Chronicle: Not Another Hearthstone.
Since RuneScape became playable to the public in 2001, players have enjoyed the browser-based MMORPG by the millions. The concept was rather simple; offer players with even low-end machines the ability to play a massively multiplayer online role playing game, straight from their browser for free, and charge just five dollars for premium access. Clearly Jagex did something right, because 15 years and 200 million user accounts later, they’ve been recognized as the world’s largest free MMO, and the most-updated game by Guiness World Records. They’ve co-existed alongside Blizzard’s World of Warcraft for almost 12 years, and have continued updating and improving the game. While not near as popular as most MMOs with more sophisticated graphics, it’s fan-base remains true and Jagex has continued to make a profit off of the game.
Fast forward to modern day, where developers are all releasing their take on the increasingly popular CCG (Collectible Card Game,) genre. Blizzard‘s Hearthstone undoubtedly seems to be the star of the show in the CCG genre currently. With Hearthstone picking up as much steam as it has (more than 40M as of November 2015,) Jagex saw an opportunity and grasped at it. Chronicle: RuneScape Legends is Jagex’ incredibly unique stab at the genre, and while I’ll be often likening, and comparing it to Hearthstone, I want to make it as clear as humanly possible before I continue that this gameplay is nothing like Hearthstone.
What Sets It Apart
Much like Clash Royale has recently done, Chronicle ditches the standard conventions of competitive card games. You do not summon monsters to fight your opponent’s monsters and you do not rely on a replenishing resource, like mana. In Chronicle: RuneScape Legends you are battling your own deck just as much as you are competing with your opponent, or Rival, as the game so politely dubs the opposing player. There are only 5 rounds to every game, so there is very little wiggle room for time here. A game of Chronicle can only really last for around 10-15 minutes at the absolute longest. Also, instead of there being a battle field with two sides like most card games, this one uses a large pop-up book to create a sort of path for each player to “adventure,” through.
How It Works
Explaining the rules and idea of this game isn’t easy, and I personally think that speaks volumes to how unique it really is. The best I can do is show you a picture, try to create a mental image for you, and advise you to go try it yourself. Basically the game consists of 2 players with decks of at least 30 cards, competing for 5 rounds, which are called Chapters (get it? because its on a book.) In each of these 5 chapters, the players take their turn at the exact same time, and then the events that are set in motion by their actions also happen somewhat simultaneously. Upon entering a new match, a player is selected at random to go first, and the other is given an extra card for their 6 card starting hand. Each player is represented by a “Legend,” game token which basically boils down to a hero character, or class. This character has an attack value (represented by a flame around the number,) a coin count which starts at zero, and a health value.
The game board, as I’ve chosen to call it, consists of two horizontal lines through various animated adventure scenes. Your opponent runs along the top line and you travel the bottom line. On each of these lines exist 4 spaces for it’s corresponding player to place cards. In each round/chapter, a player can choose to fill some of these spaces, or all of them. Once each player has chosen what cards they wish to play and in what spaces they wish to play them, the two Legend figures travel together on their lines toward the right of the game board. They run automatically from space to space and encounter whatever their player has placed for them. Whichever player was designated as going first at the beginning of the game, will always encounter their cards and corresponding effects before the other player, but generally speaking both players will travel at the same rate, outside of this one rule.
After the first chapter, players draw 3 cards at the beginning of each round. The actual cards have 2 general types; “Adventure,” and “Fight,” cards. Fight cards are enemies that your Legend must, well fight. Fight cards range from enemies that can be defeated in one blow to foes that may take 2 or 3 swings to defeat. Each Fight card enemy has a health value and an attack value (which reduces the player’s health should the enemy hit them,) and will reward the player’s Legend character depending on how difficult they prove to defeat. Rewards range from effects like drawing extra cards or harming the other player, to coins, health, and armor (armor works in basically the same way it does in Hearthstone.)
Adventure cards, are cards that usually involve spending coins or sacrificing armor, health, or a weapon (weapons work almost exactly as they do in Hearthstone.) In exchange, Adventure cards reward the player similarly to how defeating Fight cards do, but usually in a more profound way. Some adventure cards permanently increase the Legend’s attack value, and others leverage the amount of cards the player holds into damage to be inflicted on the Rival.
After 5 rounds of both players encountering up to 4 cards each, if neither of the Legends have fallen, they have a final showdown in the final space of the final chapter. In this Final duel, the player who is doing the best pretty much wins since they just exchange blows, the same way encountering a Fight card works. This creates an option for multiple strategies. You can spend the 5 chapters bolstering your Legend’s armor and attack, while maintaining his health, to prepare for that final battle. You could also build a deck that has you directly damaging your rival as often as possible, in an effort to destroy them before reaching that final battle. You could even work to buff your rival’s fight cards so that they become more dangerous than they had anticipated. The choice is all yours.
Where It Succeeds
This game has an undoubtedly unique experience that I haven’t yet seen in other CCGs. The tactics that the player must employ are fresh and new, while maintaining the relative familiarity of the principles of the core CCG experience. The graphics are simple but nice, and the setting is fun. Moving from page to page through the different chapters is cool, as the terrain and surroundings change with each subsequent round. The “carrot-on-a-stick,” aspect is much like Hearthstone in that it has daily quests that reward the player with Copper Coins, which are used to buy booster packs filled with new cards. The booster packs cost 1000 coins each, and the rate at which players earn coins through quests and winning matches seems to be about the same as in Hearthstone. The sound effects are pretty good for the animations that take place moment to moment, and when there is voice acting present, I would say it is standard.
Where It Is Lacking
The interface and menu system that exists outside of matches seems to be darn close to a carbon copy of what pretty much every other CCG offers (to include Hearthstone.) On top of that, when you go to make a custom deck, the cards, the sorting, and pretty much everything else seem to be borderline copy and pasted from Hearthstone. This is okay in the sense that it works just as well, but it’s just kind of shady considering the entire point of this game is to set itself apart from its competitors. Also, I feel like this game could have really shined if instead of the statuesque board game pieces, the game board were covered in fully functional 3D models with movement animations. I know this might be asking a little much, but I really feel like this game fills a space that we didn’t even know existed, and they may have left some small polish untouched that someone else might take advantage of (I’m looking at you Guild Wars.) Finally, I feel like some small tweaks need to be made to improve the tutorial so that players can get a better grasp of whats going on in this game. I think it’s foolish to expect anyone to go into this with anything
other than Hearthstone in mind.
Yay or Nay?
Yay. The game is free on steam and you have nothing to lose. If you like it, great. If you don’t like it, that’s okay too since it cost you nothing. I think if you give it a chance, and you enjoy Hearthstone, this game offers a refreshing enough experience to entertain you and possible reel you in.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments below, and if you enjoyed the review I encourage you to check out my other articles and reviews.
I also encourage you to check out the other writers on this website, and read what they have to say about various things. We’re just a couple of friends trying to do something great in our spare time, but remain humble as we do it. As always we appreciate constructive criticism and feedback of all kinds!