What’s it? An formally sanctioned aggressive sim for the Yu-Gi-Oh! buying and selling card recreation.
Anticipate to pay: Free-to-play, in all probability a minimum of $30-60 USD in microtransactions to construct a number of aggressive decks
Reviewed on: Nvidia GTX 1060, AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32GB RAM
Multiplayer: On-line 1v1, ranked and informal modes
Yu-Gi-Oh! (sure, the exclamation level is a part of the title, and do not you ever neglect it) was at one level practically as ubiquitous as Pokémon, and has been rising and evolving for over 20 years now. What was as soon as a easy buying and selling card recreation the place you’d summon one monster and set a pair traps now usually includes ten minute turns throughout which you summon as many monsters, establishing unbreakable boards of negates solely to observe your opponent break them in any case. It is difficult, however hasn’t misplaced the fundamental attraction of any card recreation: the agony and ecstasy on the intersection of talent and luck.
After years of exploitative Yu-Gi-Oh! gacha video games, buggy efforts at multiplayer, and anime tie-ins that have been enjoyable however extra focused at youngsters, Yu-Gi-Oh! Grasp Duel has lastly dragged that card recreation into the free-to-play PvP age, and it is carried out it much more elegantly than anybody might have anticipated. Grasp Duel has a number of the finest manufacturing values of any digital card recreation on the market, embodying the spirit of Kazuki Takahashi’s iconic manga, its beloved anime, and the bodily card recreation in equal measure.
The educational curve can be steep for newcomers, and Grasp Duel’s preliminary 1.0 launch would not embody a lot of an providing exterior of the aggressive ladder mode (this appears prone to change within the close to future), however it’s nonetheless top-of-the-line digital card video games obtainable in the present day. The nice evening’s sleeps I’ve sacrificed are a testomony to that.
The second-to-last duel
Think about this latest expertise: It is 2:33 am, and I am on the verge of defeat. After making my approach as much as Platinum IV on the Grasp Duel ladder with relative ease, I received cocky and ditched the competitively viable deck I constructed to strive one in every of my goofier, less-practical 60 card builds (the everyday aggressive deck is 40 playing cards). I am deep within the gap, right down to my final 800 life factors after paying half of them on a graveyard impact that my opponent stopped with a well-timed impact negation, leaving my board near empty.
If I lose, I am going to drop right down to Gold rank. Which means profitable 4 to 5 video games simply to get again to the place I’m, a cycle that stuffed my evenings since Grasp Duel unexpectedly dropped in the course of a January evening.
After a barely agonizing wait as my opponent units up their again row of spells and traps, with a number of pauses the place a blinking Wi-Fi icon signifies connection points on their finish, it is my final probability to avoid wasting myself. I channel my interior anime protagonist and depend on the guts of the playing cards for the top-deck I would like. The smooth draw animation unfurls, and there it’s, the cardboard my complete deck is constructed round: That Grass Appears to be like Greener.
At its core, this is identical Yu-Gi-Oh! card recreation you may’ve performed in 2004 or 2019: You summon monsters, activate spells, and spring traps to clear your opponent’s board (or hold them from constructing one within the first place), after which assault them till they run out of life factors. What makes Yu-Gi-Oh! distinctive is that there is no mana, talent factors, or actually some other assets apart from your life factors and the playing cards in your hand—the playing cards themselves are the first useful resource. That implies that so long as you have received a minimum of one life level left and a card to get your combo going, you are still within the recreation.
It is also what makes a card like That Grass Appears to be like Greener completely busted. Loads has modified in 20-plus years of this card recreation’s evolution, a lot in order that now the graveyard is principally a second hand. That Grass Appears to be like Greener sends playing cards out of your deck to your graveyard till you and your opponent have the identical variety of playing cards left in your deck, which is so degenerate that it has been banned from aggressive play within the US for a few years. However it’s authorized in Japan, and it is authorized on this recreation’s banlist too, so I am operating it.
