Wizards of the Coast in bringing its most successful franchise onto the video gaming medium. On some level, DOTP 2012 accomplishes the task of streamlining the experience, and offers enjoyable glimpses into the card-based pastime; however, there are enough flaws in this game to put off veterans of Magic the Gathering, and covers too little in the way of basic MTG knowledge to attract newcomers as well.

In a nutshell, DOTP 2012 is a card game in which you battle one another in duels of a magical nature. Each player picks out a pre-made deck of cards, taken from the 13th core set of Magic: The Gathering, filled with creatures, spells, and lands. Lands are your general source for mana, which powers the rest of your deck. Creatures act as both your main point of assault, and the last line of defense. Spells provides a variety of instant or permanent augmentations to either players, other spells that are in play, or even beyond the playing field to your hand and library. A victory can be reached by meeting one of the following criteria: depleting the opponent’s health to zero, being the last person to run out of cards to draw, or through fulfilling special conditions of certain spells. Coming from someone who’s tinkered with the world of Magic for several years, this may not make a lot of sense to someone who’s completely new to the game. But to fully describe the game within a paragraph would make it criminally long, not to mention darn well impossible.

DOTP 2012 offers both a modest selection of both single player and multiplayer modes. In the single player campaign, there are 3 modes available to play through: Campaign, Archenemy, and Revenge. In campaign you’ll be up against opponent using basic decks, and by defeating them the decks are unlocked and made available for use. There are a total of 10 decks to unlock, each with 16 hidden cards that can be inserted into corresponding decks as you gain proficiency with them. Archenemy allows you to gang up on a single adversary with 2 other archmages, but with a twist: the lone combatant has very powerful arsenal of cards that will greatly enhance his play while severely handicap the other 3 players’. In Revenge, you simply revisit the campaign mode, this time with the NPCs making use of the unlocked cards as well. Out of all 3 modes, Archenemy is by far the most interesting one. You’ll have to fight tooth and nail for the slightest advantage against an overpowered opponent, and the team dynamic adds a whole new dimension to the game itself. Archenemy is also available for play in multiplayer, accompanied by a 2 vs 2 format called “Two Headed Giant”, and a Free-For-All mode where the gloves come off, and anything goes.

Summing up Archenemy mode in 1 phrase: 3 Davids versus 1 Goliath.

It would be unfair to call DOTP 2012 an ugly game, but uninspiring menu designs and poor table layout choices have produced a similar overall result. The main menu consists of what appears to be deck covers with a backdrop of a plains landscape featured in one of the land cards. While in-game, the space isn’t very well managed on the playing field; as you’re dueling, most of the time is spent staring at a virtual table splattered with shrunk-down versions of the playing cards. The cards themselves are the highlight of the game, with beautifully-drawn artwork on every card taken from the real life versions of them. Problems arise because, as previously mentioned, the cards are on-screen as a fraction of their original dimensions. You’re essentially forced to zoom in on every card in order to appreciate the art, and more importantly, to be able to make out the writings to even know what they do. Navigating the board is a chore in itself because while the right analog allows you to target each card, it’s not very intuitive in which card it will select next. An on-screen cursor would have done wonders here, but you’ll have to settle with something that’s a lot more jumpy.

To make out the print on cards, you'll be using the zoom in function frequently.

When it comes to gameplay, Wizards have done a commendable job at bringing the tabletop experience to within the confines of your gaming systems. The game flows well, allowing you to stop at any time in order to play a spell whenever able. The NPCs are very competent and offers a healthy challenge, so there’s always some fun to be had even if you don’t feel like hopping online. The starting tutorials offer a quick crash course, but the game also offers plenty of tips the rest of the way. The deck manager allows for limited customization of the pre-made decks, but not allowing the players to build a deck from scratch really stifles the endless possibilities in play style. The streamlining of the game also caused some confusion as to when phases are declared and when spells are resolved from the stack, from personal experiences. It’s almost for certain that new players will be scratching their heads from time to time as the game progresses on, wondering what exactly has happened as one action leads to a number of outcomes. DOTP 2012 should not be placed at fault for some of these issues, because sacrifices obviously had to be made to accommodate the depth of the original game.

Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 serves as a good entry point to get familiarized with the card game. Priced at a reasonable price of $9.99 or 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox 360, DOTP 2012 lets you sample a lot more than what would have easily cost you several times more by buying the actual cards. For long-time Magic players, the experience may not be enough to duplicate the real thing, but it’s still worth looking into if you’re only just looking for a way to play at home by yourself.


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