Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is finally here. But, how does it stack up against the expectations?
After so much hype, Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is finally here! The game made a good impression with promising features with its release trailer earlier this year. This, in turn, made Yu-Gi-Oh! fans are more eager than ever to get their hands on Konami’s latest TCG game. Having my share of fun, I decided to share my thoughts on both pros and cons of the game in this article.
What you’ll enjoy
Compared to any previous Yu-Gi-Oh! title, I can say that Master Duel raised the bar on what a card game should look like. There is a considerable improvement related to the graphics and variety of elements shown on the screen at all times. Things couldn’t go a different way because this game has to be on par with the competition, such as Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering Arena, or The Elder Scrolls: Legends, etc.
This means that you’ll enjoy beautiful colors, high image quality, better lighting and shadows. Also, you’ll get a better 3D representation of the board and boss monsters whenever they’re summoned. There is also the addition of animated board layouts that incorporate ambient elements with movement, such as: water, grass, trees, insects, fishes, animals, etc. You can even have your own interactive living pet/avatar next to your board, cheering you on, or sulking in disappointment depending on whether you’re winning or losing…
All those additions make the game more immersive and much more pleasant to look at. It’s a huge improvement compared to other bland 2D Yu-Gi-Oh! titles.
Good graphics go hand-by-hand with flawless animations, and there’s plenty of it. Cards aren’t drawn but 3D rendered. All their movements are fluid and stylish when moving about the board. There’s also meaning to monsters being destroyed or tributed. More impressive is the summoning of boss monsters by making the monster in the card alive. Music also changes to match the occurrences on the board. Apart from that, the special summoning techniques (xyz/link, etc.) are on par with the animated series. That alone is something that brings a tear of joy to the nostalgia fans and I really appreciate this nice touch. If you are not into it, you can easily turn them off.
This game has absolutely phenomenal sound themes that fit every situation. Whether it’s deck building, a casual duel, or a climax against a strong opponent. Master Duel has some hard-slapping OSTs to make you pause whatever you’re doing, and listen to the masterpieces instead. Konami gave us more than we could have bargained for in this case.
I feel relieved to say that Master Duel follows the official card game rules with the latest card updates (errata) compared to Duel Links. This means that you’re going to enjoy the game in its full glory, with a 5-card monster and spell/trap card zone, 2-card extra monster zone, 40-card minimum deck limit, and pendulum/xyz/synchro/link summoning support. There are also over 10,000 cards available throughout the game.
Even though the game’s been out for a couple of months, there were no instances of bugs or glitches during a duel during my sessions. The chain links resolve properly, and they’re quite easy to follow through via their special effects. This might not sound important to the non-fans, but it’s the core of the game for the rest of us.
For PC gamers, there’s also full controller support (Xbox’s controller). All the buttons are natively displayed on each element on the screen. This visually guides you into pressing the correct buttons for each desired action.
Other than that, all the in-game options are easily manageable by clicking on the quick menu even during a duel. You will find the most crucial functions that you need. Overall, the layout is simple and easy to comprehend.
5. Solo mode
Great news for solo-mode lovers, as the game has implemented a single-player option. There are a variety of “scenarios” you can play through. You can do that either with your deck or with pre-made decks called ‘Loaner Deck.’
Most duels have been enjoyable, but they feel a bit dull. Mostly because they lack any meaningful story. Or worse, it’s just a made-up plot to justify the specific card archetype’s existence. It can be intriguing to some, but I admit I skipped most of it. Even though the rewards are quite generous, the solo mode ends quite fast. It’s a good attempt that needs a lot of improvement.
Speaking about rewards, Master Duel begs to differ compared to Duel Links. To be fair, there’s almost no comparison between the two when it comes to card, deck, and gem rewards. Right out of the bat, a new player can get about 10,000 gems by completing the tutorials and the initial scenarios. Online duels offer more gems too. There’s also a ‘Gold Pass’ that boosts the rewards, and refunds the invested gems when fully completed. To give you an idea of how much the gems are worth, you need 100 gems to get a booster pack, and 500 gems for a structure deck.
