There have been many Magic: The Gathering video games released since the card game arrived in the early 90s. But aside from Magic Online (where you buy digital cards), the best representation of the game in recent years has been Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers. Microprose did a pretty decent digital representation of the game in the late 90s, but Duels of the Planeswalkers was a pure dueling game. While you had to use pre-constructed decks and there wasn’t a real deck builder; it was still the best Magic video game available.
After selling about half a million copies via digital downloads on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Steam; it was no surprise when a new 2012 edition was announced. Featuring a better interface, engine optimization (duels load a lot faster now), new cards, new decks, a revised campaign mode, and a new Archenemy mode; the game is a worthy update to a great adaptation of Magic: The Gathering and the $10 asking price is less than the cost of a deck of cards.
One of the first things you’ll notice when you start the game is that the campaign mode is now represented by a branching “map” with major duels (that usually reward a deck) represented by a portrait of the Planeswalker and optional duels branching off from the main path. One change from the original game is that the challenges are no longer a separate part of the game, they’re now unlocked as optional diversions in the main campaign map.
Another huge improvement this year is the ability to remove unwanted cards from decks. You’re still required to remain within the deck theme and can only add cards that have been unlocked for that deck, but it’s a very welcome improvement from the original where the decks may have become a bit too large for some people’s tastes. It’s not the deck manager most people want, but it’s a start.
The new Archenemy mode can be played with computer players or online. This is the gametype where one player is the Archenemy with additional health and abilities and multiple players team up to take him down. It’s a fun diversion, but I personally prefer standard one-on-one duels or the occasional two-headed giant match. You can play free-for-all, two-headed giant, or Archenemy either against the computer or online against other players.
Other improvements are small, but very welcome. The whole interface has received an upgrade, and it’s especially apparent in a duel where the timer and phase labels are done much better. I’ve noticed some very minor UI glitches when specific combat things were going on, but it was rare and will likely be quickly patched out.
Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 is a strong upgrade from the original game, and for its price you really can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a quick Magic fix before Friday Night Magic or a weekend tournament. You can download it now off of XBLA, PSN, or Steam for about $10. A Special Edition with foils and other bonuses is also available on Steam for $20.