July 6, 2009

704 words 4 mins read

Review: Magic: the Gathering (Xbox 360)

A little while back, Magic: the Gathering — Duel of the Planeswalkers was released on Xbox Live Arcade. Seeing as how Jon and I had both played the card game at various points in our lives, we decided we should try it out; thankfully, like all games available on Xbox Live Arcade, there was a free demo. After enjoying the demo for an hour or so, we both ended up getting the game, particularly the idea of getting to team up against either the computer or other players (mostly the former, the latter is less appealing as neither of us particularly care for random people.

A little about the game… for the normal part of the game, you start with access to two decks, Hands of Flame (red) and Teeth of the Predator (green). As you progress through the game you are able to unlock 6 more decks in the following order:

  1. Wings of Light — White

  2. Thoughts of Wind — Blue

  3. Eye of Shadow — Black

  4. Ears of the Elves — Black and Green

  5. Claws of Vengeance — White Red Green

  6. Scales of Fury — Black Red Green

Each of these decks are incomplete. All the single color decks have 17 cards to unlock (one unlocks after each victory), while the multicolor decks have only 15; combined with the 36 base cards for each deck, this eventually gives you a total of 82 cards with a monocolor deck, and 80 cards for the multicolor decks.

In addition to just playing some Magic, they have a few “Challenges”, which anyone who has ever seen one of the puzzles inside the Duelist might recognize. In fact, the first achievement is named after Mark Rosewater’s book, Magic the Puzzling. There were only 8 of the challenges, which really wasn’t enough for me, but hopefully some more will show up in the form of DLC (more on that in a bit).

In general, the game is fun and easy to play (though I recommend the tutorial, as it explains how the video game works, which isn’t exactly the same as the card game). However, I do have a number of complaints:

  1. No real deck building — only allowed to remove those cards you have unlocked.

  2. No coop over Xbox Live — only allowed locally.

  3. No control over how mana is tapped — only occasionally problematic if you utilize one of the three multicolor decks. In general, this means you can’t mana burn yourself, something that is useful when you have Pariah (see edit 10 August 2009 below)

  4. The last deck (a blue, black artifact deck) is unplayable — Jon was particularly upset by this.

Lastly, I’d like to address the idea of Downloadable Content. As of this writing, the first bit of content for the game is in the form of 4 new table settings for 160 points (~$2) — so if you are tired of playing on a white mana symbol, you can get some new playgrounds. If you are good on tables, they also have some gamer pictures (160 pts) and premium themes (240 pts).

I’m sure that eventually they will add new cards, but what I would really like to see is the ability to play coop over live. I’d love to play the coop campaign with Jon like we can do in oh… just about EVERY OTHER GAME FOR THE XBOX. Really disappointing that this standard feature was missing. I’d also like to see some more challenges, but coop over live is far ahead of any other feature.

[Edit] 20 July 2009

Just noticed that WotC has a list of all the decks and the unlocks

And the tables that were previously removed have been added back, though the Black table is now missing, although it is still shown on the Xbox LIVE screenshot for the game. Additionally, you can now get 10 new personas for the same price as the tables.

[Edit] 10 August 2009

As commenter #1 pointed out (Thanks Joseph!), Mana Burn is no longer part of MtG, something that seems quite odd to me. I specifically remember using things like Power Surge and Mana Flare to cause all sorts of mana quandaries for opponents (Firebreathing being the easy solution).