When it was first announced at E3 2015, Elder Scrolls Legends was given just a few moments before the show moved on. And so did most people. This quick fade seemed to happen by design, as Bethesda went mostly radio silent after announcing it. I had almost forgotten about the game entirely until I started hearing people talk about how Legends was trying to be something different, rather than just Hearthstone: The Elder Scrolls Edition.
After spending time with it, I’m happy to report that Elder Scrolls Legends is great.
Full disclosure, I’m a big Elder Scrolls fan. I’ve played and beaten every game since Morrowind. I buy most of the expansions and DLC for the games. I even recently purchased Elder Scrolls Online and have been playing that on a weekly basis. So, the idea of an Elder Scrolls card game was intriguing to me. It’s a rich and huge world that could easily support a collectible card game.
Right at the start, Elder Scrolls Legends feels different than other digital card games I’ve played. It starts with a cinematic that tells a story of Daedric cults and evil villians. The visuals are nice looking and the voice acting is superb, especially considering that this is a card game. The other big difference comes right after that opening cutscene — Legends contains a full-length campaign that seems to be of considerable length.
Legends does a great job teaching the mechanics. In all honesty, Elder Scrolls Legends plays like Hearthstone in a lot of ways — many of the mechanics found in Hearthstone like taunt, battlecry, deathrattles and more are found in Legends. Some even share the same name, like charge. But, Legends adds more card types like ‘breakthrough’ which allows excess damage to target the enemy hero. Or ‘prophecy’ cards, which are a part of one of my favorite mechanics in Elder Scrolls Legends.
As the player takes damage and their health lowers, it will hit certain increments marked by glowing runes. When this happens, the player draws a card. If a prophecy card is drawn, it’s played instantly, and some of these can be really helpful. For example, drawing a ‘guard’ card means the enemy has to attack it first before they can attack the player’s health. This is a fantastic feature and helps stop players from totally sweeping a game early on.
Another part of Legends I enjoyed were its lanes. Each board is split into two, and these two lanes separate monsters on either side from each other. If a player puts a big monster on side A and I put a monster on side B, they can’t attack each other. The sides can also have special effects tied to them. One of my favorites was during one match where we were on a boat. At the end of each turn, a random monster would randomly slide from one lane to the other.
Visually, Elder Scrolls Legends is a little weak so far. Some card art was a bit basic (even ugly) and the deck building menus seemed a little clunky. However, this is still an incomplete version of the game, so hopefully some of this art and menu design is temporary and will be replaced as the game nears launch.
While Elder Scrolls Legends will feel familiar to anyone who’s played Hearthstone, it does enough things differently and adds some entirely new mechanics — I didn’t feel like I was playing a clone. I don’t see this game toppling Hearthstone, but for those looking for more story or something a little different, Legends might just be a perfect fit.