Author: Jason Jarusinsky, Collectible Card Game Editor
Stainless Games LTD
ESRB Rating: T for teen
Release Date: 06/26/2013
Version Reviewed: 2014 Release on Steam (Also available on Playstation Network,
I found Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (DoTP 2014) to be very enjoyable. A new version of this game is released by Wizards each summer in preparation for the release of their next Core Set of cards. DoTP 2014 made iterative improvements across all areas of the game. The animations were smoother, the sound design was excellent and the interface was overhauled nicely. (Editor’s note: This sounds like a perfect fit for a Magic: The Gathering game. This is what Wizards does with the card game does as part of its business model.)
The game is intended to be enjoyed by everyone in order to help spread interest in the card game itself. As a result, it accommodates all levels of experience with Magic: The Gathering (M:TG). Players are able to select their expertise level with the game which dictates the amount of hand-holding that players get. I experimented with them all, but ultimately chose to play through on the highest setting (“Planeswalker”). This allowed me to skip most of the tutorial sections that are otherwise mandatory. The lower the setting selected the more the game will walk you through the game set-up as well as the basics of how to play M:TG in general. This is an excellent way for a young player to get their feet wet and learn the game since they can learn at their own pace and can simply retry levels if they fail.
If a player has any experience with previous releases the game will seem very familiar, and allow for quick entry into whichever mode of gameplay that is chosen. I will detail these difference a little later on in my review.
The one drawback that I have experienced is that I have not found a way to upload all of the decks and cards that I had previously unlocked with Duel of the Planeswalkers 2013 within DoTP 2014. I have submitted a Support Request with Steam to see if this is possible and I have not located the functionality as of yet. As of the time of this review’s publishing I have not received a response, and will provide an update once I have received an answer. If this is not possible it would mean that any player who unlocked different decks and cards, or purchased foils or deck expansions would not have access to these within the 2014 version.
Another neat change in the DoTP 2014 release that was not present in the previous year is your story is narrated by Chandra Nalaar, one of the powerful Planeswalkers in the M:TG universe. Chandra is aligned with the element of Fire, and through campaign mode you are working with her to unravel a mystery. I found this to be a welcome change as it gave the game a more immersive feel as opposed to feeling just like an M:TG simulator.
If you have a multiple M:TG player household there is an option that can bring up to 4 players together to determine your household bragging rights: Multi-Player! Each player would need to be on a separate Steam Log-in and have their own copy of the game; however once you do each person can be invited and choose from any of the decks that they have unlocked to play with your family! This one option itself has countless hours of fun potential. If you think that this might be a costly endeavor think of it this way. If you were taking a family of four to the movies for a weekend release you would be paying upwards of $40 for tickets plus concessions, and after your 2 to 3 hour film ends there is no further return upon your investment. Now for the same $40 you can purchase 4 copies of the game, and have as many hours of multi-player games as you desire. Plus as an added bonus with each purchase of the game you receive a code for an alternate art foil card for the trading card game. The card that this reviewer received a voucher for is Scavenging Ooze. Now as of this review the card price for the original is over $8.00. So if you have your four copies of the game the players of the trading card game in the house receive up to $32 of product to add to their collection. Not a bad deal at all if you ask me.
Family Gaming Assessment:
This game is rated T for teen by the ESRB. The vast majority of this rating is derived from the artwork on several of the cards (many of them are somewhat macabre) and the themes expressed in the story mode. If you are concerned about your skittish child being upset by some fo the card art, then it is worth doing a google search for DoTP 2014 cards. Flipping through the various images will give you an idea.
As I touched on earlier every player has the option to choose their level of expertise at the very beginning of the game. So even if you have someone who has never played the game there are visual and auditory tutorials that will walk the player through every aspect of the game. In addition there are tool-tip that pop up regardless of your expertise to help remind you of certain aspects of gameplay. In addition the control menu explains what each keystroke accomplishes within a match. As a player becomes more comfortable with their level of experience the tips can be turned off which speeds up gameplay.
As one might imagine with a computer port of a card game, there is a lot of reading to be done. If your child has trouble reading things quickly under pressure, then this might not be the best game for them.
DoTP 2014 has challenges for every player. From the basic story mode to challenges that have you needing to find your way out of seemingly Impossible situations. Even the most savvy M:TG veteran will have their skills put to the test.
I would absolutely recommend Magic Duel of the Planeswalkers 2014 as an addition to any families gaming library. The price point certainly makes even buying multiple copies affordable, and the multi-player option makes family replay value high. I look forward to exploring deeper into the content, and maybe I will see you for a duel on Steam if you are up for the challenge!