Right, for everyone who may have been living under a rock for a few months, Bethesda are releasing an online collectible card game based on the popular Elder Scrolls franchise. I played it through the Closed Beta and now we’re in the Open Beta I can finally let all you lovely people know just what I think of Hearthstone 2. Sorry, did I say Hearthstone 2? I don’t know how that slipped out. I meant Elder Scrolls Legends.
Alright, that’s probably a little unfair. It’s true that there are certain similarities between Elder Scrolls Legends and Hearthstone, but Bethesda have brought in a few more tricks and added gameplay elements that are not (yet, at least) featured in Blizzards OCCG. It looks ES:L is going after Hearthstone’s crown. After all isn’t mimicry the greatest form of compliment.
The story wrapped around Elder Scrolls Legends is surprisingly good. After all, they probably didn’t really need to add a story at all. They could have just thrown out a tutorial, and as a player you would have been quite happy jumping into the game and going about fighting matches and collecting cards etc. This is not the Elder Scrolls way of course. As you complete the one player game and tutorial, you are not only taken through the story of your character and race, but at crucial times of the story your choices can dictate the cards you have in your deck. In such a simple way Bethesda are adding their choice decision-making into the game.
The gameplay does work in a similar way to Hearthstone in that each turn you gain a card and one extra magic to use. So, at the start of the game you’re stuck with lower powered cards but the longer you play the higher powered cards you can draw. Some cards stop your hero being attacked, others cast magic and some are equipment that can be added to cards on the board. There’s a single-player tutorial and storyline based mission set and the usual multi-player options.
I know that was fairly brief, but I’d rather talk about all the gameplay ideas that are different and add a little more strategy to the game.
Lanes – The board is divided into two lanes (left and right) cards cannot attack or defend across lanes although both lanes can attack the hero. So with two lanes in play you have to see which lane your card is better placed in. These lanes can also have added effects depending on the game. In one game the lanes gave my opponents a cover (a stealth ability when placed) while in another game the cards in each lane would swap randomly.
Variable Card Deck Sizes – Card decks are by default at least 50 card big. Although they can have up to 70 cards in them. Another point of strategy, smaller decks to get your hard-hitting cards quicker but will run out of cards quicker, or a larger slower more robust deck?
Runes and Prophecy Cards – For every five health you lose you also lose a rune, drawing a card from your deck immediately. If this is a prophecy card then you play it immediately. Prophesy cards can have a variety of effects such as summoning a creature, or direct damage to the opponent for example.
Upgrading Cards – Yep, when you level-up you occasionally get the chance to upgrade one of your existing cards. The upgrade comes in the form of a choice of two upgrades, but this could include increases to the cards stats or additional skills.
As graphics go it does what it needs to. The cut scenes aren’t animated and the game is not complex enough to warrant crystal clear lifelike graphics.
As card designs go, in my opinion they are a little flat, but that is due to the design and style of Elder Scrolls. World of Warcraft is bright, bold and brings a higher level of fantasy in its character, armour and weapon designs. Elder Scrolls Legends is a more low yet and plays with a realistic style, and as such the cards just aren’t as engaging to me. However, this is a personal preference. I do still like the Legends cards.
Sound is, as the graphics are. It’s enough it doesn’t grate but it doesn’t bring you along on a symphonist tour of a fantasy landscape either.
It’s still in Beta test so it is a little early to truly understand its replayability but based on what I’ve seen so far, it looks to have just as much reason to keep playing as its Azerothian cousin. There are cards, decks and heroes to collect, and I’m sure it won’t be long until Bethesda roll-out their first expansion pack.
Despite my earlier comments about its similarity to another OCCG, once you start playing Elder Scrolls Legends the similarities fade while the differences, push it to a new level. It’s not something you’ll spend hours and hours on at a time but it’s very likely you will keep coming back for another go. Once the mobile version is released, I can see this becoming a very strong contender for top online collectible card game.
- Storyline – 65%
- Gameplay -85%
- Graphics – 70%
- Sound – 70%
- Replayability – 90%