Magic 2013 Scratches That Itch [Review]

By Jeremy M. Zoss in Reviews
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm
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Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

Back in the early days of the Magic: The Gathering trading card game, I got sucked in. Big time. I never played in tournaments, but nevertheless Magic had a pretty firm grip on me. I spent hundreds on cards, collected complete expansion sets and, of course, played the game a lot. After a few years, I gradually loosed myself from Magic's grasp and set it aside for years. Recently I played a few hands with my brother, but the game didn't sink its hooks into me like it used to.

And the Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 arrived on Xbox Live Arcade. 
From here on in, I'll just refer to the game as Magic 2013 and ditch the cumbersome subtitle. Magic: The Gathering can be extraordinarily complex, despite being built around a simple idea, and therein lies its appeal. It's easy to learn and relies partially on luck, but rewards you for tinkering around with clever and unexpected strategies.

If you have not played Magic: The Gathering, the aforementioned simple basics are this. You are a "planeswalker" dueling against other planeswalkers. Controlling land rewards you with mana to cast spells, which you use to pummel your opponent into submission. Different land types are tied to different schools of magic. Red mana from mountains is used for destruction spells. Green mana from forests is used for nature spells. Black mana from swamps is tied to death magic, etc. No matter which color you choose, you'll largely be summoning creatures to send into combat. 

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Unlike some video game adaptations of TCG games, Magic 2013 (and its predecessor, Magic 2012) doesn't try to reinvent the game for its digital version. It's a pretty straight-up card game with every element of the real-life game represented, right down to the table. The mechanics of the game are clean and smooth (and virtually unchanged from the last game), and the number of gameplay modes is impressive. There are multiple single-player modes as well as multiple online and local multiplayer modes, and as any Magic: The Gathering player knows, the strongest draw of the game is access to quality opponents. 

Magic 2013 pulled me back into the world of Magic: The Gathering more completely than my return to the actual card game did, thanks to the fact that it's cheaper, easier to manage (no boxes of unused cards, yay!), provides more access to opponents and includes interesting cards right off the bat. If you're not interested in TCG games, this one won't change your mind. But if you like strategy games and have been curious about Magic, this is a great place to start. 

The Official Verdict: 3.5 out of 5

This review is based on an Xbox copy of the game provided by the publisher. 
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