Last month brought us another installment in Wizards’ Duels of the Planeswalkers series. The third installment, DotP 2013 arrived on a nice spread of platforms: XBOX 360, PS3, PC (by way of Steam), and, for the first time, iPad. For the record, I’m reviewing the game based on the iPad version, but there isn’t much difference between the versions.
The premise is simple: you, as a Planeswalker, must battle your way through the various planes of the Magic-verse. Using one of several pre-constructed decks, you face off against the other Planeswalkers in the quest to defeat the evil Nicol Bolas.
DotP 2013 offers four different single player modes that can be played at three different difficulty levels. The main campaign features full battles with each Planeswalker and M13 Legendary Creature as well as abbreviated encounters with various nameless enemies (my favorite was the fight against an Owl who used a 40 card deck consisting of just Plains and Squadron Hawk). The Revenge campaign, unlocked piece-by-piece as you defeat the regular campaign, allows you to re-challenge your fellow duelists, whose decks and playstyles have been intensified. There’s also a challenge mode which lets you solve situation-based puzzles. The most notable feature of DotP 2013 is the inclusion of Planechase, which adds in the rules and cards of the, you guessed it, popular Planechase variant of the game. The Planechase campaign, which is a four-player free-for-all, is easily the most fun mode, but also the shortest. Head-to-head duels and free-for-all Planechase matches are also able to be played in online multiplayer.
DotP 2013 is important for Magic players because it gives us a first look at some of the interactions that can be found with the new Core 2013 set, which launches later this month. Most of the cards from the Core (as well as various cards from the Innistrad block and select older cards) are usable in the game’s pre-constructed decks. Each of the new Legendary Creatures has a deck built around those cards’ main mechanic, which is fun.
Overall, DotP 2013 doesn’t really impress. The visual style remains mostly the same as last year’s. The inclusion of manual mana-tapping is nice, but it’s one of the only changes made to the functionality. You’re still able to play only with the pre-constructed decks, which isn’t terrible at first; however, once you rip through each mode, you’ll find yourself incredibly bored with this game. I hopped right in on the highest difficulty, Planeswalker, and was able to beat the game mostly using just one deck, the Goblin deck. It was fast enough to take down almost every other deck with ease, since they’re all so darn slow. I occasionally had problems going up against the White decks, but that’s because they’re almost as fast but with bigger creatures. I did have to switch to Jace’s enemy-mill deck in order to take down Nicol Bolas, but, again, almost every other deck fell to the might of my Goblin army.
If you’re new to Magic, then I’d definitely recommend checking this out. For $10, you can get something more valuable than experience with the new Core: a great tutorial for game mechanics. DotP has a great tip system that allows for you to readily access any information about a card’s keyword at your need. There’s also a customizable information system that helps explain how each mechanic works as they happen (don’t worry, you can turn this feature off). Most importantly, more abstract concepts, like the Stack, are visualized quite well within the game. If you have issues understanding the various timing windows and triggers in Magic, then DotP will be a great investment for you.
With the 2013 Core officially spoiled, Magic news won’t be quite as plentiful as it has during spoiler season. The next release is From the Vault: Realms (August 31), a 15-card Land set that will see reprints of 15 Lands (the special kind, not Basics) from across Magic’s history. After that, we’ll see a new Duel Deck in the form of Izzet v. Golgari (September 7), which should be a nice lead-in for the release of Return to Ravnica (October 5). No spoilers have been announced for any of these releases, so keep an eye on Comic Booked for breaking information!