At this point in the lifecycle of the Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers franchise, you pretty much know what you’re going to get for your $10 every year: a competent virtual representation of the hugely popular card game, complete with a limited number of decks and cards, a single player campaign, some challenges, and online multiplayer. With Magic 2014 they do change some things up, but for the most part, this is the same as Magic 2013.
Now, if you’ve played that last entry in the series, you’ll quickly notice a simplified start-up menu, with all the important stuff easily viewable from the get-go. Diving a little further in, the interface for battles has been tweaked slightly, certain rare cards have a little animation to them, and there are some new decks for you to unlock and play around with, with my personal favorites being Hunter’s Strength and Chant of the Mul Daya (I’m always a sucker for a green deck).
Other than that, you can expect your single player campaign to have three Encounters (enemies who follow the same pattern every single duel) always placed before the challenging Planeswalker. By having the same strategy come at you every single time, it does mean that after a loss or two there are no surprises in store and you could predict the entire match, which became quite boring. After you follow that three encounter then a Planeswalker order for a few hours and finally beat everyone though, the Revenge campain unlocks, placing you solely against tougher Planeswalkers, with zero Encounters, meaning that it’s just difficult battle after difficult battle, which I really enjoyed.
Of course, if you get bored of the single player campaign, there’s always a few challenges for you to tackle, which can be a nice distraction, if not head-scratching at times. As well, you’ll also find the multiplayer, which you can play free-for-all, two-headed giant, or Sealed Deck Play. Thankfully, I never ran into any connection issues with my time online, and when someone did rage quit, they were just replaced by an AI opponent.
Basically, everything in Magic 2014 feels like Magic 2013, but they did try to innovate at least a little bit by introducing Sealed Deck Play. This new mode has you being given a bunch of different booster packs, and then you must create a useable deck out of whatever you’re given. Unfortunately, since I was given so few cards at the beginning, creating a dual-color deck was an absolute must, which ruined any thoughts I had of creating a powerhouse green deck.
Once I got past that disappointment and took my black/green deck into Sealed Deck Play though, I noticed there were only six battles to partake in, which is a big let down and was cleared pretty quickly. Because of this, you’re basically forced to take your constructed deck online against other people.
For everyone who just skipped to the bottom of this review for a summary, here it is: Magic 2014 isn’t much of a sequel to Magic 2013 – more of an iteration – but it is more Magic, which is a good thing. I do hope the developers expand upon Sealed Deck Play and bring some sort of big innovation to Magic 2015 as the series does need it, but if you’re a fan of the series, it’s definitely worth downloading.
If, however, you’ve never played a Magic game before and want to see what all the fuss is about, Magic 2014 is a great jumping off point. There’s hours of dueling to be had for your $10, and Stainless Games always brings out an expansion pack a couple months after launch for $5, meaning you’ll have even more content to devour if you really like the experience. As a bit of warning though, the first patch for the game clocks in at 600MB, and the trophy list is, for lack of a better word, un-magical.