The Elder Scrolls: Legends takes the legendary faces, races, and places of The Elder Scrolls series and transports them into a card-game format, where Dragon Priests battle Khajiit thieves and Wabbajacks can add an unpredictable element to any encounter. With five distinct attributes to explore and some features that prevent the game from being another Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering clone, Legends is a polished, enjoyable experience.
The game board of ES:L is arranged into two lanes, the normal and the shadow. Everything happens normally on the standard lane, but units deployed to the shadow lane operate under the cloak of darkness for a turn, and can’t be attacked by enemy units. Lanes allow you to play units that are more fragile or need time to set up with some safety, and add an element of strategy to things instead of just dumping all your critters in one giant pool.
A more interesting mechanic is called prophecy, found on a variety of cards. Each time you’re attacked and lose health at increments of five, you’ll draw the top card of your deck. The additional card resource is nice, but if it turns out that top card has the prophecy ability, you can play it instantly for free, allowing you to potentially turn the tide of battle. Prophecy cards often cost a little bit more magicka to play normally, but can give you a huge advantage when played for free, and this mechanic is especially useful to take on aggressive decks that attempt to destroy you in just a few turns.
Cards are divided into five attributes like Strength, Intelligence, and Willpower, and you can use cards from any two attributes in a given deck. Each attribute feels unique and flavorful – Agility sports plenty of pilfering Khajiit that get stronger each time they attack an opponent, Endurance seeks to win the long game with resource dominance, Strength commands brute force and a focus on weaponry, and so on.
Players select an avatar and then venture through a variety of game modes. You can change your avatar at any time, and it’s more than just a visual – your “random” card rewards will be influenced by your race. Card-game veterans will gravitate toward ladder-climbing through the ranks of each ranked season and the arena, ES:L’s form of limited/draft play.
The arena mode is the most interesting and enjoyable part of ES:L; picking an attribute combination to form a class, like assassin or battle mage, and then trying to build the perfect deck from a random selection of cards is challenging and engaging. The arena ruleset can even change during events, such as the Sheogorath-sponsored Chaos Arena, which adds amusing quirks and shifting rules.
ES:L is welcoming to genre newcomers, offering a substantial single-player campaign that comes with many rewards. Though the solo experience won’t win any awards for storytelling, it functions as an adept tutorial that gives players all the tools they will need to succeed in multiplayer encounters. In addition to the campaign, those looking for more tutelage can participate in a single-player arena experience, which functions as a great way to start gauging card values and combinations before putting your hard-earned gold on the line against live opponents.
Perhaps ES:L’s biggest weakness is that it plays things just a little bit too safe with many familiar features and mechanics alongside its own contributions, and may have a hard time carving out its own identity in a sea of competitive digital card games.
Elder Scrolls: Legends is a solid addition to the CCG lineup, and an excellent choice for those looking for something a little different. While the cards don’t really call out the feeling of exploring Morrowind or shouting at dragons, the game itself is solid enough to stand on its own.
This review pertains to the PC version of The Elder Scrolls: Legends. ES:L is also available on iOS and will be headed to Android tablets and phones later this year.