Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 was developed by Stainless Games and Wizards of the Coast and published by Microsoft Studios. It retails for $9.99 and was released on July 16, 2014. A copy was provided for review purposes.
Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 is this year’s digital Magic: The Gathering card game. Since 2011, Stainless Games has produced four substantially fun, challenging and balanced games. Magic 2015 is quite a different experience, and there are some amazing new features that players have asked for since the first game was released. Unfortunately, the phrase most suitable for the changes to 2015 is “be careful what you wish for.”
Here’s what we liked:
Build-a-deck – For the first time in the Duels series players are able to fully craft a deck from their card collections. Previously, the only option was to play pre-constructed decks and alter them slightly throughout the game with more powerful cards. This is something that has been requested by players since the first game, and it would have been an amazing option if applied to any of the previous games. Here there are limiting factors, and players are essentially restricted to a set of two colors for the first half or more of the game.
Collection section – The collection feels like an actual magic collection – cards are difficult to acquire, seem valuable and powerful cards cost real money. In Magic 2015 players will have the opportunity to experience building a collection if they are willing to spend money on it, which is what the real physical trading card game is all about. Certain players want this kind of experience, but it certainly isn’t what the Duels of the Planeswalkers series has offered previously.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Pay to Play – To build a substantially powerful deck, players will need to spend real money beyond the $9.99 base game. There are a substantial number of micro-transactions available, including cards that can only be purchased for real money and are not possible to obtain otherwise. It feels like a cash grab, and it is a complete disaster compared to the structure of the previous games where the entire library was obtainable through game play. The cards and packs aren’t cheap either – $2.99 per virtual booster pack is obscene considering the fact that a physical pack of cards retails for $3.99. These digital cards can’t be traded or sold like physical cards or Magic Online (Magic’s PC-based full cost online service) cards.
Store Bore – Spending time in an in-game store is boring, and ultimately very infuriating. There are an infinite number of ways to spend more than 10 times the $9.99 purchase price in the store, and many challenges that require you to increase your power level by purchasing cards and packs. The pack opening process is not nearly as pleasing when you are shelling out money, especially when packs were part of the game in every previous title.
Fix it until it’s broken – Not only did the purchasing and deck building systems really fail to provide a pleasurable experience, the game has been stripped down to its bare bones. Previous versions had amazing varieties of game types after the campaign, including Arch-enemy, Planechase and the extremely popular Two-Headed Giant (the only way for two players to play against two others). Two-Headed Giant was one of the most popular modes, since players could sit together in the living room or play together from across the world. Despite thousands of comments, tweets and forum posts petitioning to include the mode, it was still left out intentionally and was called a “niche” format. There are no extra formats in 2015. The game is also plagued with bugs and crashes, and our experience included many of these issues.
The gameplay itself on the Xbox 360 is poor. During the review process there were over six complete freezes experienced, two of which completely wiped wins that had granted achievements, forcing the replay of tedious challenges. The previous versions also had options to speed up animations so the game didn’t drag on, but in 2015 those options have been removed. It’s as if they removed the functionality in order to add bugs and issues.
This is one of those unfortunate situations where a game that has been quite solid takes a nose dive into the pit that is micro-transactions. It’s unclear whether this is a case of intentional greed or rather a developer listening to certain requests while ignoring their already successful formula. In either case, this game is the worst Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers release yet, and it ultimately feels like an incomplete experience.
Score: Skip it