Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel on PC
Yu-Gu-Oh! Master Duel is another free-to-play entry in the long-running card-battling franchise, and while it may be a bit barebones at the moment, the game still provides just enough engaging core features to keep you building decks and battling friends, the AI, or other players for hours on end.
The last gacha-style game in the series was Duel Links, which launched back in 2016. Master Duel is here to shake up the Duel Links formula by removing the quick Speed Duel format and bringing back some more standard TCG rules that most fans are familiar with.
Life Points are back up to 8,000, more monsters, spells, and traps can be played, and decks can contain far more cards overall than they could in Duel Links. It can actually be a bit overwhelming at first if you’re someone like me who hasn’t played Yu-Gi-Oh! seriously since childhood, but the game does its best to ease you in with the Solo mode.
The Solo mode is perfect for players who have no idea what’s going on when faced with more modern additions like Xyz monsters, Synchro Summons, or Pendulum cards. It’ll catch you up on all of the basics you need to know if it’s been a while since your last duel.
Be warned though, there’s a ton of reading involved if all of those concepts mentioned above sound foreign to you — on top of already having to read through every single card effect that occurs when going up against other players.
Thankfully, the Solo practice duels will introduce a few Yu-Gi-Oh! concepts one at a time with relatively easy-to-follow explanations of what’s going on. The mode will even provide Loaner Decks for players to try out if they’re having trouble figuring out exactly what to build to use in real duels.
As a small added bonus, Solo mode also gives a bit of background for the card sets and decks that it loans out, allowing those who want to read even more to get a ton of interesting lore.
Once your introduction (or re-introduction) to Yu-Gi-Oh!’s rules is complete, it’s time to build a deck or two to use outside of the starter and pre-structured decks handed out by the game. Thanks to the staggering number of available cards, this is easily the most time-consuming part of Master Duel. And yet, it still manages to be surprisingly engaging and enjoyable.
With over 10,000 available cards to choose from, it’s no exaggeration to say that the deck-building possibilities feel endless. Want to make a Dark Magician or Harpy Lady-focused deck because you haven’t touched Yu-Gi-Oh! since 2003? You absolutely can. Want to go nuts and summon monsters using Pendulum scales all match? Go for it.
The amount of creativity that Master Duel allows when it comes to card combos and synergy is very much appreciated. Though, for those who are totally lost, it’s even possible to search for public decks that other players have shared. They can be copied to work with has a base, then modified to fit any custom needs or wants.
The freedom to build personalized decks, along with the guidance given to push you into experimentation, is just great.
That guidance is given in the form of both Solo mode and the various themed packs available to pull from in the Shop. Almost all of the card packs available in the game are focused on specific builds, which is incredibly useful for someone who doesn’t know where to begin when it comes to deck building. Pull cards from booster packs that look cool or fun to you, and it’s hard to go wrong.
This is still a gacha game, though. Gems are used to purchase and pull from booster packs, and they’re earned by completing challenges while dueling both online and offline. It’s shockingly easy to earn Gems given the game’s free-to-play nature, so pack openings will happen often.
In fact, Master Duel basically hands out Gems for nearly everything you do for quite a while. Clearly, it’s to incentivize players to keep playing, but it’s still nice to earn packs without using real money — though that’s an option too, of course. Played a tutorial duel offline? Collect some Gems. Battled someone online in a ranked match and lost? That’s okay. Collect some Gems.
By the time the flow of Gems starts to run low, there should be enough useful cards at your disposal to create the deck of your dreams. And if cards are still missing from that dream deck, Master Duel has an extremely convenient crafting system that allows any card to be created by dismantling three other cards of the same rarity.
When it comes to actual dueling, Master Duel uses some pretty animations and good-looking visuals to liven up its card battling system that has players chaining card effects together, countering each other, and making big-brain plays to win matches.
However, those aspects of the game may be hard to notice when you’re panicking while getting destroyed in the game’s one mode for online play against randoms: Ranked mode.
Veteran players can, and will, win matches in one or two turns very easily. By the time you’ve finished reading their card effects, your Life Points will be at zero. This doesn’t happen in every single Ranked match, but, to be honest, the matchmaking needs some work if it’s to become more welcoming for beginners.
I’m no expert, but it would be nice to have a deck ranking system to match players who have built insane decks full of Ultra Rare cards against others of that caliber. There’s nothing worse than getting beat before your second turn while playing at the lowest possible rank online.
Couple that with the fact that your only three options for playing the game are Solo, Ranked, and Friend Duels against people you know. More modes are coming to the game, but, as of right now, the choices are fairly minimal.
While Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel isn’t perfect, there is no arguing that it is one of the best games in the series in terms of its ease of access. It’s free and available on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Switch, and even mobile in the future. Plus, with crossplay and cross-save functionality, it’s hard not to recommend it as a nice entry point or new experience for newcomers, former players, and current duelists who never left the scene.
If you can overlook the limited available modes and move past the potentially devastating feeling of being one-turn-killed online, Master Duel is a Yu-Gi-Oh! game that will allow you to build — and more importantly, defend against — a deck of that caliber
- Deck building allows for an amazing amount of freedom and customization.
- Solo mode provides refreshers for returning players and solid guidance for newcomers.
- Crafting helps to get cards outside of lucky gacha pulls.
- Crossplay and cross-save across all platforms.
- Starting out a bit barebones with few modes/options to play.
- Ranked matchmaking can be rough for beginners even at low ranks.