With the impending release of Bethesda’s The Elder scrolls: Legends, the elephant in the room has been whether or not this game is simply a cash grab from Bethesda hoping to emulate the resounding success of Blizzard’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. However, after spending a good chunk of time playing Legends – I’m happy to say that Bethesda’s foray into the free-to-play world of card games is one that offers a rich and rewarding experience that will keep you coming back for more.

Regardless of how the game is received when it’s released, it is almost guaranteed that it will be compared to Hearthstone due to its gameplay and aesthetic similarities. Like Hearthstone, your deck and hero are on the bottom of the screen and your opponent has theirs up top. Instead of mana crystals, every card requires certain amount of magicka in order to be played. And when you have enough magicka to play a card, it explodes with a magical flurry of animation and personality as it attacks an opposing card. Players can also convert unwanted cards into ‘Soul Gems’ to purchase other cards – similar to Hearthstone’s Arcane Dust system.Scrolls-1However, despite its similarities, The Elder Scrolls: Legends also does a lot to set itself apart from other card games. For example, a majority of the gameplay centers around the board being split into two sides called lanes. Each lane generally comes with a stipulation that will affect the cards you decide to play in it. Most commonly, a ‘Shadow’ lane makes creatures that are played in this lane unable to be attacked for one turn after being put into play. Once your card is drawn, it can either attack creatures in the same lane or attack the opposing hero. This separation of the board forces you to constantly change up your strategy – as you’re essentially fighting two battles in one.

The ultimate goal of each card battle is to reduce your opponent’s 30 HP to a big ol’ zero. Along with their HP, each hero has five runes. Every time your hero loses 5 HP, a rune breaks and you receive a card. If the received card is a ‘Prophecy’ card, it can be played immediately during the opponent’s turn. If you’re fortunate, the Prophecy card you happen to draw may give you the opportunity to shift the momentum of the game in your favour.Scrolls-2Besides the online versus mode, Legends also contains a moderately lengthed but enjoyable campaign mode. The campaign’s adventure is your run-of-the-mill story about stopping evil forces from destroying the world – however – it does do an efficient job of introducing you to the lore and mechanics of the game. On your journey you’ll fight an array of creatures with each race providing distinct challenges. Spiders have the ability to incapacitate your cards with their web, orcs must be quickly disposed of or else you’ll experience the wrath of their captain when he returns. And my personal favourite – when facing pirates, the winds of the high seas periodically blow your cards between lanes as you fight. It’s a simple idea that provides a great little challenge.

As you play through the campaign, you’ll gain currency, experience points and new cards that will strengthen your deck. Although the campaign is relatively linear – you’ll also be presented with 50-50 decisions throughout it that not only progress the story but rewards you with an individual card depending on your decision. The repercussions of my decisions didn’t seem to affect the overall narrative too much but the ability to influence the progression of it is a nice touch.Scrolls-3

After completing the second act of the campaign mode, you will unlock what is called the ‘Solo Arena Mode’. The premise is simple – pick your class and then select one card from a group of three, thirty times, which eventually culminates into the assembly of a playable deck. From there you have three lives to defeat a total of nine enemies. If you’re successful in your running of the gauntlet, you are greatly rewarded for your efforts. When I gave it a shot, I lost my first two lives very early on but somehow managed to hold on to defeat all nine opponents. My little moment of glory felt great and was undoubtedly the highlight of my time with the game.

As is the norm with the majority of free-to-play games, you can purchase card packs with in-game currency that you earn by playing or you can speed up the process by spending real money. I’m unsure as to how this will affect player’s overall progression with the game but from my time playing it seems that some grinding will be necessary in order to diversify and bolster your deck substantially.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game and highly recommend checking it out when it’s released later this year. The Elder Scrolls: Legends has been slated for a 2016 release on iOS and PC with no definitive release date currently set.