Ah, Magic, my particular brand of cardboard narcotic. The first game in the Duels of the Planeswalkers series is what got me into it, while the last nearly got me out with its terribly designed interface, boring grind of unlocks and poorly thought out battles. Which way will the newly announced Magic Duels: Origins [official site] point me? It marks a switch from a yearly release structure to a free to play, updated regularly one. The former is what made it so popular, while the latter drove people off from last year's edition. The trailer and more details below.
Not a lot of info there beyond that the base game is structured around the upcoming Summer set of the physical game, Magic: Origins. The feature list from the press release is much more forthcoming:
- Improved Deck Builder with step-by-step deck construction guidance
- First-ever playable Planeswalker cards
- Solo Battle mode featuring virtually endless AI opponents
- Expanded multiplayer options, including Two-Headed Giant mode
- Quest system with new individual and community challenges every week
- Limitless Free-to-Play with 100% earnable content
- All-new Skill Quest tutorial system
Deck-building was added last year and the implementation of it was so bad, partly due to the way cards were earned, partly due to what cards were in the game at all, that it made me wish it hadn't been. Including the namesake Planeswalker cards is a long overdue move that will be well received. For the unfamiliar, they're allies that are summoned in battle, giving you abilities to use each turn and, in general, are extraordinarily powerful. The return of fan-favourite Two-Headed Giant is a good sign, even if I personally think the mode is for tiny babies who aren't good enough for proper grown up children's card games. Hopefully it means 2014's excellent Sealed Deck mode will return as well.
The big one is it going properly free to play. The implication is that Stainless Games have at least removed cards that are only purchasable with real money, one of Magic 2015's direst mistakes. However, it is a strange move. Duels' strongest attribute was as a one-payment gateway to the continuous investment nature of physical magic or Magic Online [official site] (Wizards of the Coast's more hardcore digital version). Changing Duels puts it not only into direct competition with those products, but also Hearthstone and, to an extent, all the other massive F2P titles.
We'll see how it all muddles out, depending on specific pricing strutures, release schedules and included modes. Release is scheduled for some time in July.
Bonus Magic lore-nerd! Gideon Jura is from Theros: