fracture's Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (iPad) review

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iPad review for Magic 2014 (With same android observations)

I've been a Magic fan ever since Antiquities came out way back in the early 90's and over the years Wizards has tried with some success to introduce various electronic representations of it's product. Of all of them The Duels series has been, in my opinion, the most approachable. it has a nice clean interface that has worked well across multiple platforms and the yearly re-skin of it doesn't just look like another re-tread. Also with the price tag ($10) you get WAY more value for your money than you'd ever see in the paper product, or even when you compare it to the other digital flagship of magic, Magic Online. However I feel this years entry is a bit of a mis-step. Now keep in mind this review is for the iPad and Android versions of this as those are the ones I've had experience with.

Last year Magic 2013 was introduced on the iPad and I really loved that entry. everything worked the way you would imagine it should (dragging cards from your hand onto the battle field, from your graveyard or deck into your hand, etc...) and the game felt at home on the touch interface. This year, there are some targeting issues when it comes to searching your deck that don't feel right, and take some re-learning to understand, and even after that you may find yourself selecting the wrong cards. In previous versions if you searched for a land it was a simple matter of finding the land from the displayed pile of cards and dragging it onto the battlefield, or into your hand. Now you have to select the card, and then click the confirm button. The real issue arises when you touch the screen to scroll through the list of cards and the game then selects the card you touched first on the screen sometimes. At that point in order to select the card you really wanted you have to figure out what card the interface thought you touched, and now your playing a hunt and peck game as the interface doesn't tell you what one you selected. This goes the same for any time you search your deck or any cards. It may seem like a nit pick but it can mean the difference between winning and losing a match as the new decks you play against can be a bit frustrating at times.

Replayability. In previous entries the majority of the decks you played against had a randomness to them that felt more like the card game. This time out a lot of the decks play a certain way with cards coming out at the exact same time, every time. This is a bit silly as it only allows certain decks to do well against those, while other decks (ones that lack removal) to fail over and over. The Sealed Mode should have solved some of these issues but if anything that mode can be frustrating for different reasons. You have a limited number of sealed decks you are allowed to make before the game starts to charge you money to make more.. This seems completely arbitrary as you are not even allowed to delete the ones you previously had. I'm guessing if you completely delete the game from your device it may let you start over but then you will also need to re-unlock every card for ever deck and lose all your progress as well. All in all it seems like a really terrible decision for the product and like most other bad ideas to prevent players from fully enjoying their games, it really only frustrates people who want to legitimately play the game as hackers or people willing to circumvent this really silly stopgap can get around it.

The Android version of this suffers from a few other hurdles as there's no online play, although it is available for the kindle fire, and even last years version of that hardware seems to play it just fine (although the AI seems a bit slower to think on that platform). Also, because android is fairly fragmented in terms of hardware and OS, your mileage may vary in terms of it will run properly, or at all. My HTC One V for instance couldn't play the game at all, while the Kindle Fire handled it just fine.

In the end, if this would be your first foray into the Duels of the Planeswalker games I would suggest last years entry first as it has less issues on the iPad. If you are on Android, it's serviceable but just know about the searching issues going in and spend a lot of time figuring out how touchy it is (sorry for the pun) before you get too frustrated with it. If you already played last years entry on your iPad and want more Magic, this is perfectly fine, but like the Android version, keep in mind you are going to need to re-familiarize yourself with the new way search works. lastly, I took 2 stars off because I don't feel this is anything but a mediocre representation of the product. The Screwy search and way they limit sealed play warrant, in my view, the deduction of 2 stars. If they ever change these things the product would be 5 stars to me.

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