Having released last year, Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links came into the Yu-Gi-Oh fandom stumbling, to say the least; supposedly dumbed-down mechanics, having to pay for digital packs with no pack code redemption similar to the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and an extremely cringey advert to launch the game..? It’s easy to say that things didn’t look good for Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links from the start, as it seemed the greater community was all against it…

For reference, here’s that incredibly cringe-worthy ad for your own viewing pleasure…

Credit to the Official Yu-Gi-Oh TRADING CARD GAME YouTube Channel for the above video.

However, fast-forward ahead a year and Duel Links is booming and blossoming larger than it probably was expected to – Well, fortunately for you I’ve decided to break my 5-year-long hiatus of playing Yu-Gi-Oh to provide you with my definitive review of what may just be my Mobile Game of the Year last year…

Given the game has a large number of Microtransactions (As per these types of games), I guess you could technically screw the rules if you had enough money..?

I think it’s important to begin this review with detailing how I actually set out to play this game – To start, yes, the game features a lot of microtransactions, allowing players to purchase digital packs of cards – Each Pack contains 3 Cards, with 200 Packs in each ‘Main Box’ (Equalling 600 cards including duplicates) and each ‘Mini Box’ containing 80 Packs each (Leading to 240 cards including duplicates); these can be purchased with real world money at 1 Pack for 99p; not too egregious, but for 3 cards, it is a bit silly to spend a quid on – That breaks down to 33p per card! There are obviously combo deals and sales, however the second, and more importantly free way to earn Packs is to purchase them with Gems – A digital currency dished out by Konami and littered throughout the game’s various Events, Character Level-Up Rewards and Stage Missions; for Duel Links, I decided to maintain my typical mindset when playing mobile games, and decided to try to stay completely Free-To-Play. Not spending a real penny on the game’s cards.

1000 Free Gems just by logging in for 6 days?! Don’t mind if I do!

Fortunately, in this oddly rare instance, Konami is more than happy to fuel the F2P scene of Duel Links by providing players with a hell of a lot of free Gems – Yes, you do often need to grind and farm your way to earn those staple cards to crush foes in PVP that have paid to obtain the rarer and stronger cards, but Duel Links handily treats all players equally, free or not, by giving them the same pull rates, the same access to cards, no exclusivity or barriers to play. For reference as well, since I started playing over two months ago, I’ve played 8 different Events:

  • Set Sail for The Kingdom Event: Duelist Chronicles 1 (Just entered at the very last days just as I started)
  • Dr Crowler’s Tricky Tests
  • Kaiba Corp Cup November 2017
  • Jesse Anderson Event
  • Espa Roba Event
  • D.D. Tower: Water Event
  • Yami Marik 2: Unleash the Egyptian God Card
  • Bonz’ Spooky Zombie Party
  • Battle City Begins: Duelist Chronicles 2

Just a few of the Events coming up later this month…

Aaaaand that’s not even including all of the Pick-A-Reward Events, free Gems Events, 1.5x EXP, double Coins and Keys Events and much much more… All of these ‘Main’ events come with various exclusive cards, different mechanics in both gameplay and design, and, most importantly, plenty of free, free Gems – Combined with general farming, I’ve earned enough Gems by saving to have a relatively competitive Blue Eyes White Dragon deck with the maximum available amount of Gems (9999)! All whilst just enjoying the game! These Events also help to break up stagnation within the game, with a new event once every fortnight or so, there’s always something new to do in Duel Links; some of these events can be rather varied as well, with standard-fare Character Events such as the Jesse and Espa Events that just spawned them in as challengeable opponents with exclusive rewards, to the D.D. Tower Events that act as mission-based Boss Duels, where you earn points to redeem exclusive rewards by winning duels and completing challenges such as “No Spell Cards”, “Take 0 Damage” and “Win in 6 Turns”; all whilst maintaining your Life Points from duel to duel. Bets are, if you’re playing, there’s an event of some sort going on right now.

