Published on July 1st, 2013 | by Troy4
Magic 2014: Review
Summary: If you’re a fan of the Magic series and willing to see past some minor flaws, this should be a good investment, but if you’re on the fence you might want to look elsewhere.
If you’ve never played a game of Magic before then this may not be the article for you. However, if you’ve kept up at least somewhat with the current sets of Magic (especially the Core Sets) then this review is here to tell you why you should or shouldn’t be buying Magic 2014. Like its predecessors, 2014 is a digital version of the popular card game. This makes the 4th game in the series as of now, and the 1st in the series to branch from console over to tablets. In general the tablet version isn’t different in style of gameplay, only different in that you buy the game for free (like a demo) and you “unlock” it for the regular buy price.
Like the previous console games (also known as the Duels of the Planeswalkers – DotP) Magic 2014 is more story oriented and focused on core decks that have little to no customization. This game in particular has a more in-depth story and even features a few CGI cinematics with the main protagonist, Chandra Nalaar. As far as the story is concerned, Chandra has “enlisted” your help with tracking down a master mage known as Ramaz. In true DotP fashion you duel your way through a series of different Planes, dueling a set of protagonists that are native to those places. Most of the planes are from the Core Set series, including Innistrad, Zendikar, Alara, and Ravnica; the newer planes being Shandalar (home of the infamous Sliver Hive) and Kaldheim (where you inevitably fight Ramaz). Speaking on which, the Ramaz duel surprised me a little in the fact that you fight side-by-side with Chandra against him, making the duel a 2v1. Overall though I found the campaign to be extremely easy, even the Revenge campaign did little to offer a challenge, and yes it was played on Planeswalker difficulty. The campaign won’t give you much in terms of playtime but you’ll be spending most of your time unlocking cards for your decks anyways. As usual, the decks are all pre made and feature 30 cards available for unlocking, by winning duels of course.
In 2012 you had Archenemy, a mode that allowed 3v1 duels in which the 1, or Archenemy, had a beefed up deck that made him/her a much bigger threat. It’s very reminiscent of Blizzard’s TCG Raiding mode. Even with 3 duelists on a team it was still a tough battle, and it is by far still one of my favorite modes released as of today. 2013 brought us Planechase, a FFA mode in which there was a Planes Deck that drastically changed how you were dueling. Some Planes would be more focused on creatures, or might give all your creatures’ deathtouch. I wasn’t as fond of this mode, though I do know some players who found it fun and exciting. In Magic 2014 though, we are treated to a new type of mode that has certain mechanics that weren’t available ever before; Sealed Deck mode and its ability to allowed deck building and customization. In Sealed Deck you start off by opening 6 booster packs, and building a deck with a 40-card minimum. You can allow the game to do an Auto-Build for you but I found that they still needed tweaking afterwards to make the deck flow right. You’ll then take your deck into campaign mode, allowing you to fight a “Suntail Hawk” encounter to test your deck (it just spawns a Suntail Hawk every turn, allowing you to witness your deck in motion) or fight the Core Planeswalkers’ versions of their Sealed Decks. You’ll unlock another 3 booster packs during the campaign giving you a total of 9 packs to pull form. And that’s it. You only get 9 packs, and if you don’t have a halfway decent deck from those cards, you might as well move to the next slot. Magic 2014 gives you 2 slots initially, and another 18 (20 in total) you can buy for $1 each. Each slot has its own set of cards, own booster packs, and can not be mixed or matched with other slots. So in theory let’s say your first slot has a fairly simple green creature/red haste deck, but you get a wonderful Apocalypse Hydra in your second slot; you can not use, trade, or transfer that card to your first slot where it will probably be more useful. Also on top on that, the only multiplayer available for Sealed Deck is 1v1. There’s no 2v2 or FFA, just your deck versus someone else’s, which I find a problem in that if you and your friend both have weak decks you might be able to do a 2v2 and have a better chance of winning.
When talking about the UI (user interface), I have to talk about the tablet version versus console/Steam. I have to do this because the tablet versions are touch screen styled and come with their own set of pros and cons. Overall, the tablet UI is smooth, reactive, and suffers from little to no problems, except when attacking/blocking. Personally, the buttons for “Attack!”/“Block!” and Skip were way too close together. Often I would use Garruk’s Deck and cast Overrun on my creatures, just to “accidently” hit the skip attack button and eventually lose the duel. It wasn’t a game breaker, but it did make it hard to play a creature heavy deck that requires a lot of attacking/blocking. The console/Steam version did much better, which I’m positive is attributed to the use of a controller/mouse. The addition of two very useful items makes this game a little easier and more stress free then its prequels. The first being the Attack All option, finally allowing some of us who prefer a high quantity of creatures/tokens, to just declare all out attacks, whereas before you had to mash the attack button very fast or unfortunately be the “2nd player” in a 2v2 and choose each attacker one by one (that was not fun, I admit). The second being an option to fight and use the Random Deck option, allowing duelist who are comfortable and balanced to play any style to just have the game choose a random deck to use/duel against.
Magic has always been a huge supporter of artwork and creative artists, and as such, just as in older games, they use all original artwork and animation. 2014 even added the option (so you can turn it off) to have some cards display their own animation when zoomed in. The music is the same non-characteristic “epic battle music” that is always highly orchestrated and seems to be a genre favored by fantasy gamers. The only other change is the addition of a surprising and rather pleasant Planeswalker Gallery that allows players to read information and see artwork of the 5 main Planewalkers (Chandra Nalaar, Liliana Vess, Garruk Wildspeaker, Jace Beleren, and Ajani Goldmane).
Overall, Magic 2014 is the same game with new decks, a new story, and a new mode. They added a few new bells and whistles and slapped it with a $10 price tag. Is it their best yet? Doubtful, but it’s not their worst either (we all know how Talarand’s Panoptic Mirror turned out). The story is more in depth then before, but in the end nobody really cares, it’s about the decks and always will be. You’ve got original artwork and animation, which this far in the series is a must, but the sounds and music still sound reused and bland. Replay value here is solely based on whether or not you want to keep playing people online, and I’m sure the cult fans will be online till the next DotP releases (Magic 2015?). The Sealed Deck for all its glory and ingenuity still feels like they cut corners and didn’t truly put the full effort into it. There were a few bugs, one of which in the console version causes your system to freeze, forcing you to do a hard reset. However can be fixed within a reasonable amount of time, through a patch or update of some sort. If you do plan on getting Magic 2014, get it sooner rather then later, as in the previous games you will get special promotion codes to grab real cards from participating shops. These follow as such:
- Steam/Tablets: Scavenging Ooze
- Xbox 360: Bonescythe Sliver
- Playstation 3: Ogre Battledriver
Otherwise, if you’re not a huge fan, or you like the older games still, just stick with those, there still seems to be a good online base for Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 at least. The lack of truly new content and the shoddy release of Sealed Deck to be the only things holding this version back from greatness. Hopefully, the expansion and subsequent deck packs will add new flavor and style into the game, and not just a rearranged, reused deck from before.