Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015 (DotP 2015) is the latest iteration in the series of games from Wizards of the Coast bringing Magic: The Gathering to PC users. The game, developed by Stainless Games, seeks to introduce new players to the game, while giving existing players another way to play Magic online.
DotP uses the existing Magic rule set; each player starts with 20 life and must use their mana to summon creatures and conjure spells to reduce the opponent’s life to 0. There are 5 different colours and each combination of them allows for a different style of deck to be created, from aggressive, to controlling, to combo and everything in between. How you create your deck is entirely up to you.
As with past versions, the campaign sees the player traverse multiple Planes in the Magic Multiverse, battling foes in search of information on how to find the end boss – in this case Garruk, a planeswalker intent on hunting others, having been cursed by a powerful artifact. The storyline is more compelling than prior games and ties in well with the storyline for the physical product and makes battling through the campaign more fluid and engaging, as opposed to a random series of battles with occasional boss fights.
In the past, each new version of DotP has introduced a new feature, from Archenemy and Planechase modes to 2014’s Sealed Play. Last year’s Sealed Play mode proved to be very popular with players, because it allowed freedom of deck building, rather than merely adjusting some cards from pre-built decks. As a result, DotP 2015 is based entirely on this philosophy.
At the start of the game, players choose from 1 of 10 starter decks, and as they progress through the campaign, each victory awards a booster pack. These booster packs contain new cards which can be used to amend the starter deck, or make a new deck entirely – players are free to create a deck using all five colours if they wish. In theory, the system replicates last year’s Sealed Play mode and improves on the old method of beating bosses to unlock new pre-made decks. However, the result is something somehow worse than both.
“You never win every game you play in Magic” is a lesson you learn early, but on the hardest difficulty, this lesson is taken to extremes. However, this isn’t to say the game is unbeatable on hard mode, players should just be prepared to concede and restart duels more often than is entertaining. Unfortunately, on lower levels this is remedied by the enemy often doing nonsensical things, like making your creature bigger for no reason at all.
The major reason for the difficulty is that players are locked into their starting deck choice. The rate at which new cards are unlocked, without repeating victories, doesn’t scale with the increasing difficulty of enemies. In past games, if a match was difficult, you could switch to a different pre-built deck with a different style of play to give yourself more advantage. In DotP 2015, grinding out enough wins to create another deck is very time consuming.
DotP has also done away with some features from previous versions. The challenges, which many dearly loved have gone completely (hopefully to return in DLC?), as has the two-headed giant mode in multiplayer. Multiplayer itself is only unlocked after completing the first section of the campaign, though battling with your underpowered deck against those that have ground their way to more synergistic builds probably wouldn’t be that compelling.
DotP 2015 has taken several steps forward by allowing players freedom of deck building and an absorbing storyline. However, the microtransactions and grindy nature of the game have eroded away its initial charm. In conjunction with the lack of content and removal of popular modes, DotP 2015 has ultimately taken more steps backward than forward. There is however, always the hope that the issues, all of which are eminently fixable, will be remedied in the expansions.
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