I’m Torn On Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel

With all the posts I’ve made here over the years, I’m pretty sure I’ve made my distaste for free-to-play / live service games pretty clear. I think that a lot of the problems in the video game industry stem from the proliferation of these business models, and I’ve been feeling rather concerned about their growing popularity among both game developers and publishers. It was something that sounded great in the beginning, but it’s devolved into something that should be universally rejected by gamers. And yet I’m a fan of Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel. It’s both a free-to-play game and a live service game, and yet I don’t hate it. Is there a way to reconcile this? Perhaps, but perhaps not really.

On the one hand, Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel is a well-made game that has been seeing real improvements since it release last year. It’s gradually gotten more fun and has been getting more and more in terms of everything from cosmetics, to cards, to even game modes. As much as I hate to give Konami any praise these days, it has actually been trying to make Master Duel the best game it can be. On the other hand though, all of the usual free-to-play features are here: multiple currencies, a battle pass system, a way to pump money into the game and gacha mechanics in the form of card packs. They haven’t missed any tricks here to be sure.

As much as I like Yu-Gi-Oh!, the monetization should nonetheless be a complete turn-off. It should, but I think this might be one of the better implementations of it. That is, I think Master Duel is much closer to the original promises of free-to-play and live service games. All the standard stuff is there, but for some reason it’s not implemented in the usual, oppressive manner. I mean, you still have to open packs to get cards you want, but not to get all the cards you want.

By using the N, R, SR, and UR materials, you can generate any card in the game, meaning you don’t have to rely on packs. Those packs can also be limited to the series of card you’re looking for, which helps you get what you want faster. Lastly, the game is strangely generous with currency. If you play daily, you can realistically expect to get 4000 or so gems in a month. So, after two months, you’ll likely have enough to make a new deck, maybe even two if you’ve already got most of the staple cards. I’ve been playing for a year now and have made at least 10 different decks without spending a single dollar. Mind you, I don’t keep up with meta, so that factors into it, but I have been able to make what I want and have fun.

The game could certainly be more player friendly. Trading-in cards for full material cost would be nice and themed packs drawing all cards from said theme instead of just half would be better. Heck, this game would have been better had it just been a standard $40 to $60 release with everything just available (to a point), but it’s not. The traditional approach would have been best, but I don’t outright hate this. If more free-to-play live services were more player-friendly, then maybe they wouldn’t be as much of a problem (in some respects).

I don’t think I can ever bring myself to put any money into Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, but I have to say that it’s the least offensive live service / free-to-play game I’ve seen to date. It’s got all the usual garbage going on with it, but it doesn’t force purchases (if you’re not playing meta) and Konami actually seems interested in making it better. So…I don’t know. I hesitate to recommend playing it, but then it’s actually fun. At the very least, if you are going to try it, just make sure you don’t actually buy gems. You don’t need to and really shouldn’t.

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