The Elder Scrolls: Legends Hands-On Preview
As we reported here at COGconnected back in April, the Elder Scrolls: Legends is a new card game from Bethesda that faces a bit of an uphill battle: to break in to the very competitive card-game market, currently dominated by Magic: The Gathering, and especially by Hearthstone. The makers of The Elder Scrolls: Legends (the game was actually developed by Dire Wolf Digital) are well aware that the deck is stacked against them, and so they have attempted to differentiate their game with a few unique features that (they hope) will lure some current fans away from their current favorites, as well as attracting new fans. I have been lucky enough to be a part of the game’s Closed Beta, and have spent some time getting acquainted with its features – both familiar and new. I’ve been enjoying playing this game, and it certainly has a lot to offer; whether or not it will be enough to entice Hearthstone fans to switch, well that still remains to be seen.
Maybe to help those Hearthstone fans feel at home, The Elder Scrolls Legends has clearly been designed to look a lot like Blizzard’s hit card game. The playing board has you at the bottom, and your opponent at the top; your cards are lined up in front of you, and you use Magicka, which increases by one point each round, to deploy your cards. Now, all of this similarity might cause the cynical player to dismiss this as a “Hearthstone clone,” but right away you’ll notice there’s something very different as well. Dire Wolf and Bethesda are hoping that their two-lane system will be, well, a game changer – in The Elder Scrolls: Legends, you have to decide whether you want to place your card in the right-hand lane, or the left. Cards in one lane cannot interact with cards in the other (with a few exceptions). This is intended to add a whole new layer of strategy and complexity.
“Maybe to help those Hearthstone fans feel at home, The Elder Scrolls Legends has clearly been designed to look a lot like Blizzard’s hit card game.”
And for the most part, it succeeds. I liked the added element of the second battle lane. In Hearthstone, your opponent can play one really strong card, and if you can’t beat it, you are pretty much done. But Legends’ two lanes opens the game up and allows for more strategy – for instance, you can avoid that juggernaut altogether, and play your cards on the other side. Now your opponent has to think about splitting up some of their cards to address your counter-move. And a few cards can attack both lanes, so there are times when you can catch your foe off guard, and break through a strong defense.
Another way that momentum can change is that when you take a lot of hits from your opponent, you lose one of three Runes, giving you an extra card. That card might hep you to fight your way back. Bottom line, I felt playing Elder Scrolls Legends that the match wasn’t ever out of reach; there are many ways to turn the tide with strategy, and the two-lane system makes that possible.
Another aspect that I think veteran card players will like about The Elder Scrolls Legends is the single-player campaign. At first I thought it was the standard Tutorial, in which you play a few basic rounds and then you’re on your own. But no, The Elder Scrolls Legends has a complete and fully-realized Campaign, with a pretty compelling story and narration that I really enjoyed. This is another Ace up the game’s sleeve – the rich, deep lore of the Elder Scrolls universe that other card games simply cannot match. Sure, this game has PvP elements, just like Hearthstone and the others, but honestly, they are pretty much the same as what you have played. The single-player campaign, though, is worth trying, even if you’re a jaded card-game vet. And as a bonus, it gets you great rewards like new decks, cards and other goodies.
As for the gameplay itself, and the strategy that goes along with it, The Elder Scrolls: Legends has classes, which give players individual skills and are another choice you will have to make when building your decks. You craft your decks using two of five attributes: Strength, Agility, Intelligence, Endurance and Willpower. Which two you choose will determine the class. Thus, every deck is unique and calls for a different play style – will your Archer deck play well against a Mage opponent? It’s another wrinkle that The Elder Scrolls: Legends hopes will keep you interested, no matter what level you are.
“My time with the Open Beta has me convinced that there is indeed a substantive and fresh experience that warrants at least a look from even the grizzled vets of the genre.”
The Elder Scrolls: Legends wants you to put down your Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering, and start over with a new card game. My time with the Open Beta has me convinced that there is indeed a substantive and fresh experience that warrants at least a look from even the grizzled vets of the genre. I just wonder how many will give it a chance, though. This is not a game that re-invents the card game genre; it mostly sticks with the tried-and-true basic format – but it does improve it, a lot. Let’s see if the finished product resonates with the fans when it releases.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends will be a free-to-play card game for the PC, and is scheduled to release some time in 2016. It is currently in Beta testing; we’ll keep you posted on any developments on the game as we hear them.
A digital access code for the Closed Beta was provided by the publisher. This Preview is based on a build-in-progress and some game elements may change by the time the full game releases.