Magic The Gathering On XBLA Is Very Broken

3 min read


I am posting this article up as a warning to anyone interested in buying the new Magic The Gathering game, titled Duels Of The Planewalkers on Xbox Live Arcade.

The game sets out to bring Magic the Gathering to both fans and newcomers, and actually does a pretty good job of delivering the experience on Xbox Live Arcade. It is all nicely presented and comes with online play, challenges and a campaign mode.

Just this weekend, I bought the game on Xbox Live Arcade and was quite keen on giving it a go online. It started off well enough, but after playing a couple of online games with some friends, some major issues started popping up, and often.

The problem you see, is that the game itself is very much broken, and to be honest it astounds me that the game even passed it’s quality assessment.

The first issue that was experienced is that the game has the tendency to randomly freeze your Xbox 360. This is nothing though, when compared to the online play.

We experienced multiple issues when playing online and they ranged from annoying to completely game breaking. To begin with, the lobby would completely break after a lot our games, which forced us to have to rehost games fairly often.

When in the game though, the big problems started popping up. We had a situation, where a player that was already out of the game activated the games’ stop timer automatically by choosing to zoom into the card that was being played, so that he could read its description. That’s all fine, until the game screwed out, and did not allow the player to continue the timer, meaning that the entire game had to be dropped (about 30 minutes in) and we had to start again.

We also had similar issues when I had zoomed into a card to read it’s description, only to have another player cast a card on me forcing me to discard cards. The game didn’t like that, and in the end kept me stuck in the zoomed card screen until the timer ran out, which in turn made the game automatically choose which of my cards to discard.

The worst one, was undoubtedly the bug that happened towards the end of yet another pretty long game that was also already running at around the 30 – 40 minute mark. One of the players was attacked in the game with a large force, causing him to lose all but three of his health points. The issue being that I saw him as having three health points, he saw himself as having three health points but the third player saw his as dead (and out of the game). So one player saw him as dead, and the two of us saw his as still active, and that can’t end well.

The dead/alive player then tried to cast a spell in his turn, causing the entire game to get stuck yet again due to the issue, meaning that the entire game was a waste and had to be stopped.

The game itself has proven to be quite fun, but be warned. If you are interested in buying the game, I would suggest that you rather wait until a patch is released and the game’s issues are sorted out.

I say again, how did this ever get past the guys in the quality department?

Last Updated: June 22, 2009

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

  • WitWolfyZA

    Are you guys sure its the game that causes the xbox to hang? Because before my 2nd xbox died it also started freezing randomly in online matches.

    I think its the xbox itself hanging due to overheating

  • Reaver

    Thanx for the warning. Was actually gonna buy this tonite. Guess I’ll wait now.

  • Orion7

    Whoa, thanks for the heads up, almost bought it this weekend, close one…

  • DarkOcean

    Played the Demo on Friday and ran smooth !!! Was very enjoyable and reminded me of the good old days ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Loki

    Thanx for the warning!

  • somedudewhoboughtthisgame

    No, I too have had problems with it freezing up; I played the demo and loved it. I know how to play Magic now and I’m quite satisfied with the game. I just dont like how at times it will freeze up and one time there was major lag and I attacked a guys LP directly w/ 2 creatures that equals 6 damage together and he had 6 life, he took half of that damage…

    another buggy thing is that(Otherwise I have the “worst luck”) you should always keep cards in your hand. If not you will be drawing mana cards on end and end…
    I have multiple creatures in my deck and i draw not ONE of them for like 10 turns…its pathetic; I played a 30 minute game with someone who was having the same problem; we literally sat there drawing lands…

    oh and no deck custom; you can only win like 15-17 cards for every deck and thats it; so cheers to whoever wants it. I like it but then I dont…But I still play it; ACHIEVEMENTS! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • somedudewhoboughtthisgame

    Again, the demo went smooth for me as well; But the REAL game has the problem.

  • BK

    I have experienced exactly what wolfy has said and its very annoying. stay away till its fixed, good advice ๐Ÿ˜•

  • Daniel

    You frequently write “it’s” when you should be writing “its”.

    As for the game, I’ve already had it freeze a few times on me. Very annoying. At least now I know from this article a few more bugs that I’ll run into.

  • The same thing happens to me. When I play the tutorials or against the computer, randomly between 5-20 minutes of play the xbox flashes 3 red lights and I have to turn it off. I am very dissapointed and would love a refund.

  • Daniel

    Microsoft will never give refunds on arcade games. Wait and hopefully a patch will come.

  • Xinoth

    ive had the game hang on me before, but i found if i click the left thumbstick down it continues fine, not sure why, but its done it a few times and havnt had to abandon a game to it yet. The only problems ive seen so far are in 3 player games, havnt been able to get 5 mins or so into one yet, always the same player being unable to play a land card, even though he has them.

  • ryan

    yeah it freezes all the time, its annoying, i like the game though, its great, just needs a fix/

  • Amanda

    I think I have figured out a workaround.

    Player 1, go into the game. Make sure your friend is not signed in yet. Go in and enter a single-player game. You don’t have to finish it, but get past the draw and make sure the game actually starts. Then exit, and go into the Co-op campaign. Have your friend sign in when prompted. I’ve tried this (after having to reset the 360 about eleventy billion times, we finally stumbled onto this) about five times and so far it’s worked every time. No more freezing!

  • pissed

    agreed. so disappointed. love playing magic…

    mine freezes whenever i try to equip anything cool from the blue/black deck… ๐Ÿ™ that’s my favorite deck dangit!!


    but even worse? what a terrible interface. maybe the worst i have ever seen. i wish they had spent some of their billions to invest in a proper dev team…

    ๐Ÿ™ over and over.

  • Dave

    I notice it usually freezes when playing a custom duel, custom co-op, or a 4 player online game. Standard 1v1 in single player or online seems to be fine, not sure about 3 player games i havn’t played many.

  • Frustrated

    This game needs to be taken off of the market and reworked to ensure that the bugs are fixed. Just yesterday my friend and I were playing the co-op when the game froze for a second and then kept going. Little did we know the freeze overwrote my save as it were and now I have no decks unlocked…no cards unlocked…but it still shows my xbl achievments and that I have beaten everyone. In this day and age games should not be released with such terrible coding.

  • purplekrunk

    Online game play is not too terrible in 2-headed giant, and in 2 player, all the others sux.

    Some bugs were fixed with the most recent patch, but the most recent bug is infuriating. If you want to play online you need to go to settings/gameplay and turn EVERYTHING off. No noob tips, no animations, just basic gameplay.

    When playing online on Xbox live sometimes players will experience game freezes. This is not always because of the game glitching out, sometimes it is because the other player is losing, and he wants to force you to quit. A player can do this during the damage phase, or while assigning an effect on a card like a kicker, or targeted damage from a creature ability. This player hits the Xbox button when the kicker option comes up and walks away until you quit. Whoever quits first loses, so keep this in mind.

    There is a known bug in some damage phases that can be misinterpreted as a purposeful pause. during the damage phase if one player uses 2 or more creatures to block a larger creature, and the damage done by those creatures is exactly = to the attacking creature’s health the game will freeze.

    I am still looking for a place to post some of this information, but I haven’t found a place yet. MTG stock is going to plummet, worthless programmers need to get off their butts and fix these problems.

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