The booster packs have 8 cards in them, and there’s almost always a “Super Rare” (SR) or “Ultra Rare” (UR) card in every pack. Unfortunately, you cannot choose packs from any box/archetype you like. You have to first pull an SR or UR card from a generic pack in order to receive a secret key that leads to a 24h access to its corresponding pack. I think this is a huge turn-off, as you’ll have to waste gems or resort to crafting to gain access to the box you like.
On the other hand, the structure decks contain 40 cards, with 5 cards in the extra deck and there are plenty of SR and UR rarity cards to benefit from. There is a 3-time purchase limit that allows you to get 3 copies of each card you like. That way you won’t have to pay with real money for extra copies, like in Duel Links.
7. Crafting system
Another bonus point for Master Duel is the crafting system. Cards that you don’t like or have more than 3 copies, can be dismantled and turned into crafting points. Those points can be used to craft any card you like. Even an SR or UR rarity card. In that case you automatically receive a secret key corresponding to the card’s booster pack, which also gives you a free pack the first time.
You might want to hop on the bandwagon and get the most used or “meme” cards you’ve seen. But I strongly recommend you choose the meta deck you’d like to use in the long run. Then you can safely proceed to spend your crafting points to your liking.
Unfortunately, crafting points don’t come easily, as dismantling SR/UR cards yields fewer points than crafting them (+10 on dismantling vs. -30 on generating a card). Keep in mind, structure deck cards cannot be dismantled. So, there’s no benefit in buying structure decks just to dismantle cards. That is considered a “broken” tactic by Konami.
8. Online duels
Dueling other players online is effortless. You just click “Duel” and wait about 30 seconds to get matched up against a duelist. I usually match up in just 2 seconds. I haven’t encountered significant connection issues either. Although sometimes there are errors causing server response problems, resulting in the duel being canceled. In the worst case possible, the game requires a reboot. That’s a problem transfered from Duel Links.
Players who pull long or multiple-card combos, or extremeley high life/attack points, have reported more errors than others. It makes sense as extreme dueling situations are rarely taken into account by the developers, and the game eventually crashes.
What you’ll dislike
1. Duel length
The current meta play style is quite lengthy and complicated. It’s completely “normal” to see a person summoning 10-20 monsters in one turn. Resolving countless chain-links is also the norm. That’s before you even have a chance to do anything.
This, however, can make the game tedious as the opponent passively watches the duel for 5-10 minutes without doing anything. Even though there is a timer, it doesn’t make things easier. It gives 480 seconds (8 minutes) to the turn player to act. That doesn’t account for time consumed by animations and chain-link resolve. This means, the duel can extend to triple or quadruple the time (15-20 minutes).
This has caused the emergence of “self-destruct” decks, which players use to purposefully lose a duel as quickly as possible. In doing so, they earn the associated rewards without wasting time. Remember, surrendering does not yield any rewards, so this is the only way around it. One time I got bored so much during a duel that I started watching anime between turns. That says something.
2. Animation length
This is linked to the above point, as I think there should be an option to completely turn off any animation or redundant card movements, or at least, a way to increase the speed of the game. Perhaps some YGOPRO influence would benefit Master Duel in this case.
3. Decreasing rewards
Although the rewards are quite generous as mentioned before, suddenly you will see yourself obtaining less as time goes by. When you first play Master Duel, finishing a single tutorial would probably give you 500-1000 gems. Later on, when all the introductory perks are over, you’ll be getting 5-30 gems per daily challenge.
Consequently, you will be able to complete one meta deck, and resort to grinding for the rest of them. That’s no surprise, if you take into account Konami’s notorious practice in Duel Links. Their overall behavior is stingy, so there’s a reason Konami is called “Komoney” by the community.
