Might & Magic: Duel of Champions is yet another contender in this year of our collectible card game lords, 2013. CCGs are being released in droves this year and with most of them running on the free-to-play model, competition is getting tougher with each game I see.
I came into this particular one with a "you must entertain me, quickly" attitude and was slightly shocked to find out that it actually did just that. After playing for a few solid hours I came to appreciate the strategy and some of the new gameplay elements that Might & Magic: DoC brings to the table. Dare I say it -- I may be even a bit addicted to what it has to offer.
Might & Magic: Duel of Champions (PC, iPad)
Release: May 28, 2013
Duel of Champions begins with your choice of a faction: Haven (protection and healing), Inferno (attack damage), or Necropolis (infecting and stealing life). The story and deck you receive depends on the faction you choose -- I chose Haven and ended up as an elite mercenary, fighting for the glory of the holy empire in battle. The campaign map started off with a few missions and included a boot camp (tutorial) to learn the basics. Each encounter (duel) started off with some dialogue to tie into the plot, and after finishing the duel I was showered with rewards like XP, gold, and seals.
At first the gameplay seemed very generic but as the tutorial eased me into it I realized there were a lot of elements at play. Cards are not only cast with resources, but may also require a combination of three different abilities to come into play: might, magic, and destiny. Each player is represented by a hero who can add one of these three abilities to their pool or in lieu, can cast a special ability. To add to the complexity, each player brings eight event cards to the duel which are shuffled together and brought out in twos. On any given player's turn, they have the option to play one or both cards if they have enough resources. Some of these cards are simple -- each player draws a card, add 1 attack to this creature, etc. -- however some event cards have the power to turn the tables quickly.
Three types of main cards can be found in the deck: creatures, spells, and fortunes. Fortune cards require enough of the "destiny" attribute to put into play and twist the rules of the game (i.e., adding resources to a player's pool). Spell cards are pretty typical and usually affect creatures on the board (like raising an attack score, or eliminating a creature from the board). Creatures have an attack score, a retaliation score (damage dealt back to an attacking creature), and health points. Health is not regained at the end of the turn so players have to be careful with how they place cards and who they attack.
During the action phase players can cast creatures onto the battlefield, which consists of two rows on each player's side. There are three types of creatures -- flying, melee, and shooter -- each having their own rules on where they can be deployed on the board (i.e., the front line, back line) and how they attack. Creatures usually have to be in the same row as an enemy creature to make the attack, and can only perform one action each turn. If no creatures are in the row to block the attack, players can attack the enemy hero instead. Just like Magic the Gathering, once a hero's life total goes from 20 to zero the game is over.
Players can win gold, seals, and XP by winning duels (PvP) or encounters from the single-player campaign. Gold and seals are used to buy consumables (like tickets to compete in a tournament), decks, and card packs. Gold is accrued much easier than seals and you'll utilize more of it to unlock decks and packs, whereas seals are won at a much slower rate but are used to purchase rarer items. After playing through the tutorial, I found that I had enough seals and gold to buy about five card packs. Not bad, although it seems like you'll need to play quite a bit or hand over the cash to unlock rare decks.
Despite all the fun I had playing Might and Magic: DoC, I had my share of pet peeves when running through the game. The game moves way too fast on an enemy's turn -- it's hard to tell what they're casting and what the effects are, and since there's no way to pause the game I found myself having to backtrack by clicking through cards in their discard pile. I suppose this is something that players would get used to once they're more familiar, but it would benefit newbie players to slow it down a bit at first. I also felt like if I made one or two mistakes the game was basically over -- it's hard to recover from a duel when your battlefield is basically empty.
The dialogue in the main campaign isn't really anything to rave about, but at least it's there - it allows for nice context that many collectible card games do not provide. However, you can't really skip through it even if you've already played that specific encounter. I also wish there were more ways you could play with your friends but alas Practice mode is the only option at this point. You can't remove the timer and there are no rewards/XP offered so playing in Practice is kind of pointless.
Fortunately, playing in Duel mode (normal pvp match) is worthwhile as you receive rewards even if you lose. I was surprised in a good way to find that I never had to wait longer than 20 seconds to find a match. I did notice that practically everyone I played with was way more advanced than I was in terms of skill, which gave me the impression that only super hardcore players stuck around after the beta. However, on rare occasions I did actually find myself playing against similarly-skilled opponents.
My favorite and least favorite part of the game happens to be the same thing: the deck-building tool. I love that the game actually HAS one, for starters. The most important piece, however, is that you can completely customize decks to your liking as long as cards are in the same faction. Unfortunately though, I found the tool to be a bit cumbersome and confusing -- it's hard to see the cards and there's no real structure overall. For first-time players it would be super beneficial to have a tutorial or a "suggested" deck tool which could assist players in building decks from scratch.
Might & Magic: DoC is easy to learn but quite difficult to master. Card fans seem to already be flocking with almost 150k ranked players and duel wins up in the thousands. The game has been in beta for months but with the official launch Ubisoft has added a new card series called Herald of the Void, which includes 120 new cards.
When I first started up Duel of Champions and played through the tutorial, I never thought I'd be playing for the next four hours. I found myself becoming easily lost in the game, with my duels lasting over a half hour but only seeming like 10 minutes. It's a solid CCG for sure, and one that I don't mind being tied to at the moment.