Another Magic the Gathering game, you ask? This time with an even longer name? What’s different about this one, except for the date on the end of the title? While Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 (henceforth DotP 2012) certainly has much in common with its predecessor, Duels of the Planeswalkers (DotP), some noteworthy additions and improvements have also been made to this version. Let’s jump in and explore some of those similarities and differences.
Single-player campaign mode
Like the first DotP game, both single-player and multi-player options are available in DotP 2012. This time around, only the single-player mode possesses a campaign. While you can unlock cards for your decks in both single-player and multi-player, you must play the campaign to unlock the decks themselves. You start off with only two decks available to play - a white weapon deck and a green creature-based deck - but as you beat the different planeswalkers in the campaign, you can unlock up to 8 more, so 10 available decks in all (this is up from the 8 available to play in the core DotP game). You also unlock challenges along the way. Two other modes are available in the single-player (which you also must unlock to play): Archenemy (more on this mode later) and Revenge. In the single-player they’re set up campaign-style as well, so you must beat certain planeswalkers in order to duel other ones.
In the multi-player three modes are available: Free-for-All, which is a competitive mode with up to 4 players facing off, and the two co-op modes Two-headed Giant and Archenemy. Two-headed Giant makes its return from DotP with two players teaming up against two AI. Hitpoints are a shared pool for the teams, so you win or lose together with your teammate. While everyone has their own respective mana pools and decks, attacking and blocking is done as a team (i.e. you aren’t playing two simultaneous 1v1 games where you can only attack or block the opponent across from you). There are two major changes to Two-headed Giant. The first is that you can finally play this co-operative mode online (it was previously only a local feature). Rejoice, online co-opers. The second major change is that there is no longer a specific Two-headed Giant campaign where players must face specific duos of AI players. Instead, the host simply chooses two planeswalkers to duel.
Two-headed Giant Mode
Archenemy is the new co-op mode for DotP 2012. Up to three players face one AI planeswalker (again, in the co-op mode, the host chooses which planeswalker). I was pleased to see that you can put an AI team member in if you’re only playing with one other friend. Unlike Two-headed Giant, all players have their own separate pools of hitpoints. The decks of the chosen Archenemy are the same as always, but he or she also gets access to a “Schemes” deck. Some of the schemes appear to be common to all Archenemies and some appear to be specific to particular planeswalkers. At the beginning of the Archenemy’s turn, he draws and plays one scheme card. These cards can be absolutely brutal, and I assure you that some of them will make you rage. Schemes allow the Archenemy to do such things as steal three life from every opponent, or place any card from her hand on the table, or prevent all but one opponent from playing cards that turn, or kill X amount of creatures on the table. The list goes on.