The digitisation of collectible card games has risen over the past few years, and Wizard’s Of The Coast are continuing the lead the pack with their release of Magic 2014: Duels Of The Planeswalkers. Unlike a lot of video game franchises, Wizard’s seem keen to show that gameplay in the Magic series is not going to go stale.

All of the game modes from Magic 2013: Duels Of The Planeswalker make a return in the new title, including a Campaign, Challenges and Multiplayer which includes three different match types. Wizard’s Of The Coast are keeping things fresh in Magic 2014 with the introduction of a brand new game mode to the series, Sealed Play, that allows players to build and battle with their own custom decks and introduces booster packs.

The barrier for most collectible card games is their complexity and level of difficulty, and whilst Magic is a fairly advanced collectible card game Wizard’s Of The Coast have attempted to break down some of those barriers by basing the game’s difficulty by asking the player how much previous experience they’ve had with Magic. There’s also a brilliantly in-depth tutorial to guide players both new to Magic and to the digital version that also rewards players with a brand new deck to play with. There’s also an in-match hint system that players can trigger with the L1 button that suggests your next move.

Wizard’s Of The Coast have also included a deeper level of player customisation in Magic 2014 by allowing players to not only change their avatars, but also pick a preferred mana colour and add titles. Like campaign decks and booster packs, players can earn new titles, personas and mana colours by unlocking them as they progress through the game, defeating enemies and completing challenges. With the addition of the new Sealed Play mode, it seems that Wizard’s Of The Coast are keen to put more control and customisation in the hands of their players, creating a much more engaging gameplay experience.

The Magic 2014 Campaign structure hasn’t changed much since the previous game, featuring five unique Planes to play on, each containing four Encounters and a Planeswalker duel. How the AI plays in each Encounter doesn’t differ, meaning that each duel really is just a matter of learning player movements and ensuring that your deck of choice contains everything that you need to beat your opponent. With 10 brand new decks to unlock and play with, the Campaign doesn’t pose much of a challenge until the later stages. The 10 Challenges are a great way to get you thinking strategically and I would highly recommend playing these through before getting stuck into the campaign.

The Sealed Play mode is really where the meat of Magic 2014 is though and will be the most attractive component to Magic tabletop players. The modes mechanics and layout are practically identical to that of the Campaign’s, except players can use entirely customised decks and are rewarded with booster packs for their victories. Each sealed pool is comprised of 84 cards, mimicking paper TCG booster packs, and the Build A Deck feature allows players to fully customise a deck from their collection or autobuild one. Players can build two Sealed Play decks but also have the option to purchase additional slots for the price of £1.59 each. Currently booster packs can only be earned in-game, but if Wizard’s Of The Coast plan to introduce new cards, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these also available for purchase in the future.

Sealed Play is also built into Magic 2014’s Multiplayer mode, which also includes the return of the Freeplay and Two Headed Giant match types. Unsurprisingly, the competition is pretty fierce and I would strongly recommend that you familiarise yourself with the games single-player modes until you feel confident enough to challenge other actual players. As I mentioned earlier, the Campaign AI always plays the same way and the Challenges are a great way of learning new tactics. There’s also an option to test your Sealed Deck to make sure it plays exactly the way you want it before taking it into actual battle.

Overall, Magic 2014: Duels Of The Planeswalkers is a great advancement for the series from Wizard’s Of The Coast, and shows a lot of promise for the future of the franchise. While the game is still fairly intense for those unfamiliar with collectible card games, the Challenges and Campaign mechanics provide a great platform for players old and new to develop their skills. The addition of Sealed Play is definitely the star of the show and is what will keep players coming back for more, hoping to unlock fantastic new cards and build better and stronger decks to do battle with.

Score: 4/5

Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers is out now for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS and Android.

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