Magic 2015 - Duels of the Planeswalkers (Xbox 360) Reviews

AuthorReview
XI AlphaMale IX
770,617 (395,428)
XI AlphaMale IX
TA Score for this game: 712
Posted on 20 July 14 at 16:14
This review has 35 positive votes and 12 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
As a longtime Magic player and collector, I've always felt like I was playing a dumbed down version of my favorite card game when I booted up my Xbox. That feeling is gone with Stainless's latest installment of Duels of the Planeswalkers. If you're hooked on paper Magic, it's laughable how much content you're about to get for your money with Magic 2015. Still, something is missing. Okay, a lot is missing.

Deck building is here! You're thrown a bone at the beginning of the game by picking some colors you like and getting a premade deck. The rest of the cards, you'll acquire through playing the campaign. And you get actual booster packs, not just one lousy preset card. Once you hit a certain amount of each rarity, 4 for common, 3 for uncommon, 2 for rare, and 1 for mythic rare, you've maxed out your ability to collect those cards. This makes it so the game is very wide open as to what you can build, but doesn't allow anything to be crushingly overpowered. You can fully build any decks with any colors, limited to the cards you've acquired. Filters make it easy to find, pick, and choose exactly what you're looking for to create the deck you want. Some might call it grindy to acquire all the cards in the campaign, but if you enjoy Magic enough, the planeswalker difficulty puts up a decent fight. I found it a little easy, but much of that is because of experience. Online duels are going to challenge you much more. There's another way to unlock cards, as well. We'll get to that.

So, let's talk about the online multiplayer section of the game. Here's where we lose a bunch of content. Two-headed Giant is completely gone, which is extremely disappointing. Sealed is gone. Archenemy is gone. Planechase is gone. It's free-for-all or nothing. Honestly, that sucks. The lack of modes in multiplayer is a devastating blow to this iteration. You'll still have fun playing against other people online, especially now that you have very little idea what deck build your opponent has created. So, there is some upside in the multiplayer area of the game. It's just very overshadowed by what's been left out. I always felt slightly annoyed that the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2HG rules didn't match the paper game's rules. I sure wish I had those slightly broken rules back now, though. If you want 2HG, you'll have to stick with 2014.

Duels of the Planeswalkers has been buggy since the very first version was released. Surprisingly, it hasn't gotten much better in that department. Stainless can never seem to get all the bugs out of this game. Still, the bugs in the first couple of games left certain aspects completely broken. I haven't noticed anything that breaks the game rule-wise, although you will, once again, experience freezing issues. Even the menus in 2015 are buggy. I find myself pressing A four or fives times for the game to recognize I pressed anything. The game adds cutscenes, which could have been pretty cool, but even those are filled with sound bugs and choppiness.

At the heart of it all, though, it's still Magic. You'll still have fun pumping up creatures and slinging Instants against AI or with some friends online. With almost 300 cards to play with, and full customization finally implemented, you'll have a lot to do and plenty to keep unlocking. Unless...

There is a price to pay for having full deck customization. Literally. Wizards of the Coast and Stainless have taken the low road that annoys most everyone: microtransactions. By debiting some of your hard-earned cash, you can skip grinding out the cards and just buy booster packs or entire blocks. To me, that makes the game less fun. Fortunately, I haven't found any reason to pay for anything additional. I can get all the cards I want by playing the campaign. And as much as microtransactions seem to be detrimental to the challenge and fun-factor of earning it all yourself through playing, the prices are relatively cheap. If you've spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the paper game, it really is funny how much playability you can get for your money. Personally, I'm happy with the content of the game itself and earning the cards on my own, but if you want to skip it and buy them, the option is there.

The graphics are pretty much the same as always. Again, there are cutscenes now. Seeing Garruk and Jace talk to me was actually pretty cool, but it's nothing super-exciting. The sound is as clunky as ever, although the music is as good as ever. You'll still get a small variety of semi-epic tunes to which you'll be listening while you play. Replayability is high, with lots of cards to unlock and a near endless amount of customization. The "meat" of the game is still Magic, and it's still fun. There's actually a very thorough tutorial that is great for new Magic players. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it's also unskippable.

All in all, you're getting Magic and the ability to play Magic with people from around the world for a small fraction of what it costs to collect Magic in real life. Without regretting my purchase one bit, I still can't help but feel like there is so much missing. If Two-headed Giant doesn't make a return in 2016, Stainless will probably really start to lose people's interest in the Duels of the Planeswalkers series. The addition of what you can do with cards now is great; the subtraction of how you can play with those cards is abysmal.
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Danny Dubs 86
1,044,024 (559,980)
Danny Dubs 86
TA Score for this game: 868
Posted on 23 July 14 at 15:44
This review has 10 positive votes and 4 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Originally posted on my blog at http://takeaimandgame.blogspot.com/

Let's be honest: Magic: The Gathering is an expensive hobby. Competitive decks can cost $200+, and even acquiring the collection to build casual decks can run into the triple digits. The cost combined with the expansive (and continually growing) set of rules and interactions can be a daunting obstacle to anyone interested in the game.

