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Review: The Elder Scrolls Legends (iOS)By Andre Eriksson At 12.08.2017 22:44

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It is always exciting to play a new online CCG; any CCG junkie knows that new cards are bliss, and a new game is going to offer a bunch of new and interesting cards to experiment with and get the creativity juices flowing through the brain. Hours pass by as new cards are slowly added to the collection and deck ideas turn into actual decks as the collection grows bigger and bigger.

Then the honeymoon is soon over, and the player has to actually decide whether or not to invest further. Investing time, and maybe money, in a CCG is a high-cost investment. To become good, hundreds of hours and, in some cases, even dollars have to be spent. This is something few can do and fewer can do for multiple games, so it has to have content that is friendly for more casual players at the start so that they can test out the product and, hopefully, make the relationship with the player live longer than the initial crush, as no one enjoys hitting their head against the wall that can be CCG PvP with a newbie's collection.

The Elder Scrolls Legends solves this in what has almost become a mandatory manner in the genre, by adding PvE content to enjoy at leisure. This is split into two parts: the story mode, and the solo arena. The story mode lets the player play through some pre-generated encounters with some decisions along the road that lets them choose not only what the character does, but also what cards to get into the deck. This is an interesting approach that has a lot of potential in it. Sadly, it is a short experience as this is an aspect that could have easily been further expanded upon as a huge part of the Elder Scrolls universe is the vast lore, worlds, and dungeons it offers curious explorers.

The second huge part of the PvE introductory content for new players is the Solo Arena. For anyone who has ever played Hearthstone, the arena experience should be very familiar; gamers are given the choice of three cards to add to their deck - repeat this 29 more times, and play with the deck picked. Three losses and you are out. The Solo Arena does a good job of teaching how to play arena in a safe environment where you can take your time doing the hard decisions in the middle of a tight arena game to learn how to play, and soon you will be ready to head into combat against others.

It is not only in the arena department that The Elder Scrolls Legends is reminiscent of Hearthstone, but in… everything, basically - from card design to how the game is played. It isn't as extreme as how Hex copied Magic: The Gathering, since it has added a lot of its own elements to improve upon the experience it took more than a little inspiration from.

The ways The Elder Scrolls Legends has improved the formula is quite ingenious and will raise eyebrows of CCG fans. The most impressive thing is how the development team has finally found a good way to balance first player advantage by expanding on the coin. Now the second player gets a ring with three charges; when they start they can add one mana per turn for one charge. This helps a lot in mitigating the tempo disadvantage that going second often gives by giving the player three turns of an extra tempo boost whenever it is needed. This is something genre fans will truly appreciate as fewer matches will be decided by who is going first, especially in the arena.

The other really huge improvement is the lane system. One of the biggest problems in Hearthstone is the fact that the game can be over the very moment one player seizes board control as the one who is behind has no way to play anything meaningful that will survive until their next turn. This is solved in a beautiful way with the two lane system, which separates the board into two individual boards. Not only that, to add one side gives all minions stealth upon entry to ensure they get at least one turn on the board doing their thing before dying. A feature that can be utilised by both the beat down and control player in different clever ways to make sure their cards do their thing and that adds a lot of meaningful and difficult choices as the shadow lane is more difficult to protect and control, but that gives greater gifts and rewards skilful playing.

While The Elder Scrolls Legends in many ways is an improvement on one of the most popular CCGs on the market, that alone is nothing to boast about in 2017. While The Elder Scrolls Legends has an extremely solid foundation, it is very behind in general card design with most of the cards feeling extremely bland and vanilla. The recent expansion fixes some of this, but it still feels like a skeleton to build upon, which is okay if there is not direct competition that is already fully built up, as there is too little that separates them to cater to different people. The CCG market is extremely punishing as few will invest in more than one at a time and it is very difficult to switch thanks to the heavy investment in whatever game one previously played, but if The Elder Scrolls Legends survives for a couple of more expansions and starts digging into more interesting card designs, it can truly become a great competitor in the market. Only time will tell whether or not it will succeed with this, but with such a solid foundation as it has now, it might very well have what it takes.

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Final Score
An improved [i]Hearthstone[/i] clone is in itself nothing to write home about in 2017, but the foundation [i]The Elder Scrolls Legends[/i] has built is something that can be built upon in very interesting ways for future expansions. Give it two or three more expansions and it might very well be the premier casual CCG on the market. It needs to get those two or three more expansions before it reaches that point, though.



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