2020 is a turning point for Riot Games. Known until now almost exclusively for League of Legends, at the end of 2019 the software house announced a real revolution within its offer, going to present many projects related to its main title (but not only), thanks to which it is possible to move towards genres that are detached from MOBAs.
In these first months of 2020 we are witnessing the realization of some of these projects. We initially saw the landing of the mobile version of Teamfight Tactics, followed by the launch of the beta of Valorant, its first competitive FPS. TFT fishes its main characters from the League of Legends universe, while with Valorant an even more radical approach has been adopted and the creation of completely new heroes has been taken, since only a few of those present in LoL marry well with the new genre.
Today, however, we are here to talk about the third Riot title: the new card game Legends of Runeterra, just out of a long beta phase and now officially available on PC, Android and iOS. For some weeks now we have been testing the mobile version of the game in preview and now we are ready to give you a first opinion.
LEGENDS OF RUNETERRA: FREE TO PLAY, NOT PAY TO WIN
Legends of Runeterra is a trading card game based on the League of Legends universe, from which it draws settings, characters and lore. LoL fans will find it in the title an interesting way to deepen the relationships and behind the scenes that characterize the history of the most famous champions, an important added value that adds up to what – even without having ever played LoL – it is a card game of the highest quality.
I immediately point out that the mobile and PC versions are identical to each other and they support cross play, so it's just a matter of choosing which platform is best suited to our style. The advantage of the PC is represented by the possibility of having a clearer view of the playing field and the texts of the cards, while the mobile one is much more immediate to play, thanks to the use of the touch. The ideal compromise is undoubtedly the tablet, which brings together the best of both worlds (sufficiently large screen and touch interface).
As with all other Riot productions, also in this case we are faced with a title free to play, in which the word pay to win it is absolutely not contemplated. The company has always been very careful to provide its players with titles in which the random component in the growth of their account is reduced to a minimum and is never tied to what is purchased with real currency.
Unlike other titles, in fact, Legends of Runeterra does not offer random card packages that can be purchased with currency premium, but allows immediately to access the entire catalog and purchase each card individually. This is true whether you use the free currency – which is obtained simply by playing – or the classic coins that we can buy for real money. Any investment made on LoR ??is capable of producing an immediate result which benefits the player.
Obviously there are packages with random cards, but these are exclusively linked to the rewards obtained through the achievement of the classic objectives, therefore they can be considered as a simple additional bonus. Riot has always been very careful in proposing balanced mechanics that do not benefit those who spend the most and the financial success of League of Legends shows us how an honest approach to in-app purchases is appreciated and well digested by the community.
THE MECHANICS OF THE GAME
I preferred to start talking about the appearance financial of the title as I believe that we must immediately clarify this point: regardless of the quality of the gameplay and the game offer, it is good to know right away if you are faced with a production made with criteria or yet another way to squeeze a successful IP through unwanted mechanics.
Fortunately Legends of Runeterra falls into the first category and this does not only apply to the form of monetization chosen by Riot. Although at first glance it can be mistaken for yet another Hearthstone clone, Riot's proposal has very little in common with Blizzard's card game, if not the mechanics that regulate the availability of resources to spend on the evocation of the cards, but let's go in order. The basic rules are very simple and common to the genre:
These are the basic rules of Legends of Runeterra, to which we must add two particular uniqueness of the title, thanks to which the strategic component increases significantly. The first big difference compared to many other games concerns the management of the attack phase, which occurs only when the player is in possession of the Attack token.
This is automatically exchanged at the end of the turn, so it means that you will always have to alternate between one attack and one defense round. Obviously you are not obliged to attack – even if you have the opportunity – just as you don't have to defend yourself from the enemy offensive. All these aspects are to be evaluated from time to time, paying particular attention to the state of the clash.
During each shift (both in yours and in the opponent's) there is the possibility to play unit cards or spells, in order to prepare for the next battle. This helps to give greater dynamism at matches, as it will never happen to pass a turn waiting for the opponent's moves, since the players will always be able to act.
All cards have 3 rarity levels that determine their power (Common, Rare, Epic), but the unit cards have a fourth level, which is the Champion. Champion cards are distinguished from other units by a unique mechanic, the possibility of increase their level during the game.
