Trading card games are predominately found on portable systems with Konami’s Yu-Gi-Oh franchise being the most affluent. The success of Yu-Gi-Oh shows how gamers are receptive to replacing packs of cards for one cartridge or UMD. So what about the grandfather of this genre, Magic: The Gathering? The originator of our modern day TCGs had really only one video gaming outlet – Magic: The Gathering online for the PC. This all changed earlier in the year when Duels of the Planeswalkers had a rather understated release onto Xbox Live Arcade. Being a fan of TCGs I was embarrassed to say I never played Magic before but was aware of its popularity among friends. I would have preferred this title to follow suit and be on the DS since the touch screen is great for moving cards at speed but was just happy to have the chance to play it. So I paid my 1000 MS points and delved into the world of mana tapping by means of the brilliant tutorial. It held my hand long enough to give me an understanding of the rules and mechanics but also not so much that once left alone I would be lost. Read on to find out why you should go back and buy this game…
The idea is to wipe out the enemy’s health by attacking them with creature, spell or item cards from 5 different ‘classes’; White, Blue, Black, Red and Green. These colours relate to elements and abilities of the cards, for instance, Blue cards are usually creatures that fly whereas Red have attributes of Fire among other things. The more hit points a card has the more damage caused and the better the spell or item, the more chance you have at winning. My opponent’s cards in play can then be used to block and or counter these attacks.
The presentation is clear and easy to understand with a typically fantasy setting to fight within and a rabble of funky looking characters to choose from and battle against. In true Magic fashion all cards come with an image and numerical value of skills with everything looking crisp and sharp in HD – suddenly the want for this game on DS just subsided. DotP shamelessly does away with any form of plot or real story line and is about Planeswalkers (Magic‘s name for dueling opponents) kicking each other’s butts with increasingly better cards. A formula that works well as the inclusion of a story would have felt more pretentious than welcome. In single player mode you’re confronted with a list of Planeswalkers to fight with all but one locked. As I won battles, the next opponents became unlocked and ready to fight. If victorious, I would either get a new deck (if I beat a character with a deck I didn’t have, it would become available). In terms of difficulty, I found that the 3 settings were very similar and I could have it on easy or hard and still get the same results. This is because of what nearly all TCGs have in common – luck. If I was lucky then I’d get the right cards from my deck each turn to win the fight. If unlucky then the computer would always take advantage and kick my butt. There were times when I felt that it was a bit too coincidental that the computer had such a lucky streak and it was happening with greater consistency. But as I persevered I had my moments of luck and would power through 2 or 3 Planeswalkers at a time. A downside to all this is how I may have been able to unlock all these cards after all the battles but couldn’t make my own deck out of them. The most choice I had when it came to deck building was whether or not to include them in one of the varying elemental decks and which of these to use. I would have preferred it if I had the option to create a deck using a combination of all the elements on offer. It can be a big annoyance to TCG fans as its all part of how you play the game and the tactics used but the decks I had to choose from where decent enough to slightly make up for this.
M:TG-DotP is a lot of game for your money. With the single player modes come multiplayer duels across Xbox Live and even areas where more experienced players can tutor those who need a bit more help. The games last between 10 and 20 minutes and I always felt like playing more as soon as I finished one battle. It was very easy for me to lose hours into this game and losing matches didn’t bother me as much as it could have. I was always learning new strategies and seeing new cards to care, pressing A to play again if either I lost or won. For only 1000 MS points, Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers will give new and old fans of the genre something to keep them busy for a long time. I’m hooked being a lover of TCGs and introduced newcomer Tiamatini to the game, resulting in her losing sleep but winning cards – my guilt for keeping her up was replaced with a hint of smugness at the fact she loved it so much. And now she’s besting me at the game! Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers is definitely one to go back and buy.