You know those games that you pick up out of nowhere to play for a few hours and suddenly it’s 4 AM? This was my experience with The Elder Scrolls Legends.
Free to play online card games are quite a popular trend, and with the success of Blizzard’s Hearthstone and the popularity of the Gwent mini game in The Witcher 3, it’s understandable to see many stand-alone CCG iterations that bring fresh digital perspectives to an already wildly popular physical gaming experience.
However, Legends has a few particular aces up its sleeve that makes the game stand apart within the genre. Firstly, The Elder Scrolls Series has such powerful, rich lore that resonates with gamers across the globe, and this is caught up in the excellent art and flavour text that give the cards a distinct sense of character.
From Argonian rogues and Daedric cultists to awe-inspiring Dragons, the rich selection of cards are a treat to look at and provide a number of different playstyles. You can choose from pre-set decks tied to different characters that play a role in the games story mode or carve your own path by picking from your favourite attributes.
Speaking of the story-mode, whilst It wasn’t something to get really caught up in, the narrative complements the gameplay well and was a great way to teach the unique mechanics. The Elder Scrolls Legends has you mixing cards between lanes, with different modifiers like shadow lanes that hide cards for a turn before being able to attack.
Further, environment based missions add a lot to each individual game. One bar brawl gave both players a bottle with which to take a cheap shot and do 1 damage to a random enemy on the screen. One of the later missions also adds a placeholder ‘castle wall’ which you must destroy to get through to the opponents 30 health.
As well as your health you also have Magicka which pertains to the power level of the cards you can place. This is increased by 1 every turn much like Hearthstone so that you can place stronger cards and decimate the opposition.
I was also pleased with the addition of races, which you pick upon startup and then as you level-up, receive cards that link with your heritage. Picking a Wood Elf, I received cards that focused on crushing wounded enemies.
Cards can also be upgraded, and the way this ties into some of the story beats is a great little addition. I could adopt or scorn a wolf from a pack that had ambushed my crew, providing me with a creature or an action card respective to my actions. This makes for a unique deck-building experience and mixes the narrative into the gameplay.
In terms of content, there are single player stories on top of the main introductory mode like ‘The Fall of the Dark Brotherhood. You can also play pickup games online or offline as well as Arena matches where your deck is built as you play instead of coming in prepared. Daily quests also add to the permanence and replayability of The Elder Scrolls Legends.
Visually pleasing to the eye, the animations in Legends are certainly slick, and the card art is wonderful and diverse. After playing for some time I stumbled upon Magicka and Guard cards and was pleasantly surprised when the game let me adapt and create a deck that used my strengths without becoming overpowered or useless. The difficulty curve still stood strong, and the gameplay kept surprising me.
Building up my Magicka and using cards that were complementary and creating exceptional lane blockades littered with guards felt like a realisation of what I was hoping for, and cast my mind back to the golden days of playing Yu-Gi-Oh as a child. If you’re looking for a card game with a heart and a gameplay hook that will keep you coming back for more, Legends is the game for you.
The Elder Scrolls Legends is a free to play card game available through the Bethesda Launcher. Our Editor-In-Chief Jordan Oloman spent 10 hours defending Tamriel with cheeky Guard tactics. Codes for packs were provided by Bethesda PR.