In the beta there are 10 (but it passes to 24 in the final version) of the most famous champions of LoL (Garen, Lux, Darius, Vladimir, Tryndamere, Shen, Jinx, Zed, Braun and Elise) and each of them is equipped with skills details and a different evolutionary method. For example, Braun will only go to the next level after taking at least 10 damage in a game (and his ability allows him to cancel the damage he took at the end of the turn, making him an excellent blocker), while Garen level up after hitting two times.
This means that the strategy changes considerably between one deck and another, as the level increase allows the champion to increase his stats and take advantage of special spells that recall the skills that we find on League of Legends, such as the final Spark of Lux or the Super mega rocket of Death of Jinx.
A DECK FOR ALL TASTES
One of the most pleasant aspects of any card game is to create your own deck. Legends of Runeterra divides all the cards according to the kingdom of origin (which we could define as color cards) and you can take advantage of the synergies within the units of the same kingdom (or related kingdoms) to create the strategies at the base of our deck. But if you have little imagination – or maybe you want to try some particularly well-known – we point out that it is possible to import those that other users decide to share. Just copy the corresponding code and choose the item Import deck being created.
The game offers us three basic decks that we can expand, improve or completely ignore to proceed with the creation of our custom. Riot has confirmed that over time new expansions will be released that will introduce the other kingdoms of Runeterra and will further enrich the variety of cards and strategies available to the player. Of course it will be the metagame of the moment to determine which will be the most effective.
As already mentioned, players can choose to buy each card individually (each deck can have up to 40 and each can be present in triplicate), thus going to create exactly the kind of deck you want to use in normal games or in those classified. The game still has chests that contain random cards, but these are tied exclusively to the weekly rewards: the more games you play, the more chests you unlock, the more free currency you get.
Inside the chests it is also possible to find some wild cards, or special tokens that follow the rarity criteria already mentioned (common, rare, epic, sample) and that can be exchanged for a card of your choice of equivalent rarity. These tokens can also be obtained in another way (for example by participating in Shipments) or purchased using the currency that is obtained through purchase in the app. It is a very effective system to offer rewards that are good for every player; it would in fact be useless to propose a sample that is not used, while in this way the user chooses what to obtain.
In general Legends of Runeterra leaves a lot of freedom to the player from the early stages: once you have passed the initial tutorial you can already jump into the creation of your ideal deck or use the basic ones to play some games. At the moment it is possible to challenge artificial intelligence (perhaps to test a certain strategy on the fly), other players – both in normal and classified games – and take part in the Expeditions.
SHIPPING: AN ALTERNATIVE GAME MODE
There Shipment allows you to get interesting rewards, but it is not easy to take part in it because:
- you need to buy a ticket to start one (with both basic and premium currency)
- two consecutive defeats are enough to lose
During an Expedition the player will have to get at least 6 wins (without losing 2 times in a row) to access what is a real boss fight. At the end of the mission, rewards will be awarded based on your performance. Each Expedition ticket allows you to participate in two tests, so there will be two chances to get the coveted 7 wins.
A particular aspect of the Expedition concerns the fact that the player must assemble a deck specifically for this mission, but he can also use cards that are not in his possession, choosing from the groups proposed. Much of the difficulty lies precisely in being able to assemble an effective deck with its own strategy.
During the week you can get up to a maximum of 3 rewards from shipments, after which you enter the mode Open game. This allows you to create your own deck using all the available cards and allows you to earn excellent rewards (in terms of experience points) but does not affect your rank. In short, it is an interesting test to test a potential deck even before getting the cards.
EVEN THE EYE WANTS ITS PART
The game mechanics and the choices made by Riot fully convince and even the technical sector is no different. As anticipated at the beginning, the reference version taken into consideration is the mobile version (but the same applies to the PC version) and we are pleased to note that the porting has been well done from a technical point of view.
Special moves are loaded with effects and appear very convincing, as well as all the artistic direction undertaken by the title. Although the samples and setting were not created from scratch, every image, artwork and detail of the cards has been taken care of and we never see the recycling of assets from League of Legends.
Riot has made an excellent game also from this point of view; at this point you just have to try it. Given its peculiarity and very original formula, we expect Legends of Runeterra to carve out a large space also within the international competitive scene, so if you are following the eSport world it is likely that the Riot title may end up very soon under the your radar.
But we don't want to add anything else; you can try for yourself what the game has to offer by consulting the links you find just below. Now we just have to wait for the other titles still in development at the software house, such as the mobile version of League of Legends, the fighting game and CONV / RGENCE, the platform that sees Ekko as the protagonist.