Over the past few years, the annual update of Duels of the Planeswalkers has served as an excellent, low-cost introduction to the game. For about $15 you've been able to get a nice little Magic package: sleek stand-alone games with nice tutorials, several interesting pre-constructed decks, and a few hundred hand-picked cards (of more than ten thousand from Magic's history) that showcase some of the game's more popular mechanics.

Historically, most Magic veterans would point interested newcomers to the most recent iteration of Duels of the Planeswalkers to get their feet wet.

That may not be such a great idea this year.

DotP 2015 takes a big step forward with its fully customizable deck building, but it takes a couple colossal steps back in other ways - terrible starting decks raise the barrier for entry for new players, and fewer game modes mean advanced players won't find nearly as much content as previous versions.

Let's start at the beginning:

When you first start the game, you'll be lead directly into a tutorial. This introduction to Magic is essentially an interactive lecture, and it's about as good a lesson on the basics as you're going to get unless you sit down and talk to a veteran player. For that purpose, DotP is still unparalleled.

After covering the basic mechanics, the game lets you choose your starting deck. Veteran planeswalkers will recognize the choices as each of Ravnica's guilds, but their basic strategies are also described in plain English. Again, it's a good way to ease newer players into this complicated game.

But that's where it all falls apart. The game is ultimately built around unlocking new cards to improve your decks as you progress, so the starting decks are particularly weak. The final tutorial duel, which is a straight-up game against an AI-controlled deck letting you see the rules in action, is hard. The AI's deck is just better than yours, and I could only progress into the rest of the game (I couldn't figure out any way to skip this tutorial battle) after reducing the difficulty to the lowest setting and retrying until my opponent had terrible draws. It's an absolutely unreasonable barrier to enter the majority of the game.

Things only get marginally better from there. The single-player portion of the game consists of a sequence of themed enemy decks covering some of Magic's iconic locations and characters. After each win, you'll be rewarded with a virtual booster pack, which will add a handful of new cards to your collection.

Those duels will be a struggle until you get a fair number of new cards, though. It's the same problem as in the tutorial - your starting deck is weaker than the decks you'll face, which means you'll need to win through superior luck in the first several matches of the game. It gets better as you go along, but it's certainly an uphill battle.

Once you've unlocked a good fraction of the nearly 1,000 cards (including copies) available in-game, you'll find a pretty nice Magic constructed format awaiting. With fully customizable deck building, your collection allows for a wide variety of archetypes. It seems like there are a number of solid decks, so I imagine the multiplayer side will develop an interesting metagame. Taking your deck online to battle other mages is definitely the highlight of the game, and with the customization available, it's a ton of fun.

However, I imagine that this system will be tough for new players. In previous DotP titles, the available decks were more or less at the same power level, with only relatively minor modifications being possible. Here, it's entirely on you to put together a decent deck to be competitive because the starting decks are terrible. If you haven't already developed rudimentary deck building skills, you're not going to get a whole lot of help from the game.

I suspect the deck building feature makes this version of DotP much less accessible newbies, which is exactly the opposite of what DotP has historically been about.

Given the emphasis on deck building, I would have expected the process of building a deck to be a lot smoother. The deck builder uses the same format as previous games, showing available cards in one row and the cards included in your deck on another. You can apply some filters that make things more manageable, but you're still only able to see a handful of cards on the screen at a time, so it's hard to get a holistic picture of the deck you've thrown together. Add the sluggishness of the whole process (scrolling through the cards can be tedious) and the process of building your deck is a bit of a chore.

Another downside deals with the cards you can use in deck building. To start, many of the cards you'll play against in the single-player game aren't available, so you'll see some cool ideas that you'll never be able to use yourself. There are also a number of "premium" cards that can only be unlocked through microtransactions giving you premium booster packs. Those cards aren't oppressively powerful by any means, but it's annoying not to be able to access all the cards just for the price of admission.

The menu system is also abysmal. Loading times are long, and important features are buried in several layers of menus. The worst offender is without a doubt changing your active deck: instead of being able to change your deck while in a multiplayer lobby (you know, if you decide you want to try one of the other decks you've put together), you have to back out to the main menu, enter the "deck equipping" menu, choose the deck you want, back out to the main menu, and re-enter your multiplayer lobby. It's an arduous task for doing something that should have been very simple, and it's just the most egregious example of poor design.

