събота, 3 октомври 2015 г.

Magic: Duels - Free mana for everybody!

Some of you might be following me for long enough to know that I'm big fan of Magic: The Gathering. Most of you probably even know what the game is about, but for those who have no idea I will start a bit further back.

Twenty-two, almost twenty three years ago the thirty years old Richard Garfield with the help of Wizards of the Coast published what is accepted as the first CCG game - Magic: The Gathering. The success of MTG was so big that it continues even today with new sets coming every year. Not to mention that the game inspired a ton of other card games.

But what Magic is actually? This is a game in which two or more wizards clash into a duel, fighting by summoning mystical creatures and using devastating spells. For this purpose they use different types of mana that they drew from the surrounding nature. What all this have to do with video games though?

After their huge success on paper in 1997 Wizards tried their hands on video games with some doubtful success until the coming of Duels of the Planeswalkers in 2009 and in 2011. Since then we see new DoP every year. The games focus only on the card gameplay usually featuring short single-player campaign and option for multiplayer over the internet. The other rather successful video game about MTG is the online version of the classic.

Until the release of Magic: Duels though all Magic games costed money. Duels is absolutely free. I guess you can look at it as Wizards Heartstone. Although this comparison is unfair as the two games are quite different in their core gameplay. But for sake of simplicity we will work with it.

Now let's look in more details what Dules have to offer and what it lacks. On launch the game features the new Battle of Zendikar card set. This is quite cool as you will be able to try new cards and strategies for free. Of course you will not start with all cards from the set. You will have to... gather them (do you see what I did huh?). But if it wasn't this way what fun it will be, what CCG it will be right? Getting more cards works by getting boosters. You will be rewarded few while completing the single player campaign and after that with duelling you will earn coins which will allow you to buy more boosters. I'm sure you already suspect it, so I'll just confirm your suspicions - In Duels also you will be able to buy in-game currency (coins) with real money. I'll say no more about it, take it as what it is - a fact. There is a lot written on the topic so I'll not make this article longer than it should be by talking about this. 

Similar to Hearthstone Duels also has daily quests which should be completed with different two colour decks. What Duels has that I have not seen in other similar game are the Community quests. This type of quests continues one week and all people playing the game can take part in it by contributing for completing the threshold of the quest. It's objective usually is something like "Play 10 000 Instant cards". If the quest is completed and you contributed to it, when its over you get the reward for it. This is great way for both helping new players and keeping the game experience fresh and new, because those quests are always different from the Daily ones.

But there is more! Unlike its predecessors Duels also features variety of play modes. I already mentioned one of them - the Campaign. You can also play versus AI with several difficulty settings. Against opponents online and the star of the group - The Two Headed Giant. This is a mode in which two players stand against two others and work in a team to achieve a win. I tried it and I must say that it is really fun and cool. There is small problem with its balance when the game matches you with an AI so it might be a good idea always to have some to play it with. You can even play offline although playing this way the game will not save your progress and you will not be able to earn coins

And I almost forgot Duels continues the tradition of Magic games with great, detailed tutorials which will lead you through every aspect of the game. This is important because Magic is a hard and complicated game and without proper tutorial it will easily turn away every new player who might try it. There is even deckbuilding helper which will help you make your first decks. In other words this is probably the best way to get into Magic!

All this said Duels also inherited some of its predecessor’s problems.  For example it still looks terrible. I mean the "battlefield" which you will look at in 90% of your time playing the game. It is just huge metal table (steel I guess after all it’s developed by Stainless Steel Studios.). Always! If not else it breaks the immersion of the game. You are nor feeling like summoning those great beasts and using cool spells. You feel like just playing cards to the table. Where is the fun in that? Very few other digital CCG games have blank boards like that. Not to mention that some are trying to bring the genre even further by combining it with fully fledged MMO mechanics.

Other big downfall of the game is its speed. Duels as every Planeswalkers before it is slow. This is mostly a result of its animations and the fact that MTG is a slow game to begin with. Here some of you will say " Well but Magic is Magic and with all the strategies and stuff you cannot play it faster.". I disagree strongly. Other digital CCGs like Infinity Wars and HEX which are not lighter by any means play a lot faster. And look a lot better!

The only explanation I can come up with is that Wizards don't want to change something that obviously works and will continue to make their MTG games this way as long as people continue to buy them. Now I can understand that. The game has existed in this form for 4-6 years already and usually it’s not good idea to change something that works. My problem with that is the fact that they don't use what the possibilities that digital technologies give them and by doing this they may fall behind other games on the market.


I have babbled enough. Let me now sum up everything until now. Magic: Duels is brave step in innovative direction for Wizards of the Coast. With it they will probably try to take place in the race of free-to-play CCGs. But while it definitely has a lot to offer like Daily quests and various game modes including the great Two Headed Giant. My hope for this game is that they will continue updating it with new sets and that they will implement more single player campaigns. Sadly Duels is far from perfect. And to make it worse, MD has inherited some flaws from its predecessors. Like the boring look and slow gameplay which puts it behind its competitors on the market. 

Still, still! If you can look over those flaws Duels is without doubt the best way to get into Magic: The Gahtering.


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