Back in 2004, one of my favorite PC games was Yu-Gi-Oh! Power of Chaos: Yugi the Destiny. It wasn’t the most complex or even good-looking game, but it managed to take the card game that I love and turn it into a decent video game (much better than the abomination that was Falsebound Kingdom). Fast forward to today and really, the only Yu-Gi-Oh! game I’ve played and enjoyed since then was YGOPRO, and that’s not even an official game. With the bar set so high by a fangame, I was interested to see how the latest official release measured up.
Excellent core gameplay. As I’ve already stated, I am a big fan of the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game. I’ve been collecting and playing since I was in elementary school and have been in and out of the community since. Returning with Link Evolution, I’ve found that the same core gameplay that I love about the original card game is still there, but with a bunch of cool extras on top of it. For one, I’ve always enjoyed the level of strategy that the game manages to offer despite being an RNG card game. There are just so many different mechanics that can be taken advantage of by so many different cards that it honestly can feel like a puzzle game at times. But when you manage to solve that puzzle and get off the perfect combo, it’s just that much more satisfying.
And now with Link Evolution‘s inclusion of link summoning, that puzzle has become even more complex, opening up a ton of different possibilities for not only the new cards, but the older ones as well. As someone that’s not familiar with the mechanic, I’ve been having fun learning how it works and seeing how to incorporate it into decks that I’m already familiar with, to give them an upgrade of sorts. For those unfamiliar with the card game, there’s a lot to pick up and learn here, but it’s definitely a fun time to be had.
Great campaign duels. Link Evolution is split into two sections: singleplayer and multiplayer. The singleplayer has quite a few different modes to choose from, with my favorite being the campaign. In this campaign, you can select any Yu-Gi-Oh! series from Duel Monsters all the way up to VRAINS. These different campaigns follow their corresponding series, with duels pulled directly from the anime. Sometimes you’ll find yourself playing the protagonist and others times you’ll be playing one of his buddies. The result is a very, very long campaign mode with hundreds of duels to complete, so there’s definitely no shortage of content there. In fact, I could easily see it taking around 40-50 hours to clear.
What makes it even cooler is that, for each duel, you can select to go with your own deck or with the character’s deck as it would be at that point in the story. I almost always opted for the latter, as it not only allowed me to experience more of the game’s cards and mechanics, but really made each duel feel like its own unique thing. If you do choose to go the story deck route, you’ll notice that, as you progress down these campaigns, you’re slowly introduced to more and more mechanics until you’re brought up to date with VRAINS and its link summoning mechanic. It’s a cool way to add some variety to the gameplay, teach new players how to play the game, and maintain a certain level of difficulty all at the same time. Of course, if you just want to steamroll the enemies with your own deck, that is still an option.
Comprehensive deckbuilding. Right off the bat, the game is already miles ahead of its predecessors by actually having an up-to-date card list. There are over 10,000 cards to work with here, even including cards as new as March 2020. These cards can be unlocked in a number of different ways. They’re dropped from campaign duels (regardless of if you win or lose), won in duelist challenges, and can also be purchased in the form of boosters from the in-game card shop.
The game has no microtransactions of any kind, so all of the points you spend in this card shop are earned through gameplay, which is definitely a plus in my book. It can become a bit grindy trying to get that random draw of the card you want, but if anything, it reflects how it’s done in the real world.
Then you’re able to take these cards into the game’s comprehensive deck edit mode, which offers a bunch of different sorting, filtering, and searching tools to help you construct decks just the way you want them. I was a big fan of the “related cards” feature, which basically gives you a list of cards that would work well (or are directly related) to the card you’ve selected. It made building semi-functional decks a lot easier if anything. While the deckbuilding overall may not be on the level of YGOPRO, it is easily the best I have seen from an official Yu-Gi-Oh! game.
Tons of replayability. Remember when I said that the campaign could easily take around 40 hours or so to clear? Well take that number and double it, because you’re able to go back through it again and play as the villain for every single campaign duel. Yes, this means you both get to use their deck and earn rewards based on the hero’s deck instead. Given that these villains run completely different decks, it is a very nice way to give the game some replayability.
Those looking for even more replayability will find more than just the campaign duels to play through though. There is also a singleplayer mode called “duelist challenges”, which basically allows you to select any opponent from the campaign to duel again using your own deck. New opponents are unlocked as you clear their corresponding duels in the campaign mode, so you’ll end up with over a hundred of them to choose from.
