I know there are some digital CCG fans here so I figured I’d share some impressions of Riot’s new CCG (currently in Beta) Legends of Runeterra.
First, a little background. Riot Games has been a big name in competitive gaming for around a decade now thanks to their sole game, the massively popular League of Legends. LoL is a MOBA with something around 148 or so champions. Competitive LoL sells out arenas, has licensing deals with Louis Vuitton, Budweiser, Red Bull, Kia, and other rather large names. LoL can sometimes been seen on ESPN. This is all to say that the game is huge, at least as far as video games are concerned. I’m also quite a fan.
Riot has decided to branch out and is slowly rolling out other games set in the same universe with an autochess-style game available in the League of Legends launcher and now a stand-alone digital CCG. I think there are other games planned, including a fighting game and a mobile version of the MOBA.
So far, the CCG is slightly generic, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Aesthetically, you will immediately be reminded of Hearthstone, which just about every CCG tries to emulate these days. All the bells, whistles, and polish that Blizzard brings to Hearthstone is present here as Riot undoubtedly has an astronomical budget.
The game plays a little slower than Hearthstone. It still uses the automatic resource system that Hearthstone uses, but deviates from the formula with a much more back-and-forth play style. In a single given round each player goes back and forth taking an action (like summoning or casting a spell) until both players have passed and the next round starts. Players may only attack in their given round, which alternates between the two players. Attacks are declare, but the defender may declare blocks, which is something you don’t see in Hearthstone. I think this adds some good decision points to the game. There are some creative cards and spells, but they are also all fairly familiar if you’re familiar with CCGs. Keywords may be different, but still generally have the same effects as we know from eslewhere. Interestingly, champion cards, which represent the main champions from the MOBA, can level up in-game. Level-up requirements differ from champ to champ, and they tend to reflect the champ’s play style from the MOBA. Leveling up minor (it seems like champs often just get +1/+1), which is great because it seems to keep the system from feeling broken.
Of course, the question with most digital CCGs is monitization and Riot seems to have taken a fairly novel approach. I haven’t delved into the store much, but this game is designed to be played without paying for cards. You can buy wild cards in the shop, which can then be exchanged for a card you want. So let’s say you want a Garen card. You buy a champion wild card from the store and turn it in for Garen. There are no random packs. Further, you are limited to how many you can buy a week and the currency to buy your max cards is easily obtainable. The real monetization in this game will supposedly come from cosmetics in the future. Time will tell, but this might be a truly free-to-be-competitive CCG.
I can’t speak to balance or the depth of the card list yet. I do know that i have a blast playing the cards from the champions that I am so familiar with from elsewhere.
The Legends of Runeterra beta is available on PC right now and I believe there will be no reset when the game releases, so any time you spend in the beta will carry over. I believe iOS is planned as well, which may be the nail in the coffin for my free time.