I plunk the cardboard down, and 20 playing cards fall off my deck and right into a gap that denotes the graveyard, with a smooth animation punctuated by the sound of shuffling playing cards. I proceed to make use of my Orcust Harp Horror, a type of 20 playing cards I dumped, to summon a monster of my alternative straight out of my deck, then I try this once more with one other card to deliver a monster again from my graveyard. Fairly quickly I’ve swarmed the sector and Hyperlink Summoned a big 5300 Assault boss monster named Accesscode Talker, which lets me wipe their board with impunity. I dwell to struggle once more tomorrow, cheered on by a sprightly horn flourish that greets each victory. Or possibly I ought to go for another duel proper now?
I’ve now logged properly over 100 hours in Grasp Duel. The preliminary intoxication has worn off at this level, so I’ve turn into extra skeptical of my very own motivations after 2 am. Am I all the time having enjoyable, or am I succumbing to gacha-game psychological manipulation? Grasp Duel’s audiovisual brilliance makes it onerous to inform. My interior anime protagonist is resurrected each time I hook up with a brand new match. The animated recreation mat full of rotating gears, my mascot cheering me on from the sideline, the detailed renderings of iconic Yu-Gi-Oh! card artwork, and the extraordinary, dramatic orchestral rating can all imply just one factor: It is time to d-d-d-duel!
Feeling the move
For brand spanking new or lapsed gamers, Grasp Duel’s Solo mode is an efficient if considerably laissez-faire tutorial for the sport’s mechanics, unafraid to allow you to lose whereas unfolding function after function in a path that largely mirrors the development of the sport over the previous 20 years. For present gamers, it gives cheesy-but-fun lore dumps in regards to the playing cards, and a spot to follow a few of your new builds with out risking your ladder rating. In both case, anticipate to spend about 4-5 hours on the fundamentals, and one other 2-3 doing additional challenges and replays with customized decks. Not insubstantial, however when you’re solely in search of solo play, this won’t scratch the itch.
For PvP duels, there are informal rooms and a greyed out occasion mode that is coming later, however the meat of the sport is the aggressive ladder. Somewhat than the standard best-of-three format that makes up in-person and distant match play, Grasp Duels are settled with one match. That is good in that it simplifies the sport, eliminating side-decking (altering your foremost deck between matches), however it does imply you will get blindsided by one-turn-kill decks, troll decks, or unhealthy luck. As such, a variety of deck constructing proper now’s tilted in direction of jamming in game-breaking tech playing cards which might be onerous to reply to until you particularly construct your deck round them.
One other difficulty is that, whereas Grasp Duel feels very quick in comparison with fan-run simulators like EDOPro and Dueling E book—which was once all we had—Yu-Gi-Oh! continues to be a sluggish recreation made slower by the net expertise. You might have 400+ seconds for every participant’s flip initially, and also you get most of it again with every new flip. That is one thing that is merely endemic to a card recreation of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s complexity.
The precise aggressive metagame expertise would take far too many phrases to explain right here, however probably the most attention-grabbing factor about it’s that it combines banlists from each the US/EU and Japan. This implies some methods that have not actually been accessible to US gamers are actually viable, which is enjoyable—and what led to my 60 card Orcust deck particularly—however there are additionally some inequities in terms of dear Extremely Uncommon staples that make or break decks.
Outdoors of the highs and lows of the Yu-Gi-Oh! card recreation itself, small touches make Grasp Duel shine. The sound results and animations are endlessly entertaining, from the steel-forge slam you hear when a card hits the sector, to the evenly animated portraits of boss monsters, to the dynamic visualizations of impact chains that perform as ripostes in Yu-Gi-Oh! The animations can drag out the already sluggish turns a bit, however they’re so entertaining that I’ve but to show them off. Particular reward has to even be given to the spectacular orchestral soundtrack that makes each transfer really feel intense.
Pot of Greed
The beauty customizations obtainable in play mats, card sleeves, and mascots are restricted sufficient to not really feel overwhelming however different sufficient to present you some precise personalization, and there is a good quantity you will get free of charge from solo mode.