Then there’s the “battle pack” mode. In this mode, you construct a temporary deck from a bunch of different card packs, then go up against AI or online opponents using the same battle pack. I found this mode to be a lot harder than the campaign mode for some reason (it wasn’t uncommon for me to take 8 game loss streaks), but it’s a fun mode regardless and does allow you to mess around with cards that you may not have otherwise. The replayability overall is very nicely done and I can easily see why there’s already so many people with hundreds of hours in the game.
Worthless, hyper-condensed storyline. For those that are not familiar with the storyline in each series, experiencing them through Link Evolution is pretty much the worst way to go about doing so. The stories are told in a hyper-condensed fashion, reading more like a quick summary than a worthwhile take on the actual storyline. There’s no voice acting, the character models hardly change, and it jumps all over the place so often that it’s sometimes hard to tell what is going on.
They’re about as low effort as they can be. In fact, the latest included series, VRAINS doesn’t even bother with them and just dumps you right into the duels. Given how short many of these story scenes are, it’s honestly just not worth reading through them, especially if you plan on watching the anime for any of the series and don’t want to be spoiled.
Multiplayer issues. Although I did spend the majority of my time with the game’s singleplayer modes, I did play around in the multiplayer a bit, enough to notice some of its issues. One of these you can immediately see by looking at the game’s ranked leaderboards. You’ll notice a bunch of players that have somehow already won 999,999 ranked games, followed by a bunch of players in the high hundreds. Of course, those top slots are all cheaters, so we’re already not off to a great start there. Then there’s the different multiplayer modes. You have ranked matches, player matches, and battle pack matches all splitting the player pool, which is still somewhat strong at around 600 users online at any given moment on the Steam version, but it remains to be seen how that will look later this year.
And then there’s the problem of when you actually get into the match (after waiting several minutes to find one). The gameplay can already be pretty slow with all of the animations and such, but that is multiplied exponentially when playing online. Of course, you have to give time for players to think and maybe the connection plays a factor, but in every match I played, it felt like it took forever for turns to get finished due to how slow everything was. And, if you’re going into the online mode, get ready to get absolutely stomped if you don’t have a decent deck yet, as was the case with almost every match I played online. The Steam reviews and discussions for the game mention that there are also a lot of cheaters online, but I did not run into any blatant ones. However, the possibility remains that they were just being discreet with it. Whatever the case, the singleplayer experience was far better than the multiplayer for me.
Lackluster quality of life features. Given that I’m used to playing YGOPRO, it’s kinda hard not to notice just how lacking Link Evolution is with its quality of life features. It still has quite a few, but it’s missing some that I would consider essential. For example, the most glaring of these would be the lack of any sort of animation skipping. Sure, the custom monster summoning animations are cool the first time, but I don’t need to see them over and over every time I bring out that monster. And then you have the animations that play every time you do some sort of special summon, with pendulum summons being the worst offender there.
Another feature that is sorely lacking is any sort of duel log. By duel log, I mean a window or some HUD element that lists what is going on in the duel at any given time (summons, effects, etc.). Given how fast the AI play through their turns, it’s oftentimes hard to keep up with the various cards and effects that they’re activating, making it hard to strategize. For example, if they use some effect that reveals a card from their hand, it’s only displayed for like a split second before its hidden again and the AI jumps to their next action, not giving you any time to read what that card actually does. The workaround, of course, is to constantly pause the game and check the field, but it would be really nice if the game would just have some sort of logging feature instead.
And then there’s the issue of the game’s 1440p support. The game supports it, but when you select it in the options, all it does is stretch the game from 1080p, resulting in very blurry graphics and text. The workaround is to press Alt+Enter to force the game into fullscreen, as the fullscreen option in the game’s settings does not appear to do this already. The catch is that you have to do this every time you open the game or Alt+Tab back into it, which can get quite annoying when deckbuilding as the game forces itself back to windowed whenever you need to do a text search. It’s not technically a quality of life issue (more so a bug), but I felt it should be noted regardless.
Link Evolution is not only a step up from its predecessor, but a step up for the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise as a whole, proving itself as the definitive Yu-Gi-Oh! video game. It’s got an up-to-date card list, comprehensive deckbuilding, some solid campaign duels, and a ton of replayability. Of course, this is all on top of the already excellent card game and all of its mechanics, even including the newer link summoning mechanic.
It’s not perfect though and does suffer some issues with regards to its story, multiplayer mode, and quality of life features, but not enough to kill the experience. If anything, this is the closest we’ve gotten to an official version of YGOPRO. It’s not quite on that level, but it’s pretty close and is definitely worth a look for fans of the card game.
You can buy Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.