CGRundertow MAGIC: THE GATHERING DUELS OF THE PLANESWALKERS 2013 for Xbox 360 Video Game Review

I’ve never been much for annual-release
sports games. I’ve got my NBA JAM, I’ve got my NHL ‘94, I’ve got my Blitz and
Super Bases Loaded. My bases are covered. So why is it that, when Wizards of the Coast
punches out each year’s Magic: the Gathering release, I’m so quick to jump on board?
A few things: first, much like with the Yu-Gi-Oh release I discussed last year, I’d much
rather spend $10 on the equivalent of 10 full decks than try to piece them together myself,
mythic rare by mythic rare. Second, football players – for the most part – all work the
same, while this year’s decks may play wildly differently than last year’s. Finally…
Magic’s a rather rules-heavy game, and the easiest way for grognards like me – who remember
Interrupts, Mana Source as a spell type, and ante cards – is to play a digital simulation,
hard-coded with all the latest errata and whatnot. Magic’s always had a rich, expansive backstory,
reduced to pieces of cardboard with numbers and price tags. So you can either see this
game as the tale of a planeswalker rising to power by striking down adversary after
adversary before gunning for the Elder Dragon Legend Nicol Bolas… or that you’re flopping
cards down on a weird glowing table in order to unlock more cards. In any event, you can
choose from 10 decks of 60 cards (and 30 unlockable cards) each, with a card unlocked after each
victory. So, minimum 300 wins to obtain everything… and if that seems kinda absurd, they’re
perfectly willing to sell you “keys” that fully unlock a deck of your choice… for
a buck a pop. They’ll even throw in the first one for free, if you already bought
Magic 2012! How kind. There’s the usual campaign mode, a revenge campaign, a very
weird “Planechase” campaign (kinda like the Archenemy battles in 2012) and the standard
spate of puzzles to solve. There’s plenty of game here for your ten bucks. One of the advantages of playing this version
of Magic over the actual cardboard version is basic logistics. You can’t run out of
counters or tokens, you can’t forget to cast a Rebounded spell, and all the strange
effects and costs in the unfamiliar but entertaining Planechase mode are kept in order for you.
The primary issues now are some framerate stalls, and some general difficulties with
the UI itself with regards to timing and moving your “cursor” looking thing. If you played
earlier versions of the game, you know of the weird AI quirks, and the automatically-tapping
lands sometimes ended up screwing you over in particularly tight circumstances. Well,
no longer. If you’re using a multicolor deck, you can now take matters into your own
hands, and that means any such stupidity is your own fault. You’ve been warned. Still,
a mass of single-player and online multiplayer content, including piles of interesting rares
and diverse game modes (Two-headed Giant! Woo!)… all for less than the cost of a starter
deck? It’s not rocket science, despite what those CMU folks might tell you.

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