But what about that dumbed-down gameplay I mentioned earlier? Well, in an effort to mass-appeal, Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links offers up classic retro players a chance to evolve once again with the series, unlocking and playing as all the original feature characters from the original anime/s as they grow the game to the modern era; this means that newer gameplay formats, such as Synchro, Xyz, Pendulum and Link Summoning, as well as both the classic and modern game boards are now totally gone; for those of you unfamiliar with Yu-Gi-Oh’s modern board style, it looks like the hot mess below…

Very confusing…

As opposed to the far, far simpler version showed off in Duel Links:

Ahhhh, that’s better…!

It’s certainly a return to form if I’ve ever seen it! Fortunately for those of you have been put off of Yu-Gi-Oh’s advances and innovations, Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links returns back to the ye’ olde days of Yu-Gi-Oh as it first debuted – All you have are Normal, Special, Fusion & Ritual Summons, and your standard Spell and Trap cards… However as Yu-Gi-Oh is now known for being a card game focused all around complexity, how does this simplified format affect the card game?

Ironically… Not by much when compared to the original version of the game; ridiculous card combos and stupidly high ATK values can be easily reached, with the refreshed metagame providing older cards that never really got their time to shine in the original card game their time to take centre stage – For instance, cards such as Woodland Sprite and Broken Bamboo Sword have become infamously broken combinations given the setting of Duel Links; so much so that Konami may be considering the game’s first emergency banlist – Cyber Angels and Sacred Phoenix of Nephthys both were card sets that never really got much traction around the card game’s “GX Era”, but now also dominate the very highest leagues of the metagame – Skills make sure to keep encounters with players online fresh and interesting, and also expand the ways that these cards can be combo’ed and chained, however one immediate complaint is that a good number of different skills are borderline broken by nature; Mind Scan, for instance, is a very early skill obtained by levelling Maximillion Pegasus that allows players to see what cards their opponent has set face down – Another skill, Restart, allows you to shuffle your hand into your deck and redraw your starting hand for free if you don’t fancy what you pulled; other skills like being able to draw spells or traps, or types of monsters after losing a certain amount of Life Points, or being able to redo coin flips all have their advantages, but can feel rather… Unfair at points. In my opinion, the game would benefit greatly from a Skills-Free Lobby, where you have to rely on your own cards and knowledge of the game to win rather than pulling a lucky hand with Restart or cheesing your opponent with Mind Scan.

Got a tricky obstacle in your way? Three words are all you need…

The game’s introduction of newer cards too is an inherent problem with the game – As newer Main and Mini boxes get introduced more and more original ‘meta-worthy’ decks such as Red-Eyes Black Dragon, Toons and Destiny Heroes have been fizzled out as newer, better decks and cards have been released – It’s a vicious cycle that is prevalent with any card game you invest in, the only problem here is that, naturally, F2P players get slowly fizzled out as their sources of Gem income gets drained more and more; thankfully Konami’s made the descent into becoming a Paid Player a slow one, but it’s inevitable all the same.

Overall, however, what do I think of Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links? Personally, despite being totally F2P, I’m absolutely in love with the game – As it develops through the GX era and introduces more and more characters, and adds more and more events, my attention is nearly always focused on progressing alongside the metagame by making the most of these events – The game’s UI could do with some serious reworking, the chat may be full of ad bots trying to advertise “Free Gem sites”, and the metagame can get stale with the somewhat limited number of viable decks, however it’s nothing short of the original card game – It really does feel like they’ve hit the total reset switch on the game, and introduced a fairly healthy flow of cards using the 15+ years of development the original game has had, and created something addicting, impressive and, most importantly, familiar – It feels exactly how a portable, mobile version of the game should be, and it’s probably only bested by Hearthstone itself.

Now even powerful cards like the Egyptian God Cards are being added!

I give Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links a 8.5 / 10 – Better balancing, more frequent banlists, improved social and community tools and a Non-Skills Playlist would do the game a lot of love, and would easily bring this score up to a low 9.

Be sure to comment down below your deck lists and experiences with Duel Links!

Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links is available on iOS, Android and Steam!