Another frustrating point is the surprising lack of game modes. If you want to play DotP 2015, you're stuck playing duels and free-for-alls. There are no casual formats like two-headed giant or archenemy like in previous iterations of the DotP franchise. They even omitted the challenge mode from previous games that gave you a game scenario and asked you to find a way to win on your next turn. Those challenges were cool Magic puzzles, but there's nothing like that here.

The achievement list isn't too bad, as most can be obtained with some patience and/or a good guide or two. The one exception is 100 multiplayer wins, which can easily take well over 10 hours, even if you're boosting it. It's still not hard; it's just time-consuming.

In the end, you get a fantastic explanation of Magic's basics and a frustrating process for unlocking cards that eventually leads to a thoroughly enjoyable multiplayer game. But this fully-customizable deck building came at a significant cost, as many previous features of the series have been omitted, and newer planeswalkers may find the barrier to entry to be a little too high.

As a result, I actually think that this year's Duels of the Planeswalkers is better suited to regular Magic players. If you're already familiar with Magic and you can trudge through the tedium of the single-player features, this is a decent online Magic game with a pseudo-Standard format. If you're looking for a way to introduce a friend to the game, however, you're much better off looking to previous versions.

My Rating: 6/10 - decent.

(For more info on my rating system, including overall stats, see http://takeaimandgame.blogspot.com/p/reviews.html)
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Exalted Entity
492,211 (287,080)
Exalted Entity
TA Score for this game: 11
Posted on 24 December 14 at 21:45
This review has 8 positive votes and 4 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Magic 2015 is the 5th game in that installment of Magic: The Gathering games. It came out on November 5th, of 2014 on the Xbox One, which is just under 4 months of time since the Xbox 360 version was released.


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This card game is all about control. Controlling your opponents' decisions, controlling the field, controlling the cards, and most importantly, the feature that sets this game apart from all the other Magic games released on the Xbox consoles, controlling the way you build your deck. And also, what type of mana do you want to control? Fear not, you can control every type of mana in this game as there are double and triple mana colour cards. This Magic game allows you to gain the most amount of control in what type of deck you want to build not only because they do not restrict you in card choices, but also because you can earn or buy (yes, there is a micro-transaction system where you can buy all of the cards if you do not want to spend a really long time looking for them all) a vast plethora of cards that span nearly all that were created for the plot. This game was definitely designed to put you in charge of your own destiny.

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This game takes away the restrictive nature of the previous games and lets you control your own deck and build it to it's fullest glory. But, for every darkness, there is always a chaotic light. Always a yang for a yin. While you do not get forced to have a deck and solve many complex puzzles and use mathematical skills to build a deck that is just handed to you, you still have to choose a starting deck. If that starting deck is not something you are good at playing, you are not going to get far in the story, unless you buy booster packs. Of course, you can always go with the White / Green deck (Heed the Call), which is powerful because of the little creatures, the enchantments, and the army amassing that the Green deck is famous for. And if you go this path, you can build one of the best decks possible, by removing most or all of the green, you can build a full white exalted deck with enchantments.

This game also has a very comprehensive tutorial that takes you through the basic game mechanics, and allows you to make choices during certain scenarios, such as heavily attacking and being left defenseless, and vice versa.

The game mechanics flow, the story is beautiful as always, the illustrations are always top class, and there is not much more to be asked from a Magic game.... except for multiplayer.

The Multiplayer is pretty decent, it allows you to play in private mode or in ranked mode. You can play 1 v 1, 1 v 1 v 1, and 2 v 2. The only difference this time is that you can't play that one mode that they had made available for a while where you can play 1 v 2. Also, just as important, the achievements can be earned in private games, as well as the challenges.

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While on the topic of achievements, the entire game can be done on the easiest difficulty, so new players have nothing to worry about, while the more trained players can put it on the hardest difficulty and survive the gauntlet.

The music isn't anything special, but it's not meant to be. Some people might like heavy metal playing while playing a card game, but for others, it would be a distraction. And so, the nice background music is just perfect for the card game setting.


This game offers much more of the full magic experience than any of the previous games. It allows you to build your own deck, and collect your own cards. If you do not like to spend too much time finding cards, it also gives you the option to buy the cards to speed up the process and make the game more fun. The story, gameplay, and mechanics deliver exactly what magic players expect, and the artwork of the cards is as amazing as expected. Achievements can be earned in multiplayer either in ranked or private mode, and in singleplayer on any difficulty, so the game is not a challenge to complete. Single player mode will go through opponents that play as AI, and ones that repeat the exact same pattern each time. Multiplayer mode consists or private and ranked games for 1 v 1, 1 v 1 v 1, and 2 v 2. They trimmed out the 1 v 2 mode though, which is a shame.

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Achievements: 5/5
Game Mechanics : 5/5
Background Music: 5/5
Illustrations: 5/5
Story: 5/5

Overall: 5/5
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