There are only two real drawbacks in multiplayer. One is that I frequently have problems finding games. Itís not that people arenít playing, but simply that the game oftentimes has an extremely difficult time connecting to sessions. Iíll search for open rooms, click join, be told itís full or no longer available, then refresh the lobby list and see itís still there and empty. The same happens with quick play. Iíve tried a few different computers and internet networks, but my efforts were to no avail. Once a game is joined, however, I havenít had any connectivity or lag issues to speak of. The other problem is that there isnít any penalty for quitting. Winning nets new cards, so thereís incentive to stay while youíre ahead, but without a level or robust ranking system (there are leaderboards, but not levels/exp based ranks), it isnít rare for opponents to quit once you get a leg up on them. Luckily AI takes over for departed opponents, but some system to encourage finishing games would be greatly appreciated.
The biggest addition to Magic: 2014 is the oft-requested Sealed Play mode. Already a popular mode among players of the physical game, sealed play goes a long way, though not quite long enough, to fill the desire for more customization. How it works here is the player receives six booster packs of random cards. After opening them, the cards can be used in any combination the player desires to form a deck of at least 40 cards. Furthermore, a short campaign can be played to unlock three more packs. That deck can then be taken online to battle other players who have made a deck in the same way. There are slots for two decks to be made this way, and decks can always be edited or deleted to make room for more (in addition to extra slots being available as DLC). The game can even help build your deck, giving you a rating on its effectiveness, offering to auto-balance land cards (the resources used to summon other cards), or even build what it thinks is the best possible deck given the cards you have. These are great tools for getting started, but be warned that the auto-builder and rating system often donít take card synergy into account as much as Iíd like. Itís always worth it to make tweaks yourself based on your particular strategy even if you want to game to do most of the building for you.
Is Limited Too Limited?
This is where Iíve spent the most amount of my free time playing. Itís great to be able to flex my creative muscles and try some unique strategies (as well as to see others do the same). Unfortunately itís just not quite open enough. For one, there just arenít enough cards available to make things as varied as it could have been. Even after opening only the nine packs for one deck, Iíd seen a lot of repeats. There are a number or rare cards that your opponents probably donít have, but your opponent probably has most of the common and uncommon cards that you do. Second, Iíd have loved to see an option for sealed play that more closely mirrors its real-world counterpart. In physical gameplay, sealed play has a group of players all open their packs, make a deck on the spot, and play right away. Iíd love the option to get with an opponent (or opponents), get my packs, and have a set time limit to make my deck and play. Adding the pressure of time would be a great way for more veteran players to flex their creative ability and test themselves. That being said, the addition of Sealed Play is overall a huge plus that will hopefully be included and expanded upon in future releases.
Besides all of the gameplay options, there are a few interface points that are worthy of mention. For one, the menus have been cleaned up. Gone are the clunky sliding panels of last year in favor of more traditional and easy-to-use buttons. There have been a few changes in-game as well. There is now a button to instantly select all creatures to attack or defend which speeds up combat, as well as a chat button. I donít like that the chat button is right next to frequently used gameplay buttons as itís easy to click on accident, but despite that both additions are welcome and make things easier in their own ways.
A Quick Fix
Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 isnít a substitute for the real game, but itís clear that itís not trying to be. Its narrower scope of cards and options work well to introduce new players to the game, as well as give veterans a quick fix. Despite its limitations, Magic: 2014ís large number of unlockable cards and solid base gameplay give it more than enough replay value to keep players coming back for dozens of hours in lieu of its shortcomings. Its relatively cheap price point make this package and even more compelling deal. Each year seems to make great steps forward while ignoring some of the things holding it back. Weíre still not quite at the point I think the series is capable of, but thereís no doubt this is the closes the franchise has come yet.
Great way to learn the game, varied decks that are fun to play, Sealed Play opens up creative options, interface is more intuitive.
Tutorial can be a bit confusing, Sealed Play could be a bit bigger, and connecting to games online can be a challenge.