The Elder Scrolls: Legends is, hands down, the first digital card game that I’ve actually understood.
The newest card game to take advantage of an established franchise owes a lot to Hearthstone, and that to Magic: The Gathering — nevertheless, I actually felt confident playing after only a handful of rounds. Legends’ current closed beta eases you into things quite nicely, moving you though a story-based mode where you are introduced to core concepts one step at a time. By the time you’ve finished Act I, you’ll be across the skills needed to take on AI players and challenges, or even move onto online opponents.
I elected the AI route; I understood stuff, but I’m not presumptuous to say that I’m any good.
Legends’ beauty is in its simplicity. You work with a playing field of four squares – two for you and two for your opponent. The leader of your troops cards, you sit to the bottom of those lanes, commanding until your overall health is depleted. It’s displayed as a number around your avatar, that being surrounded by card-giving runes. Each card in your deck is dotted with three numbers – to the left, your attack strength and your defense stat to the right. The top left of each card shows the amount of magicka you need to actually be able to put it on the board.
You start with one magicka point, but that builds by one with each turn your take. If you don’t begin a round, you’ll also be given the chance to increase your magicka by one a total of three times. Low-level minions take one meager point, but large, terrifying creatures cost a whopping 7 points. Each turn you take means you’ll get a new card to use from your deck, and extra cards are automatically dealt to you as you take enough damage to destroy the runes that are tied to your commander’s health. A match is over when one commander’s health is depleted.
The standard card game stuff is all there – the ability to change out your deck alongside minion, creature and attack cards, buffs and the like – but in the end, it’s a numbers game dependent on just a touch of luck. You start off with three cards and have the ability to swap them out for a new roll, but if you start the game with three magicka-hungry cards, the waiting game may mean you’re toast. Unlike in Magic, I knew exactly what I did wrong when I lost a match, and easily corrected my folly in the next game.
Extra rules are easy to pick up. A new card can’t attack on its first turn – that is, unless the card explicitly states so. Guard cards have to be attacked first, ahead of other cards on the board or even the commander his or herself. It may seem complex – or I may be explaining well-established card game functionality like a n00b – but everything really does fall into place almost immediately.
The only thing I wasn’t really keen on in Legends is its actual story – and that’s quite honestly because I know nothing of the world of The Elder Scrolls. Nothing that I saw between rounds made me want to change that. The great thing is, it didn’t matter – Legends’ gameplay was easy to learn and engaging all throughout, and that was enough to make me want to keep playing. The only annoying thing about the package is overly long animations when cards are played – I just wanted to get on with things, not listen to the same wolf cub howl for far too long.
If you’re into The Elder Scrolls, Legends should prove an enjoyable romp. If you’re overwhelmed by the likes of Magic and wanted to have a crack at an engaging card game, this should be right up your alley too.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends heads to iOS and Windows PC later in the year.