This in fact brings us to the issue with any aggressive free-to-play card recreation: At finest, it is an train in pleasant extortion.
Grasp Duel, a minimum of up entrance, is surprisingly beneficiant: Between bonuses distributed to early gamers, finishing Solo mode with out replays, and the primary chunk of leveling up, you will in a short time hit the ten,000 gem stock most. Packs value 100 gems every and offer you eight playing cards per pack. There are additionally some cheaper pre-built construction decks, that are enjoyable however not notably aggressive.
These beginning gems may dry up quicker than you anticipate, and when you cave and determine to purchase gems, 2,000ish of them will value you about $12 USD, and that is the particular deal proper now. Usually, 50 gems, not even sufficient for a single pack, will value you a greenback. It’s definitely potential to construct aggressive decks free of charge, however it requires planning and persistence.
As for the precise technique of unlocking playing cards, Grasp Duel’s system is… properly, let’s be well mannered and name it idiosyncratic. What’s complicated at first is that, for a card recreation marked by dozens of booster pack releases targeted on particular archetypes, there are initially solely three booster pack sorts to purchase: two specialty packs with trendy staples and nostalgia picks respectively, and Grasp Packs which include… actually each card within the recreation. Sure, all 10,000-plus playing cards, opened one pack at a time at 100 gems a pop.
What Grasp Duel would not clarify very properly is that everytime you open a pack containing a Tremendous or Extremely uncommon card, you unlock a “secret pack” containing all of the playing cards from its archetype. From there, you possibly can then open packs to construct a deck targeted in your technique, however the secret pack is just obtainable for twenty-four hours. Whereas with the ability to give attention to playing cards you need to unlock is nice, the time restrict looks as if an pointless restriction to stress gamers to shell out actual world cash.
The excellent news is that Grasp Duel has a player-friendly crafting system. You possibly can accrue card elements of every rarity by means of leveling up, finishing solo mode, and dismantling playing cards you don’t need for a few third of their crafting value. Crafting a Tremendous or Extremely uncommon card additionally unlocks a secret pack in the identical approach pulling it in a booster pack would, providing you with just a little extra management over deck constructing when you study the rhythm. Crafting helps to offset the annoying pack system, and makes it legitimately potential to construct a deck or two that may get you to Platinum ranks with out spending a dime, when you’re keen to grind it out.
Your gem revenue slows down significantly after the preliminary Solo mode rewards have been redeemed. After per week and a half, I used to be getting at most a pair hundred gems out of a multi-hour session of play in a day, and sometimes much less. I did not spend any cash for almost all of my playtime, however finally ended up shopping for a pack of two,000 gems for $12 USD to complete out my Thunder Dragon deck.
And oh boy, does Konami ever attempt to reel you in: The identical degree of polish in dueling is current in pack opening, with over-the-top animations and glowing indications of rarity.
As for the precise deck constructing itself, it really works very properly. There are sadly no choices to type by card results, as is the case in each Duel Hyperlinks and in most fan-made sims, it is in any other case one other well-designed consumer expertise with a number of sorting choices. You possibly can copy public decks from others and customise them or draw inspiration from them, a extremely helpful function for studying new archetypes and methods. It additionally means that you can construct decks utilizing copies of playing cards you do not personal but to plan your pack purchases.
For those who’re a seasoned veteran of the bodily Yu-Gi-Oh! card recreation, you have probably already put in Grasp Duel. For these with a nostalgic connection to Yu-Gi-Oh!, or digital CCG gamers who at the moment take pleasure in video games like Hearthstone or Legends of Runeterra, Grasp Duel is value making an attempt.
Yu-Gi-Oh! is in contrast to some other buying and selling card recreation partially due to how over-the-top it’s, and Grasp Duel is a lean however polished digitization that card battler, brining over 10,000 playing cards right into a surprisingly accessible bundle. Whereas it is gentle on singleplayer leisure, it gives sufficient solo instruction to get gamers into the excellent aggressive recreation. For those who’ve ever needed to study a TCG, this could be the easiest way to do it with minimal up-front funding.