Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers Review

July 21, 2014 by

Magic: The Gathering is undoubtedly a fantastic game, but the way in which the game is presented in Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers makes for a bland experience that takes advantage of the annual release format.

Developer: Stainless Games
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Review Platform: PC (Steam)
Review Copy Provided ByWizards of the Coast
Release Date: July 16, 2014

Magic 2015: Duels of the Planeswalkers is the fifth entry in the video game version of the most popular card game on the market. The series has stood as a fantastic stepping stone for new players to learn the game, and for long time players to be able to play when their friends weren’t around. Magic 2015 remains that, though it’s incredibly poorly conceived, especially considering just how playable all previous entries have been.

Upon launching the game through Steam, I noticed the game was playing at a 4:3 ratio, not what my monitor is set up for. Going into the settings, I saw the option to change the game’s ratio, so I chose 16:9. It wouldn’t allow me to choose the resolution, so I figured the game would run at the max resolution my monitor would allow. I was wrong and found that it was playing at a resolution better fitted for a ten-year-old phone. In order for the game to play at the proper resolution, I had to exit the game, go into the game’s folder and manually change the configuration file.

M15 Duels - Steam 1
The minimalist aesthetic approach works fine in menus.

Granted, this could very well be a rare issue for most players, but I also have to imagine that I’m not alone. If someone less capable than I had launched the game, they’d probably still be playing at a lower resolution than they can be. This isn’t exactly game-breaking, of course, but when purchasing a game that is not in beta or alpha form, one would expect the game to at least allow players to start the game at the proper ratio and resolution. This aside, the game ran fairly well. I ran into one or two small technical hiccups (the narration ended earlier than it should have).

From the beginning of the game you’re welcomed to an ass-ugly user interface (UI) that is, understandably, aesthetically similar to the box sets of physical cards that were just released on Friday. You’re greeted with a stark white and black screen with few colors popping here and there. This isn’t so bad considering it’s the main menu, however when you begin to play a match, you’re not  playing on a table or anything that seems to resemble one. No, instead you’re faced with a white background with some grey geometric shapes along the edge and sometimes a red stripe. It’s a minimalist approach that may have been designed specifically to look cool or interesting, but in fact it does not. It’s extremely unappealing.

The black and white is absurdly boring during battles.
The black and white is absurdly boring during battles.

Beginning the single-player portion is a very well-designed and planned out tutorial. It superbly describes the benefits and advantages of each color and the specific abilities several of the cards have. This goes a long way to introduce the unfamiliar with card game that goes on to become much deeper and more difficult than the tutorial will lead you to believe. This might be the only complaint I can lob at Magic 2015′s tutorial. You’re thrust into a game that is much more complex and, at times, frustrating than the initial introduction would lead you to believe. However, this complaint is extremely minor.

Once you’re actually allowed into the single-player campaign, you’re met with the aforementioned ugly-as-hell table top. Each turn has several stages that are well-explained in the tutorial which include laying down mana cards and creature cards which are then used to attack the opposing player. The other player can of course block your attacks with creatures of his own, but that’s not always strategically the best move, as you’ll need them for attacking later. The base card game with Magic 2015 is so damn good that it’s insanely difficult to judge Magic 2015 so harshly.

The ability to build your own deck is a huge draw of Magic 2015.
The ability to build your own deck is a huge draw of Magic 2015.

The game at the center of Magic 2015 is no where near the product’s biggest issue, but it’s how it’s all presented. It’s completely lacking in features, featuring only a single-player campaign and multiplayer. For some unknown reason, there’s a popular game mode from previous iterations of the Magic games that’s completely missing. There’s a rather disturbing number of micro-transactions that make the game a pay-to-win type of game. Yes, this might work in the actual card game, but not in the world of PC gaming.

To make matters worse, Magic 2015 is no longer the only big digital card game. Hearthstone is, in many ways, the same game, though it does seem to lack many of the pieces of MTG that make it better. But Hearthstone isn’t a game that seems interested in nickel-and-diming it’s audience. If there was ever a time that Wizards of the Coast should have released a truly great MTG game, it was now, to show that Hearthstone was not a replacement for MTG, but rather a lower-quality alternative. Instead we’re left with a sub-par Magic: The Gathering game that is a huge step backwards from previous iterations.

Review Overview

2/5

The game found beneath the muck of Magic 2015 is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding card games in existence. It's simply too bad that the card game is unable to hold up the weight of a poorly constructed video game.

About Tyler Nope

Tyler lives in the Portland, OR area with his wife and cat. He loves pizza, comic books, and video games.