I’ve spent a good deal of time playing the original Duels of the Planeswalkers which I would categorize as very enjoyable. It’s always nice to find an online game of magic even when all my friends are asleep (because it’s before 1pm). That said it definitely had some irksome issues, so the only way that I was going to give a positive review to its progeny, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, is if those issues were addressed.
But we’ll get to that in a bit. Let’s talk about the game first.
The game still features a single player campaign. You start the game with two decks and unlock others as you defeat them in battle. You also unlock cards for whatever deck you’re playing when you defeat an opponent. Personally I’m torn about this mechanic since, it seems, you play the game to get cards to improve your deck, but then all you can do is go back and play against the guys you’ve already played. That said, you can build up your deck to play against other people online, but I get the sense that most people who are in it for the PVP will just shell out the extra dough to unlock all the cards of their favorite deck.
The Two Headed Giant or two-on-two format returns, allowing you and a friend to take on someone else… and a friend. As mentioned before the game also features on-line play allowing you to flex your mad skillz against other live opponents.
A handful of decks have returned from the previous version, but none without tweaks. New cards have been added and others have fallen by the wayside. All around, though, I feel that the tweaks are for the best. For example the white-weenie + equipment deck used to feature two separate tribal buffs, but has now eschewed that for a more streamlined design. Likewise the vampire deck appears to have slowed down (since it was dominant in the previous version) and has added cards with the Bloodthirst mechanic for some extra Dracula flavor.
Probably the biggest addition to the game is the 3-on-1 format known as Archenemy. It also features an archenemy campaign in which you and two friends (or up to that many computer-controlled allies) take on each Archenemy-buffed deck. Archenemy games are a lot of fun and from what I observed are almost never close, they usually end up with one side crushing the other. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as a multiplayer format it would have the potential to seriously drag on and on.
This iteration also features brand new decks. And although some are reminiscent of previous themes, there is one that uses a brand new strategy: Kiora Atua’s. As we pointed out before Kiora hasn’t been seen in Magic yet. If you’ll recall Nissa was also introduced this way when the original “Duels” came out. In addition to a new planeswalker, this game will allow you to play with cards from the M12 core set before it’s even released (The earliest events for M12 are in early July). So you got that going for you, which is nice.
Now, on to my gripes about the previous edition and whether this one clears them up.
I had three issues with the first game
Deck Editing Was Highly Frustrating
as in this version, its predecessor added more cards to your deck as you defeated opponents. However the original cards in the deck were inviolate. Meaning that if you wanted to thin out your deck your only option was to remove the (usually superior) cards you gained through play, leaving less valuable cards in your deck. That has changed, now you can take out any card you want from your deck as long as you still end up with a minimum of 60 cards, which makes everything a lot easier. I suspect that certain decks will play drastically different depending on what people choose to add and take out.
One Deck Was Way Better Than the Others
That deck has been brought back, but as I mentioned before, whereas some decks were streamlined this one appears to have been deluded, which is nice. although only the Spikes out in the community will be able to tell us if any of the decks are still superior.
Lands Tap on Their Own
This one’s still a problem. I understand that it makes it easier on new players, but I was often frustrated by the older game’s tendency to tap mana in a way that prevented me from making the play I wanted. Granted, I have not run into that situation in this new game, but I would not be surprised if it was still an issue, especially in the one 3-color deck available.
Still, two out of three ain’t bad.
I’m giving Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 four stars. It is an entertaining way to kill time and get your magic fix without having to leave your house.