Price: Free ($9.99 to unlock)
Version Reviewed: 1.00
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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Few games seem as perfect a fit for the iPad like Magic: The Gathering does. Since the introduction of the iPad (has that only been two years ago?) the game that seemed the most natural fit for the 'magical' touch screen was Magic, yet no app appeared. At last, the great Magic drought has ended, and Wizards of the Coast have extended their Magic: Duels of the Planeswalkers franchise beyond the Xbox 360 and onto the iPad. Is it a perfect translation of the complete game? No, but it's well worth playing.
Don't expect the full Magic: The Gathering experience here. Though I have hopes of Wizards eventually bringing the full Magic Online to iOS, it hasn't happened yet. Magic 2013 is a more carefully crafted experience. Players have a choice of pre-constructed decks to use in battling a wide variety of AI opponents, and while these decks are partially customizable, there is no way to purchase additional cards outside of the ones already available in the game. There's also no trading cards during multiplayer sessions, which for some players may be a deal-breaker.
Those familiar with past iterations of Duels of the Planeswalkers on home consoles will be in familiar territory here. The main campaign consists of six main levels, each split into four duels of varying difficulty. Completing a level usually means unlocking a new deck (sometimes two) for use in future duels, and defeating opponents unlocks new cards for use in the currently active deck. Once the main campaign is complete there are additional challenges/puzzles, a Revenge campaign and a new mode call Planechase which gives players a random assortment of cards that they must use to defeat opponents scattered over the various dimensions in the Magic mythos. It's all fun, challenging and easily accessible for new and experienced players.
The presentation of Magic 2013 is slick, and the controls feel, for the most part, completely natural and perfectly suited for the touch screen. Need to play a card? Just touch the card and flick it onto the playing area. Generally, the game has a great, intuitive feel. Sometimes, however, targeting doesn't work exactly right, such as when a player needs to target a specific card with a spell. The cards are small on the screen, and sometimes stacked on top of each other, so identifying which card is being targeted can be a challenge. Woefully, there is occasional slow-down on screen when too many creatures and spells are in play simultaneously, but it's my hope that this is more of a programming issue (corrected in subsequent updates) than a hardware limitation.
Finally, there's the issue of cost. The game as it appears on the App Store is free, but that is with considerable limitations. Free players get access to part of the major campaign and a small selection of decks. No multiplayer. No challenges. Unlocking the full app (including additional decks) is $9.99. I realize that, to some, this might appear expensive, but it's actually a bargain if you've ever priced one deck of paper Magic cards. Plus, the $9.99 provides endless opportunities to play against friends and strangers via multiplayer. It's rare for me to say this, but if you are a fan of Magic this is a must-buy. There's more than enough content provided to justify the price. Magic 2013 is one of the best iOS games I've played this year. Hands down.