Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers – PC
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast LLC
Developer: Stainless Games
Release Date: Jun 26, 2013
Genre: Strategy
Reviewed by Charles Boucher

Review Score: 4 of 5

It’s another year, and with it comes another new addition to the Duels of the Planeswalkers series, with a return to the planes of the last few years, new cards, new mechanics, and more of the stuff that makes the series so great for people who love Magic but don’t want to spend the time driving out to stores or playing with strangers. While Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 leaves behind some of the previous game’s additions, it picks up more than it leaves behind.

The campaign is similar to previous years, as you travel to planes and fight a variety of encounters on your way to duel the resident mages. You’re helping the fiery planeswalker Chandra Nalaar solve… some kind of mystery. I never quite got the shape of it, but it involves going to multiple totally sweet worlds, ranging from Innstrad, the gloomy realm designed around gothic horror and early monster movies to Ravnica, the ecumenopolis covering an entire plane of reality. Once you’re there, you fight through a few encounters, and then beat up a local mage to take his thing. Really, the plot’s not important. You’re here for the card game.

Which, well, continues to be well-implemented. It’ll take a while of messing with options to make it play at a decent pace, but the good part of a yearly digital implementation of a card game is that once it’s good, it keeps being good. The biggest change from the last year is the sealed mode which, for the first time, lets you build a collection of digital cards and create your deck from scratch.

It’s a tiny bit rough around the edges. The actual deck construction mechanism is reasonable, with ability to sort your collection by colors, and order the cards by rarity, cost, or type, but there’s no way to search by card names or keywords that I could find, which makes making a specific deck a bit of a pain. Additionally, opening a pack simulates ripping open a booster and spilling it all over the table like an idiot, with no real rhyme or reason for their positioning, save for the rare card being in the center. It’s kind of a baffling decision, but I’m hoping that next year’s game will improve both these minor issues.

There’s a campaign for sealed mode, which lets you fight enemies to win extra boosters to tweak out your deck with, and it really captures the feel of playing real sealed, trying to make the best deck you can with a limited card pool and, probably, no small amount of weird, garbage cards that’d never see play in a constructed deck. Once you’re done with the campaign, you can take your sealed decks online, playing against other players.

It’s kind of a shame that the game lost Planechase, however. I shouldn’t be surprised, since they dropped Archenemy before, but I’d really like to have access to all my special multiplayer modes without needing to launch three separate programs. Still, it says something that all my issues are just annoyances rather than solid issues. For its price, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 is one of the best Magic deals you can get for your money.