Can’t afford the millions of cards required to get competitive at Magic? Don’t have space for a collection, or friends with decks? Well why not play Hearthstone?
I kid, I haven’t played Hearthstone either. I hear it’s free, but I look at a multiplayer game that big and I’m immediately put off, and to be honest I haven’t been enthralled by a Blizzard game in decades, the lore is lost on me and their style doesn’t draw me in like it used to when I was younger.
I had been dipping into Mojang’s card-game analogue Scrolls for quite some time, it had some great mechanics, but like everything that they try and do that isn’t Minecraft, it vanished in obscurity. Gwent sits firmly on my to-do list, but it does so along with the rest of the Witcher trilogy which I keep trying to get back into, alongside a few dozen other computer collectable card games that ought to be tried at some point, one day.
In the mean time I have picked up Elder Scrolls Legends to tick a few boxes. When there’s no time or no opponent for a game of Magic it scratches the CCG itch, and now that the lustre has worn off Pokemon Go as well, I find myself in want of a game to play on the go, far from the comfort of my computer chair. Already I’ve put the app on my phone and tablet, as well as having the PC copy all connected to the same account, and I’ve barely progressed in the game so far. What can I say, I’m hooked.
The general mechanics are simple enough. Each turn you gain a larger pool of resources to draw from to be able to cast cards from your hand, creatures and spells mostly. The game comes with two balancing mechanics I haven’t encountered before; a player going second gains a pool of three mana points that can be expended temporarily, useful to begin with, but with the power to make the second player far more daunting later in a game; the second is that as your health depletes you may draw cards, some of which have the ability to be cast for free if drawn in this way, ensuring that “losing spirals” are far less likely, and a soaring comeback is always possible.
It’s a strength common to the format that taking the classic card game onto computer allows for a great many fascinating mechanics that would be far harder to implement manually. As a character you progress through a storyline, gaining levels, unlocking new cards, and augmenting old ones. Damage dealt to creatures is permanent, harder to track at a tabletop, but it makes toppling bigger creatures easier over time. Creatures are summoned into lanes that often have different properties, such as giving a summoned creature a random piece of equipment, or protecting them from attack for a full turn.
You gain in-game currency to buy new cards and decks which naturally are also available for real currency – after all, they’ve got to make their money somehow. If you’re hunting for a specific card you can use Soul Gems to create a new addition for a deck, and you can generate Soul Gems by destroying old cards, although naturally the exchange rate is lousy.
If I may utter a single grievance it’s one I find common amongst most CCGs of all stripes, and that they all follow a painfully familiar format. Summon creatures to attack one another and your opponent’s life total, spells accomplish various things that are predominantly centred on the creatures, summoning more, dealing damage to them, applying or removing key-words that change the way they behave, and for the most part you can match rules between various games: breakthrough is Magic’s trample, drain is lifelink or leech in Hearthstone, lethal/deathtouch/poisonous, so on and so forth, with enough deviation to make each game legally distinct.
There are original ideas out there, but it seems to be a formula that works for the sake of it’s familiarity. I’d like to see something new however, something that I have to learn from the ground up, something with an altogether different approach.
Nevertheless, Legends is thoroughly enjoyable, and remains so for quite some time without having to pay a penny. I have a few friends who play too, but I’m always looking to learn more, so here’s an open invitation:
My name in game is Terra_Phi, feel free to add me on Elder Scrolls Legends. Just be sure to send a message to our Facebook page so I know who I’m talking to.