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Baneful's Column
May 29, 2014

Millennium Duels Review


Millennium Duels is a video-game derived from the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game.  It was released in March 2014.  It is priced at $10 (U.S.) and also sells paid downloadable content.  It is available for both Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.  I am reviewing the Xbox 360 version; I played the game for about 20 hours.


"Millennium Duels has rewarding moments, but it wittingly

pushes grinding well beyond the breaking point."


It has been a long while since I had played a YGO video game.  I believe World Championship 2008 for the Nintendo DSmillemmium_logo_Fix-lores was my last one.  Returning back to the franchise in high-definition was an appealing thought.  The nostalgia of playing my first YGO game for the first time instantly clicked in my head the first minute I started playing.


But as time went on the faults that have haunted the series also came to light too.  At it's core, the game plays much like the other YGO games (which is both good and bad) though the user interface has been refined a bit.




Visually, the game avoids the uncanny valley and presents a clean crisp colorful minimalist interface.  Seeing a YGO game in high-definition on a bright big-screen television is a enjoyable first. The sound contains ambient synthesized background music which is pleasant, but inessential in case you want to multi-task.


I have not encountered a single bug or glitch.  The game performs and runs very well on the Xbox 360.  The online is lag-free.  Menus are easier than ever to navigate and convenient.  There is an optional tutorial for newer players. 


In duels, information about the cards abilities and stats are readily visible making this easy for newer players.  For example, when you have monsters on the field which are capable of being used for a Synchro Summon or XYZ Summon, the Extra Deck will light up to remind you.



Single Player


The campaign is straightforward.  You duel against 100 characters in a linear order.  Starting in the classic Duel Monsters era, you work your way through GX, 5D and Xexal as you face 25 characters from each era.  You start with a basic deck that you micromanage as you win duels and earn more cards.


There is no story or dialogue at all, basically making the campaign a set of isolated game mechanics.  It's disappointing that there is not a unique narrative to tie the four generations together though it's always interesting to see the older characters incorporate newer cards into their strategies.


If you play YGO for the meat of the duels more than the storytelling you should not worry too much.  But the campaign did not just stagnate since older GBA games like Eternal Duelist Soul.  It became even colder and more of a formality.





After you win a duel against each character, you receive a pack of 10 cards as a prize.  It feels really rewarding to win a prize for your efforts as you hope for cards that will strengthen your deck.  However, these packs rarely contain cards of practical viability. 


Due to the massive size of the card pool and the prevalence of archetypes, you'll find that even after you've played for hours that you won't have enough cards to build a cohesive deck.  You will have a few cards from each archetype but never enough to build a single specific archetype. 


Frustrating moments include playing against opponents with cards you are ill prepared to deal with.  For example, Marik's deck contained a dozen Continuous Trap cards while I only had access to 2 Spell/Trap removal cards in my entire 40-card deck.


Initially, I tried dueling previously beaten opponents to build up my card library.  Despite winning 10 more cards, none of the cards I was awarded could help me out of that situation.  So the solution was to keep dueling him until luck gives them a bad starting hand. 


You can win by sheer persistence if you want to or need to.



Grinding and DLC


After 15 hours of dueling, the only competitive-grade cards I had unlocked were Call of the Haunted and Sixth Sense.  I unlocked Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning, but had very few decent DARK monsters to summon it reliably. 


It takes so many hours of grinding to build even one decent deck.  Imagine how long it will take until you're able to build several different decks, like the deck recipe system encourages you to do. 


Paid downloadable content is offered.  You could pay $2.99 (of real-life money) to buy different sets of ~20 cards which will be more helpful toward building your collection than playing for an entire day would.  The game does not tell you what you would get in these DLC packs.  I had to search online to find out.


While slowly building up to a better deck is fun, the progression is far too slow.  And it feels like this I.V.-drip pace was a conscious decision to make paid content the standard.


Online Multiplayer


Online multiplayer is straightforward.  You duel against other players in ranked and unranked matches.  Voice chat is allowed.  There are chess-like timers to ensure duelists don't stall.  Cards activate and resolve themselves, so there is no need for ruling disputes.


There isn't much if any thought or algorithm put into matching players.  If your card library is small because you have not either (a) grinded for enough hours or (b) paid for DLC, you will still be matched against players with a wide array of rare cards who were able to create decks that you are never able to.


In order to have a fighting chance online, you must pay for additional content or play for an amount of time that is not very feasible for the average person with a full-time job. 


Games like "Pokémon Stadium" (N64) give you all the content you need to hop into a fair diverse multiplayer game instantly.  Games like "Team Fortress 2" (PC) make additional content helpful to have but inessential.  Millennium Duels does not account for either of these things.



Concluding Thoughts


I've spent a lot of time going over the negatives, but there is good to be had in this game.  The appealing presentation, large library of cards and core game mechanics that have always made the TCG great make it A lot of the time this game is fun.  But its merits are shared by the many other video games in the YGO franchise. 


This is not a terrible game, per se.  It just sticks with a familiar formula and does nothing to meaningfully change it aside from purely cosmetic revisions.  In some ways, it has been a step back (lack of a story and questionable DLC practices).  It can be a somewhat worthwhile experience to some people, but there are far too many caveats too consider before it can recommended to most people. 


Millennium Duels has rewarding moments, but it wittingly pushes grinding well beyond the breaking point.  At it's core, YGO is a deep intricate satisfying strategy game.  This adaptation of the TCG is not structured that way.


Since rewards are earned primarily by money and/or sheer persistence, I feel like my input in this game matters very little.  This, above all, is an unfortunate fact.




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Contact: banefulscolumn@gmail.com




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