Best & Worst Things About Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel – GameRant


Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is a great way to experience the classic card game, but players have a few gripes with it as well.
Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the old-guard of the trading card game genre, and to this day maintains a relatively healthy player base. However, while other titles like the Pokemon TCG or Magic: The Gathering were receiving impressive digital simulators, Konami never made their own platform that could keep up. With Master Duel, has this all changed.
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Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is the long-anticipated TCG simulator, available across all platforms and given the next-gen flair to help it compete with the other top games. Konami spared no expense for their cardboard cash cow, and created an experience that's been well-received from fans both old and new. Yet, despite how solid the game is, certain design decisions make this game hard to truly embrace.
Yu-Gi-Oh, despite the "children's card game" memes, is one of the most complicated games to break into as a newcomer. When individual cards have massive wiki pages dedicated to specific rulings, trying to learn the game on paper (or through Dueling Book) is nearly impossible. Konami had to fight an uphill battle to make the game easy to follow.
They passed this test with flying colors. Master Duel's UI, visuals, and sound design provide subtle ways to help the game mechanics make sense. Chaining, in particular, is easy to follow. The well-designed duel log also helps players keep track of what happened in an exchange. This, combined with dynamic card art for summoning and other touches, make Master Duel feel like a truly next-gen experience.
The game looks fantastic and runs smoothly on most platforms. However, the more time players spend in the world of Master Duel, the more certain things cheapen the experience. There are a number of bugs, many of which are platform specific, that range from ignorable oddities to outright game crashes.
The greatest lack of polish comes through in the game's text. The cards all have their most recent editions, and the text on them is fine. Flavor text, on the other-hand, is laughably bad. The flavor text on certain Mates and Icons makes the game feel less like the next TCG evolution, and more like something one would download off the App Store.
Tying into visual clarity, the spectator experience is something that desperately needed an overhaul. Anyone who's tried to watch tabletop Yu-Gi-Oh! while learning the modern game knows that it's wildly boring and impossible to follow. Color casters help with this during streamed events, but it still isn't the most pleasant experience.
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The spectator mode works wonders to make the game exciting to watch. The visual and audio cues get their time to shine. Dynamic animations and sound effects are wildly engaging. The abilities to pause quick exchanges or speed-up slow grinds also improve the viewer experience. The only issue is that plays can't be replayed during live matches.
If the text makes the game feel like a suspicious App Store title, the cosmetics are even worse. The Yu-Gi-Oh! inspired cosmetics are lovingly crafted, with the Mates in particular giving a great mix of cool and cute companions. The rest of the bunch are placeholder assets.
A shocking number of cosmetics are cheap 3D models, with Google translated flavor text and minimal animation. Things like a soccer ball, a record player, roller skates, and more can be trusty allies in the duel arena. The best of the worst is a little red car, which is just funny enough that it wraps around to be fantastic. This will be expanded in the future, but the launch selection leaves a lot to be desired.
The most important part of creating a good TCG is making sure deckbuilding is straightforward and easy. Previous titles were a mixed bag, and ease of building was heavily impacted by the platform. It's hard to make deckbuilding with a controller intuitive. Master Duel has its quirks, but overall has a fantastic deckbuilder.
The deck build menu is split into a number of different submenus. On PC, the experience is smooth, as expected. Console players will have to adjust to certain button combinations and inputs, but it quickly becomes a straightforward experience. Decks can be built with cards that players don't have, which helps keep a list of what they need to obtain. For those who just want to get some direction from others, users can import highly-rated decks that were shared online.
The unfortunate nature of Yu-Gi-Oh! means that certain staple aspects cannot be easily translated into a simulator setting. The biggest cut is the removal of standard Best-of-three matches and, of course, the side deck.
To their credit, the lack of a side deck makes the game more accessible for free-to-play users or budget players. However, considering how many decks need to be countered by siding in specific cards, it potentially limits viability of rogue decks at the highest level of play. Decks like Drytron, one notoriously weak to hand traps, can easily climb the ladder while only worrying about the staple hand traps in every deck. It leads to an interesting format, but it may be unbalanced in the long run.
Many modern TCGs are cross-platform between mobile devices and PC. Previous Yu-Gi-Oh! games were on console, but those releases feel lackluster compared to other versions. Master Duel is a great experience across (almost) every platform, and connected accounts allow duelists to play wherever they want when they want.
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Cross-platform accounts seem like a no-brainer, but here it makes perfect sense. Similar to Duel Links, platforms can be linked through a single account. This means that players can deckbuild on PC or tablet, and then play duels on Xbox or PS5. The obvious sore spot is the Switch version; while deckbuilding in handheld mode is smooth thanks to touch controls, the game runs poorly. Despite that, it's great to have the game across every platform.
As a free-to-play game, players were terrified at how buying cards would be handled. Duel Links, the other Yu-Gi-Oh! mobile game, is atrocious. By comparison, Master Duel is fantastic, but it still has some issues.
Nearly every card ever printed is loaded into the "Master Pack" set. Each pack contains 8 cards. However, some high-rarity cards will unlock new Secret Packs. These are more what one would expect, with half of the cards in each pull devoted to a single archetype or theme. They are also only available for 24 hours, or until another high-rarity card resets that timer. It's a predatory system that's annoying to deal with.
Opening packs and pulling cards can be a nightmare. It doesn't matter how many gems one invests into a single pack, sometimes that one ultra-rare card will elude players. Konami, though, gave their players a crafting system that almost makes up for the gacha nonsense.
Taking cues from Legends of Runeterra, Master Duel allows users to craft any card they want using resources called "Craft Points." These are obtained through missions, the battle pass, or dismantling unwanted cards. With this and the generous amount of starting Gems, players can build a fully-realized deck within one day or so. Future decks get harder to build, but crafting will always be there to help.
The other major sore spot for players globally, but primarily TCG players, is the new banlist included. As this is a global experience, Konami worked to merge the OCG and TCG banlists together. The result is a Frankenstein's Monster of a format, with cards that had been locked up for years in the TCG coming back with a vengeance. The most apparent of these is "Maxx C."
Maxx C is the most divisive card in the game. It's a format-warping card, serving as a counter to a vast majority of archetypes and decks. While currently banned in the TCG, it has remained unlimited in the OCG and returns with a vengeance in Master Duel. This alone will create a divide in the player base, and one's enjoyment in dealing with this card will determine whether someone will want to keep playing. The "Maxx C" Challenge may be somewhat refreshing for TCG players, but awful in the long-run.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is available now on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC. A mobile release will come at a currently unknown date.
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Tanner Kinney is a writer, podcaster, radio show host, and game-player based in Indiana. He has previously written for and helped lead a student publication about entertainment in college before writing for GameRant. A graduate of the Telecommunications program at Ball State University, Tanner uses his skills in media analysis to find the right way to pick apart any topic at hand. He’s a Japanese role-playing game fanatic and Chikorita enthusiast, owning maybe one too many Pokemon plushes.


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