Magic the Gathering- Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012: Ascend into Darkness Expansion


posted 10/20/2011 by Jeremy Duff
other articles by Jeremy Duff
Platforms: PS3
What could be better than more Magic cards? How about a ton more Magic cards, a new gameplay mode, more challenges, and 2 new campaigns for Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 (DotP 2012)? That sounds good to me. Sure enough, that is exactly what Stainless Games and Wizards of the Coast have packed into the “Into the Darkness” expansion pack for the digital game on all 3 platforms. If you are unsure as to whether or not you should invest a couple of extra bucks into the game, let me show why I think that the decision should be a no-brainer.

First off, Into the Darkness brings a variety of new cards to DotP 2012. Each of the existing decks from the base game has 4 new cards available which can be unlocked and there are three entirely new playable decks as well. Each of these new decks must be unlocked through one of the new campaign modes and has 20 locked cards which you will need to earn as well. This is great because it not only gives you a reason to experience the new content, but it encourages players to revisit the older decks as well.

The three new decks also play quite a bit differently than their predecessors. Liliana Vess’ Grave Whispers, the first new deck that you will unlock, has heavy focus on forcing your opponent to defeat their selves. A lot of her spells and creatures force players to lose life for simple actions such as drawing and discarding and it punishes them accordingly. Ajani Goldmane’s Auramancer deck may not appear strong on the surface, but the various aura’s included will quickly ramp the creatures up to full blown powerhouses. The third and final new deck, Ral Zarek’s Cloudburst deck is pretty similar to Chandra’s base deck, focusing on quick attacks and fast creatures which will deplete your enemy’s lifebar in no time.

Included among the three new decks are 6 cards from the newly launched Innistrad set from the real life card game. Each deck contains 2 cards which will bring some of the mechanics from the new block to the digital game. Each one suits the gameplay mechanics of the individual decks perfectly. The six cards from the new set are Moan of the Unhallowed, Bloodgift Demon, Skirsdag Cultist, Murder of Crows, Spectral Rider, and Wreath of Geists. They cards have sort of lost their “umph” now that the Innistrad set has been released, but early adopters and die-hard Magic fans got a chance to experience them for a couple of weeks prior to the retail release of the set.

Another huge addition to the game that the expansion brings is the ability for players to play as the Archenemy in the Archenemy gametype both online and off. Many people, including myself, have wondered why this feature wasn’t included in the base game but that doesn’t matter as it is here now and it is incredibly fun. I have found that playing as the Archenemy is the best way for a player to learn “how” to play a deck. Because of the speed at which you can build up mana and creatures, playing the Archenemey shows you how you can get the best out of each of the game’s playable decks in the other modes of play. I like to use the mode as practice for decks that I am unfamiliar with and learn the ins and outs of the various cards included in them.

Stainless Games has given players two new campaigns to play through in the game as well. The first one, which focuses on 1-on-1 battles with the new planeswalkers (Liliana, Ajani, and Ral) is very brief as it only lasts 6 stages but it will introduce you to the new decks and allow you to unlock them for play. The ability to play as the Arnchenemy is highlighted in a new Archenemy campaign which features a full length campaign which puts you up against 3 computer controlled characters. This mode also features a slew of new challenges which will put your Magic knowledge to the test as you assume your new role.

Of course, you are also going to get the usual “upgrade” enhancements such as a few new achievements / trophies and some new loading screen visuals. There is one hitch with the new DLC that I have noticed and that is an increase in the game’s load times and an occasional stalling / stuttering during actual gameplay. There have been quite a few complaints regarding this in forums and discussions across the internet so I know that it isn’t just me. Neither one is anything that inhibits the overall experience, but it is “noticeable”. I have experienced instances of this on both the PlayStation Network and PC versions of the game. Aside from that, I honestly don’t have a single complaint about the package.

Into the Darkness is a great extension of the original game. All of the additions only serve to enhance what I already found to be an incredible package. I love it so much that I have already purchased it on two separate platforms and play both endlessly. The added variety in the added cards extends the playabilty of not only the game, but the individual decks as well. If you are playing the base game, this purchase is a no-brainer and will only enhance the game. As I stated in my DotP 2012 review, there is still room for improvement in this series in terms of delivering an experience that rivals the actual CCG but Stainless and Wizards are well on their way to doing just that.
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