Thursday, April 7, 2016

Magic Duels Patch Report: Controlling the criticisms

A few month ago, there was simply no way I could have recommended Magic Duels to anybody. It was too glitchy and featureless.

With the new patch for Magic Duels (PC, iOS) making some big changes and adding story content and card sets for both Oath of the Gatewatch and Shadows Over Innistrad, it seems like a good time to assess whether this game is getting the repairs it desperately needed. The big question: "Would I be comfortable recommending Magic Duels to a friend post-patch?"

I started playing Magic Duels for a couple weeks right when it first released, and quickly grew tired with the lack of polish. Setting aside that two of my friends couldn't even launch the game for weeks after release without it crashing, the problems were numerous:
  • quests that wouldn't complete unless you used a shoddy "deckbuilding wizard"-created deck, 
  • no rewards for playing 2-Headed Giant, 
  • rampant game-abandonment because of no incentive to keep playing a game you're likely to lose, 
  • no in-game chat or effective way to contact an opponent during or after a match. . . 

And this was just a short list of missing features. We'll get to the glitches and bugs in a bit.

So, what did this new patch change? Now, when your opponent concedes, you don't have to play against an AI piloting a player's deck all the way to the end to collect your win and coins. This is huge. When you queue up for player versus player, you will not spend half your time playing against doomed AI opponents anymore. Quite frankly, it should have been this way from the start.

That's good! What else?

2-Headed Giant now awards coins when facing random opponents. It's no longer going to be a total waste of time format that nobody plays, perhaps.

With the addition of the Oath of the Gatewatch and Shadows over Innistrad story modes, both of which will take around an hour for a skilled player to complete, the story now has enough gameplay to occupy you for 5-6 hours for free and the combined "starter box" cards you unlock from completing all the campaigns gives you more deck building options should you decide to stay around for the long haul and start playing against humans online.

Sadly, accounts still don't share between iOS and PC. This likely will never be changed because some customers have already paid into accounts on both platforms, and will continue to be a reason to not bother with Magic Duels for the foreseeable future.

More importantly, the patch seems to have added just as many bugs as it removed, if not even more. Here's the patch notes list just of the KNOWN bugs, and the /r/magicduels subreddit is already exploding with reports of new and exciting glitches.

Of course, if you want to play the same magic people are playing in the real world, all of this is a moot point. The card set doesn't actually match real-world Standard.

Magic Duels is still feature-threadbare compared to Hearthstone, but that's unfortunately not surprising. I can recommend the story mode to nearly anyone because it's sincerely 100% free, with nothing hidden behind a paywall. For any player vs player action, however, you play at your own risk. This newest patch has not changed that; the game has been out for many months now and the development team is perpetually behind schedule on fixing glaring issues.