App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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After being announced years ago, The Elder Scrolls: Legends has finally made its way to mobile, and it's almost exactly what you'd expect. Bethesda has created a Hearthstone-like collectible card game (CCG) using the fiction and world The Elder Scrolls for its cards, characters, and gameplay. The only real surprise about the game is that it looks and feels kind of cheap, despite being a relatively novel (though familiar) spin on Hearthstone.
Choose your destiny
The mega-popular Hearthstone is the basis for comparison for Legends because it's the easiest touchstone for mobile card games and because Legends shares a ton of things in common with it. It's got standard CCG multiplayer, an Arena mode, and extremely similar-looking menus and free-to-play mechanics. That said, Legends makes some departures to help the game embody a lot of elements from The Elder Scrolls games on PC and consoles.
Legends actually starts out much like Oblivion and Skyrim with a narrative that involves players choosing their own characters to play as. This selection doesn't really change anything that happens in the game story, but it does determine the rate at which you collect certain cards. It's a cool idea that feels very Elder Scrolls-y for sure, but I wish it gave you a little more information about what your choice means before you actually pick it.
Once you've chosen a character, you get flung into the single-player campaign of Legends, which actually has a fair deal of narrative in it. There are cutscenes with full-on voice acting and even some moments where you get to make decisions at branching points of the plot. These choices, while simple, are actually made more difficult because your decisions are tied to earning specific cards in addition to influencing the story.
When you aren't in the story action though, you can expect a lot of turn-based CCG action that involves a lot of the same rules of Hearthstone. Changes to this formula include the ability for players to mix-and-match two separate card types (instead of sticking with a particular hero character) and a lane system where cards can be put into play on one of two different sides of the game board. These changes are ones we've already seen before in other CCGs, like Plants Vs. Zombies Heroes, but they work well here too.
At its core, Legends feels competently strategic given its unique blend of pre-existing CCG mechanics. It also adds some neat new touches like the Prophecy system where some cards can be drawn and played at no cost. This system–and a few others–introduce elements of randomness and opportunities for epic bounce-backs from matches that seem one-sided, which might seem like a good or bad thing depending on who you are.
Beyond this handful of new (and likely divisive) mechanics though, Legends offers up very little in its package that seems actually new. It just feels like every other CCG out there, but with an especially bland and cheap-looking aesthetic. The cards in Legends have no dimension to them and the play field is just a beige piece of parchment. While there are some nice visual effects when these cards animate, most of the time the game board just looks flat and unexciting.
The bottom line
I know that flashy effects aren't necessary for a game to be good, much less a CCG. But, when your card game–while good–doesn't look great and doesn't really bring much new stuff to the table, it's hard to be excited by it. Legends does a decent job of interpreting the the world and lore of The Elder Scrolls series into a competent card game, but, on a platform where there are tons of great CCGs, that's not enough.