The decreasing awards are not a coincidence. Konami expects you to lose your patience, and resort to buying cards or gems with real money. Look. I don’t expect a game to run for free, but when one pack costs you $2 to obtain, you might as well buy some real cards instead. Even if you spend $10 it amounts to nothing, as a good meta deck requires more money than that. The bottom line is, the game has a high cost if you decide to invest in it. Much more than a AAA game would cost you, if you aren’t careful enough. $100 is not worth it for a gem pack.
5. Lack of a chat feature
There is no chat feature in the game. You cannot communicate with your friends or followers, or with your opponents during a match. Not even the dueling room has a chat feature. Except for some predefined chat phrases like “Let’s duel” or “I’m sorry.” The feature can be abused by toxic players to get the best of you, but a mute button would easily solve that problem. So, there’s no real reason to not implement chat functions.
6. Lack of additional dueling formats
Sometimes I might be in the mood to do some “old school” duels. You know without synchro, xyz, etc. monsters. I might even want to add or remove certain rules or ban lists. That’s why I believe detailed custom game options should be in place to deliver a more tailored experience. I’ve yet to see anything meaningful apart from the generic card ban list that Konami has set.
7. Loaner decks
Loaner decks are fun, but the game tries to make the solo mode more challenging by giving you vanilla decks. That’s not fun when facing formidable AI decks. You’ll have to lose multiple times before the AI opponent “bricks”, and you finally win by being lucky.
This is no fun and the rewards are barely worth the effort. Also, the loaner decks are usually obsolete archetypes that are never used in the current meta. So, you end up learning nothing and obtaining meaningless rewards.
8. Performance issues on older machines
As mentioned earlier, Master Duel has improved graphics compared to its predecessors. But it should be nothing that a new or old machine can’t handle. After all, it’s just a card game. Right?
Heavy performance issues are met on both PCs and mobile devices. I tested the game on some mid-level Android phones, representative of what the majority of the population should have worldwide. The test subjects were the Xiaomi Note 7, Note 9S, and Note 11. Both the Note 7 and 9S had octa-core CPUs and 4 GB of RAM, while the Note 11 possessed 6GB of RAM. The game noticeably lagged and became sluggish when put on “Normal” or “High Resolution.” Things were more optimistic when selecting “Recommended”, but it wasn’t a huge improvement. The picture quality suffered a lot, making the cards barely distinguishable on mobile devices. Online play was even more frustrating for some reason. On the other hand, iOS devices performed better. Even older iPhones (iPhone 6, 7, 8, etc.) could flawlessly execute the game, as it’s better optimized for that platform.
Old desktop PCs and laptops (5-10 years old) suffer too, by exhibiting the same performance issues. The loading times increase and the GPU struggles to handle the graphics. The point is, Master Duel is not a game that anyone can install and play. At least Duel Links could do that. I guess Konami recommending the Nvidia GTX 1650 and 8 GB of RAM in the requirements, wasn’t a joke.
Matchmaking isn’t optimized. The matches are determined based only on your current rank, which depends only on your win rate. No cards or skills, or other elements are taken into account.
There is also the problem of “smurf” accounts. Players who create new accounts and build meta decks, but battle in the lower ranks. Those “apparent” novice players are responsible for driving away truly amateur duelists. This phenomenon is amplified by the rank reset in every season. Konami needs to address this issue.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is a huge improvement compared to any other Yu-Gi-Oh! title It brings to the table the full game with upgraded graphics, sounds, and gameplay. It’s very enjoyable, and fans will undoubtedly have their share of fun.
However, the gem prices, the performance issues, and Konami’s policies regarding community engagement, are something that could turn players away. Still, the game is in its early stages, and rapidly evolving with updates taking place frequently. I assume a few months from now, would be a better time to draw a conclusion.
How’s your experience with Master Duel been so far?
What do you think Konami should do?
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