Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (Developed by Stainless Games, Published by Wizards of the Coast)
*Duels of the Planeswalker is actually a lot of fun to play. I just… I couldn’t resist the pun, okay?
I love paper Magic: The Gathering – I try to play several games every week. I picked up Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 when I was fairly new to paper Magic, and it’s a good introduction to the mechanics and structure of the game. Apart from making it a little awkward to cast instants mid-combat, the gameplay does exactly what it should and it’s fun enough to pass some time. That said, the game’s story does have some problems.
The basic premise is that the Planeswalker Chandra Nalaar has enlisted your help in tracking down a rival Planeswalker named Ramaz, and you follow clues to his location across several planes and through increasingly difficult encounters that teach you some different mechanics or playstyles in Magic. Because the story is essentially nothing more than a framing device for the gameplay, it is given almost no space to be told. The bulk of it is given in short paragraphs before each encounter, or a voiced briefing by Chandra on reaching a new plane. This means that the story has to be pretty basic and disjointed, but I’m hesitant to call this a major flaw. It’s pretty clear that the story only exists to string together a series of Magic games. I was prepared to accept that, until I reached the end. It might be nothing more than a framing device for the gameplay, but Stainless Games went to the trouble of having a story and they could have done a better job. Also, spoilers are coming.
The game has two cutscenes – one at the beginning to introduce Chandra and one at the end. After playing through each plane’s set of encounters you finally reach Ramaz. The fight itself here is kind of interesting. You team up with Chandra and share 30 life points while Ramaz starts with 40 life. I played this encounter with the game’s Eldrazi deck and it was fun to have AI-piloted Chandra keep up burn while I got the mana together for my massive creatures. Eventually we beat him down, and the final cutscene of the campaign rolled. Chandra flares up to finish off a downed Ramaz who… vanishes. Just disappears. Because he is a Planeswalker, having him planeswalk away shouldn’t really have been so surprising but damn was it disappointing. I felt that after the whole game built up to catching Ramaz, having him easily escape you at the very end was cheap. It felt like it shomehow invalidated everything I’d played up to that point. Of course, that’s stupid. I had fun, so it wasn’t a waste for me. But it felt like wasted time for the characters, and that still left me bitter on the game for a while. The story wasn’t and doesn’t have to be the focus. That’s fine. But as a device, having the antagonist magic himself away at the last second generally wasn’t really satisfying as a conclusion. Honestly, I think I just expected more.