Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Magic the Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers (Pc)

The general premise behind trading card games is that you spend a huge amount of money slaving to making a good deck and then using it against your friends or strangers at tournaments and after a few mouths a new edition comes out and half you cards are now illegal and you need to go spend even more on getting new ones, it's the old wash, rinse, repeat gag except you never stop washing your hair. But of course I'm not reviewing the card game itself (because I could just say now that it's seriously lacking in lustre and body) I'm just reviewing the Pc conversion of the game.

Ok I'll start off with one of its good points I do see these games as a gateway for new players, it lets them try out the game and the rules, before they buy a starter deck play one game, get frustrated and give up. So they get points for that, and then they immediately lose them again by selling slim-lined versions of the decks to further tempt people into the fire. I could probably finish off the good points of this game by the end of the paragraph in that it's very graphically pleasing, the art work is stunning to look at while you wait for it to load, and really captures the essence from the card game itself.

Now to the bad points, it's been awhile since I've seen UI's this badly designed, it goes beyond belief that they didn't pick up on such serious problems, you can't drag select certain cards to attack certain opponents, and if you can they don't tell you how. This means if you play a deck that allows you to bring forth token monsters you can quickly be over run with a huge army of cannon fodder you have to individually click to make attack, and it gets even harder when you take into account that tapping a large number of cards makes all the other cards move around, it gets to be like playing musical chairs in space; it's all very novel the first time but quickly gets annoying. Another notable tits up is the two bloody buttons at the bottom of the screen that are extremely important and can be easily overshadowed by the cards that enlarge when your mouse hovers over them, which they will when you're en route to the bloody buttons.

The main selling point to this game is that you can play people over the internet, this is attractive to existing players of the card game as much as it is to new players, and also to highly competitive people like myself. It is a shame, however, that the system they employ for this works much in the same way DOS worked, it's very good at what it does but you can never get it to do what you want.

There are two types of internet matches:
  - Player (Friendly)
  - Ranked (Recorded)

I'll ignore the retarded ranking system for a bit and focus on just hosting and joining games. Above is the options you get when you pick a game type, ignore custom match it's either broken or designed to be useless. Quick match is just join a random game, and Create match is host a game yourself. What you can't do is set up a friends only game, or join a specific game, you can do private slots but that's just a work around, a last minute thing like the batteries in Italian cars. The number of times I've been kicked straight after joining because someone couldn't set up a friends server and were waiting for someone else to join. The only thing I can suggest to fix this is to host a match yourself, then at least you can't get kicked. (Or Stainless Games could just get their act together and copy Valve).
Now for the ranking system, I think it's trying to emulate tournament play where you lose points depending on the rank of the person you lost to, and gain in a similar fashion, so I could lose 1 match and win 2 but still be down points because of it. They don't use this for other ranking games and do you know why (other than it being fucking retarded), because it's not fair to penalise players for losing a match that gave no indication of the rank of the opponent, I'd avoid low ranker matches purely because this game is down to luck much more than skill (the old phrase it's not the cards your dealt but how you play them is bollocks it is the cards your dealt, even a pro couldn't win if they got stuck with 8 lands and no monsters in their hand.)

The next cock up is the frankly misleading fa├žade that you can edit your deck, you can't at all in anyway, and the link to 'Unlock Deck' and 'Premium Deck' are broken they just lead to the steam store front. All you can do is see what card you've left to unlock from wins and move cards around the screen, whatever the fuck good that is, you can't take the card out, you can't even move it in the deck just around the fucking screen. Another point about the decks is that they are very limited, what may have started out to make the game fairer has gone the way of lazy programming, so what they end up with is just bad decks that aren't fair because the elf one is overpowered and everyone uses it.

Over all it was fun to play for awhile and it's gotten me passively interesting in the card game so mission accomplished WoC (you bastards), but on the long run it gets boring fast, the expansions promise to keep the wheels rolling but I doubt I'll bother getting them unless it's free.

2 out of 5 (Fun for a bit, no staying value)

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