MSRP: Free to play with in-game purchasing.
Platforms: Win, iOS (iPad)
The NDA has lifted! I’ve been an Elder Scrolls fan-girl since I first played Daggerfall way back in 1996, when it was totally cutting edge and mind-blowingly good. Since then, I’ve bought every major installment on release, gotten every bit of DLC available and all the strategy guides, and even played both Redguard and Battlespire (neither of which were particularly good games). Despite not having the time to really dedicate to a second MMO, I pre-ordered the physical Imperial Edition of The Elder Scrolls Online and Molag Bal is still chilling on my bookshelf.
To say I’m excited about another game in The Elder Scrolls universe might be a bit of an understatement, even if that game is a collectible card game rather than the open world RPGs that make up the bulk of the series.
Instead of Magic: The Gathering’s color system, or Hearthstone’s class system, in The Elder Scrolls: Legends you choose your race. In each race’s text, you’ll see a description of cards that are weighted slightly higher due to your race choice. After completing the 8 mission tutorial, you’ll gain access to your profile, where you can change your race and avatar at will, but any cards already unlocked will stay in your library. Cards also have attributes that are linked to classes, offering a wide variety of deck building options as you proceed through the game.
Completing Act 1 also opens up two new play modes – Practice and Versus Battle, with Solo Arena and Versus Arena (which are pay-to-play draft modes which offer the potential for exceptional rewards) opening up later on. In game currency and card packs can be earned through play, or purchased in the in-game store. So far, I’ve spent all my time in story mode, and let me tell you, it’s freaking fantastic.
The artwork, the voice acting and other sound, it’s all so beautiful and all so very very Elder Scrolls. Assuming nothing changes in the pricing structure between now and release, this is going to be a game worth downloading even if you never play anything but the story. I’m guessing Bethesda knew what a draw story mode would be – they actually allow you to complete quests in story mode. In fact, the only mode that seems to not be eligible for daily quest completion is Practice.
Really, I just want to spam screenshots here for a second.
There’s a few twists that, although they may not be 100% unique to The Elder Scrolls: Legends, that give an interesting flavor. First are card upgrades – if you get a card with a small green arrow in the corner, it’s likely you’ll be given an opportunity to upgrade that card. When you get a card upgrade, you’re given a choice of additional stats or effects so that you can best use it to compliment your style of play, or fill deficits in your library. The downside of this is that sometimes, cards won’t look particularly cost-balanced when you receive them; every card I’ve upgraded has kept the same casting cost, but seems to have been balanced for the card’s evolutions.
There are points during the story mode where you’re given an opportunity to make a decision, and in doing so, unlock a card. Personally, I would enjoy this mechanic more if you didn’t see the choices before making your decision – I feel like that would entice you to make your decision on its own merits, rather than deciding based on which card you think is better.
Lastly is the lane-based system. Most battles will give you the option of playing a card in one of two lanes, and cards can only attack cards that share their lane. Both lanes are able to attack the enemy hero (provided there are no cards with Guard that need to be dispatched first), and non-attack mechanics seem to all work across lane lines. However, the lane system definitely adds another layer of strategy requiring you to place your cards wisely.
There’s a lot to learn here, although it won’t feel too overwhelming if you’re already familiar with collectible card game mechanics. There is an in-game glossary which gives pretty clear explanations of all facets of the game, but the things you need to know while in game will pop up if you hover over a card or game element you’re unsure of.
There’s no question that I’m more than a little biased here, but this feels like a really strong entry into a game genre that’s fast becoming overdone. Not having played any versus matches, I don’t know how card rarity is going to effect the chances of a free-to-play player to succeed, or if purchasing card packs is going to feel mandatory to stay competitive. I hope that they can find the balance, so that making in-game purchases is appealing, without requiring everyone who is attracted to multiplayer feel like they must spend hundreds of dollars to keep up.
If you’re interested in signing up for The Elder Scrolls: Legends closed beta, you can do so here. You’ll have to create an account if you don’t have one already, and you will need to use the Bethesda launcher to play.