Yu-Gi-Oh Master Duel is the latest in the franchise's long-running history. Yu-Gi-Oh is one of those games I always keep coming back to. Mostly since I grew up watching the show and collecting the cards themselves. I spent many months meticulously crafting decks using my limited cards so that I could duel my friends at school. I play pretty much all the games as well, with Refresh of Destruction on the GBA being a standout for me personally. But does Master Duel capture that same magic? Or is it another predatory mobile port?
Chapter 1: More Money, More Mobile
We need to address the elephant in the room first and foremost. Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is without a doubt, a free-to-play mobile-first experience. I don't blame Konami for continuing down this part, as the mobile game Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links reintroduced a lot of my friends who fell off the Yu-Gi-Oh bandwagon back to the franchise as a whole. I also enjoyed casually playing Duel Links in between life. However, that game had all the trappings of a standard Mobile experience. Which - again - is understandable.
Other games in the space, such as Riot Games’ Legends of Rune Terra, and Wizards on The Coast's Magic the Gathering, have a proven track record with mobile-first TCG games. It would make all the sense for Konami to emulate it.
Master Duel does in fact share a significant amount of DNA with its siblings. However, at this point, Konami has this down to a T.
Chapter 2: I'm certainly not meeting you for the first time
Master Duel has a robust tutorial, that for someone like me - who hasn't played Yu-Gi-Oh too seriously for many years now, can quickly pick up the new mechanics that were introduced and has since become standard. The game opens with a bare-bones tutorial that teaches you the absolute basics of the game, and then it drops you into a game unguided for you to then win.
Once you're completed with that you get to pick one of three starter decks. I only knew about the Blue-Eyes Dragon deck, so obviously, I did the most natural thing and chose the dick that I'm not used to.
The game's mobile-first approach shows up once again as once the basic tutorial is completed, you only now begin to download the game's actual files.
Chapter 3: Oh no,... I'm enjoying it
Like many Yu-Gi-Oh games that came before, the game often highlights things that you can interact with or cards that have fulfilled the requirements for their effects. This was great for me since I struggle to remember what the card's effects are since I'm only now seeing many of these cards for the first time.
The duels are visually appealing and for the most part, it marks everything clearly. When you issue the final blow there is this amazing effect where the attack slows down, and a huge explosion happens. Honestly amazing.
During your draw phase, the game will make you drag the card from the deck, and this was more satisfying to do than I originally thought.
Every monster card that has a special summon often explodes onto the entire screen making sure you know a powerful monster just entered the battlefield.
This music, my god this music. It is always so epic. It is a mix between Egyptian and European Medieval, and once it gets going, oh it goes!
The solo mode also has cutscenes that describe a contained story between missions. In these solo missions, you typically are given a demonstration of how a card works then you're dropped into a real duel with that deck. Upon winning it, you get the ending of the cutscene and new cards. You also get these orbs which are used to unlock side quests in each mission, which unlocks more cards.
I've mostly spoken about the Solo mode thus far. Multiplayer is where the heart of the game is. And while they give you the option to create your own lobby and play against your friends, the ranked mode is where most people might want to spend most of their time.
However, in the lower ranks, where everyone is forced to start, duels can last upwards of 20 minutes. I played three matches and after each one, I needed to take a step back because duels slow down when you're playing ranked. Far more than I thought. Maybe games go faster in the higher ranks, I don't know yet.
Chapter 4: This is the most amount of digital money I've ever held (ignore the time I lost 1K in dogecoin back in the day)
Now we come to the second biggest aspect: The Cash Show. Thankfully Master Duel seems to be very generous with the game's currency - gems. There are other hidden currencies, but the only way to receive them is to find them when opening packs or in solo mode.
However, the game incentivises you to spend the gems that you earn in-game. How? They are capped at 10K Gems that you can hold at any given point. Gems bought with real money have no limit.
The individual card packs cost 100gems which is ~2USD and it does seem fair. There is also a duel pass which costs 750 gems. You Can use your free gems to pay for these though, which is what I did.
The Hidden Currency is what is known as 'Legacy Ticket' which you can exchange for card packs feature cards from the anime and older games.
The shop also has structure decks for 500 gems. The game also offers game boards, game critters that sit on your board and reacts to game events in cute and cool ways. There is even a dark magician one. You can also buy icons that appear next to your name, and protectors - which are just the card backs.
There are limited bundles that offer 10 packs plus a specific card for 750 gems. Which are 250 gems less than what you would pay for it if you bought 10 packs by themselves. These are great for players just hopping in and getting started.
When you open packs, it will highlight the rare, super rare, and ultra-rare cards. The store is also required by law in some countries to show the odds of getting certain cards, so they include that on the main page for each pack.
When you open packs, there is a chance to discover secret packs, which will then make them available to purchase for 24 hours. Which is kind of odd, but okay, I guess. You can also find secret packs in the game's Solo mode, and it also has a 24-hour limit. Honestly, the sheer number of secret packs you find, especially when you are buying a 10 pack is often overwhelming.
I spent close to 6k gems, and I still have 7k. Kudos to Konami for making the early game satisfying, but games like this need at least 5-10 hours to really figure out if the cash shop/currencies are predatory or not. this is a TCG after all.
However, this game is Yu-Gi-Oh and there are literally thousands of cards you can collect and build decks from that each has its own strengths, weaknesses, and synergy. So, expect to put in a lot of time into this game if you enjoy it.
Chapter 5: Its fun, but casual
Despite the fun aspect of the game, there is still a sense of being overwhelmed with this game. I struggled for a bit trying to figure out how to use my decks, and there seem to be so many decks you can choose from. My advice here is just to pick a deck you like and just use it. Unless it’s a bad deck, you're statistically guaranteed to win ~50% of the time.
Once you figure out this deck to the point where you no longer must think, then move on. I jumped around many decks trying to figure out what I liked and ultimately became frustrated since so much of each deck has so many different synergies, that I wasn't learning quickly enough.
If you play the game casually, you'll have a lot of fun.
A fun TCG game that on the surface has a decently balance cash shop. The solo missions are fun, and though the ranked mode does take time to complete, it was still fun visually. If you're a latent fan of Yu-Gi-Oh I recommend you download it and take it for a spin.