Having an in depth storyline for a card game is unusual but very welcome, particularly in a setting like Tamriel that draws you in with a rich story. The initial story ‘The Forgotten Hero’ handholds the player through the basic mechanics of the game and lets you try out a few different deck styles as you encounter new characters in the story. Released in April 2017 ‘The Fall of the Dark Brotherhood’ is the second story campaign. It contains 25 missions across 3 new distinct areas. The inclusion of multiple storylines, which are fully voice acted, is what makes Elder Scrolls: Legends stand out from other deck-building card games for me. ‘The Fall of the Dark Brotherhood’ brings a little extra to the table for those RPG fans out there. You don’t just face match after match of enemies with an ever increasing difficulty. You get a story. In each area, you can make choices and those choices impact what happens next. You can trick, fight and betray; and it brings you right back into Tamriel and into the den of the night mother. You can even choose which battle to take on next, handy if you get stuck on a particular battle involving ever increasing mudcrabs and you fancy trying something else!
The gameplay rewards the player with a variety of modes and features. In the Story Mode, you will encounter different types of enemies which feature five attributes represented by colours: Strength (Red), Intelligence (Blue), Willpower (Gold), Agility (Green), and Endurance (Purple). My favourite card ability involves a feature which rewards you for taking damage. You start with 30 health. For every 5 damage your enemy inflicts upon your core, a rune is broken and you draw a card. If that card contains the keyword ‘prophecy’ you get to play the card immediately!
As well as cards types, the board on which you play can vary. There are two lanes in which you can place cards. Each lane can have a special condition which affects how your cards operate. Make sure you adjust your strategy to cope with these environmental effects. If you lose in Story Mode you can try again, however, if you are playing in arena mode against another player or an AI opponent you need to be in it to win it.
You earn rewards for every match you win. Rewards comprise of in-game currency, new cards, and also upgrades to cards you already own! Upgrades can add to the strength or endurance of a card, it can even add an ability.
When I first started playing, I found the number of rewards and features a bit overwhelming. Due to the enormous deck sizes (minimum 50 cards), players can win or lose a match with the same deck with little change in tactics. With successes depending on luck, a win feels less rewarding and a loss feels unfair. As a player, I like feeling as though I have the agency to affect the outcome of the match. Also, with the multiple decks available to players from very early on, there is an even higher boundary for new players to overcome before being able to understand their strategies fully.
The joy of deck builders is being able to design and execute a strategy by using cards and abilities that compliment each other and produce a machine that can deliver a certain effect. I am anticipating the large number of cards, upgrades and different decks to be hugely rewarding in the late game. If a player has the time to invest in Elder Scrolls: Legends I don’t doubt they can produce some truly satisfying decks. Seasoned fans of deck-building card games like MtG and Hearthstone would get a lot out of this game, especially if they are familiar with the Elder Scrolls games. However, I imagine the main demographic for Legends are Skyrim and ESO players primarily who may never have played a deck-builder before. In my opinion, the entry point is too high.
Elder Scrolls: Legends is free to play. ‘The Fall of the Dark Brotherhood’ is a paid for DLC which you can either pay for using 1000 in game gold or purchased normally. Legends is also now available on iStore and Android for mobile and tablets so you can take it with you on the road.