Posted by Andrew Day on Jun 4, 2014

Magic 2015 – Duels of the Planeswalkers Preview

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UPDATE:

A lot of you out there have written in and asked us whether or not 2-Headed Giant mode would be present in this year’s game. We reached out to Wizards with this question and we got confirmation that the only multiplayer mode would be a new free for all multiplayer game. However if you want to play a team-based game, nothing is stopping you from doing so (after a gentlemen’s agreement with your buddies).

Original Preview below:


 

With the Theros block behind us, many players have their attentions turned to July and the Magic 2015 Core Set release. Well, along with any Core Set comes a new digital game! Yesterday I got to sit down and try my hand at Magic 2015 – Duels of the Planeswalkers. New visuals, new mechanics and a whole lot of player choice make this easily the best game in the series to date. So come with me on a journey through the multiverse as I show you what Magic 2015 is all about.

Since their inception, the Duels of the Planeswalkers games have been the primary source of lore for the Magic Core Sets. Last year we followed Chandra on a quest to clear her name, and this year picks up where Garruk’s story left off in Innistrad. After being cursed by Liliana and made semi-mindless, Garruk, once the world’s best beast hunter has turned his attention to bigger and better prey – Planeswalkers. The introductory cut-scene has him tracking down and beheading the player-character of Magic 2014 – DotP, and wearing his mask like a badge of honor. While the Duels games have always been the source for lore, they have been pretty light on it. Wizards this time around have made the decision to tell a complete story here, leaving nothing out. This will help players feel like they are accomplishing something as opposed to just playing a few matches against the AI.

The story is broken up into five planes. You will travel among these five planes in search of a way to cure Garruk of his curse. The planes are; Innistrad, Theros, Ravnica, Shandalar, and Zendikar. Each of these story chapters are broken down into four or five challenges. Now, I can tell you that these challenges are TOUGH. You will be hard pressed to win any matches with your starter deck, which is where the exploration comes into it. You can explore the current plane you are on, which triggers a random-encounter battle. At the end of the battle, if you win you will receive a booster pack of cards to add to your collection as well as your deck. After amassing a nice collection you will be able to make your deck hit harder, run quicker and just overwhelm your opponents.

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Innistrad’s first challenge – Living Death

All players will get access to the Innistrad chapter when they download the free version of the game. The additional planes can be purchased as a one-off payment or individually when the player reaches them. This gives players the option of when, where and how much they want to spend on the game. You can also use the game’s shop to foil out your deck or buy new booster packs (if you are impatient).

Last year when I reviewed Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers, one of my biggest gripes was how that game felt slow and clunky. Everything from playing a cards to the way combat was implemented just felt tiresome and took far too long. Well, I am so, so happy to say that this is one area that Magic 2015 has improved on. The whole user interface both during a match, and when navigating the menus is so much smoother, quicker and more intuitive. This change alone makes this game just feel far superior and more fun.

Aside from the speed of the gameplay, the visuals also received a massive overhaul this time around. You might have noticed that all the promotional materials for DotP, and the M15 Core Set have all used a very stark black and white theme (with the occasional coloured accents). This art style is very much a part of the game and it looks awesome! From the opening cinematic through to the battlefield, everything is clean, crisp and unobtrusive. The clutter of the past is gone and you can focus on what’s important – the cards. The cards all feature the new frame that is being implemented from M15 onwards, and really just looks nice. The backgrounds of your battlefields are mostly white with a few patterns underneath to stop it looking boring.

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The new battlefield layout, including the Red Zone for creature combat

When go to the combat phase, the board opens up and reveals a red bar underneath (or as long-time competitive Magic players would call it – The Red Zone). The Red Zone is where your creatures sit when they are swinging at the opponent. The addition of the Red Zone to DotP means that it is easy to tell which creatures are attacking or blocking and which aren’t. This is another of those enhancements that make the experience more user-friendly for the players.

So what about the cards? Well M15 – DotP features almost 270 cards spanning the last several years of Magic. While it will of course feature cards that are soon to be released in the new Magic 2015 Core Set, it also has cards like Avacyn, Angel of Hope from the Innistrad block, and even Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. That’s right, there is some damn Eldrazi in this game! The Hype Train is at maximum speed now folks!

In past years, many players (myself included) have really disliked the fact that you were very limited in your deck construction. Well that has been completely done away with! Now, after you have picked your starter-deck, you can earn booster packs that will give you more cards (yes, just like in real life). The thing is that with these cards you can not only chop and change the deck you have, but you can also build brand new decks from scratch. Want to build a White Weenie deck? go for it! How about a Blue/Black Control? It is completely up to you! Cracking booster packs also gives you that sense of satisfaction of doing it in real life. They have implemented a nice tear-away graphic, and the sound of foil crinkling in your hands. All that is missing is that new card smell.

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Deck Creation Menu shows off things like your mana-curve, deck name and how many cards you have.

The booster packs that you unlock will come with either 1, 3, 5, 7, 10 or 14 card booster packs. You will start off cracking smaller packs, but before you know it you will be cracking the boosters with 14 cards and the same rarity distribution as those you grab off the shelf. A really cool feature is that if you already have 4 copies of a card, the game wont put that card into your booster packs, so you will never have needless garbage cluttering up your deck construction menu. The boosters are all dependent on which plane you are currently playing on, so for example if you are exploring the plane of Theros, then you will only get cards associated with Theros.

The best part about the Duels games has always been how it can introduce new players to the world of Magic. Duels 2015 provides an in-depth multi-tiered tutorial that will teach newcomers the ins and outs of Magic: The Gathering. From there, players can head over to Innistrad and try their luck or they can flick through the menu to the built-in store locator. It all works as a very effective tool to bring new players into the world of Magic and no matter your skill level when you go in, you will be slinging cards and creating the perfect strategy with the best of them by the time you’re done.

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Arbor Colossus with the new card frame

While there is no set date for Magic 2015 – Duels of the Planeswalkers, it is expected to drop around July, before the launch of the M15 Core Set. It will be available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC (via Steam), iPad and Android tablets with a price comparable to previous year’s titles. Although I have only played the game for a short while, I already see it as being far superior to last year’s game and I just wonder where they can go from here. We here at Capsule Computers love Magic: The Gathering, so make sure you stay tuned for all the awesome card-slinging news as it becomes available.

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