Chronicle: RuneScape Legends Review
Chronicle: RuneScape Legends is Jagex’s take on the growing online-card game genre. By mixing mechanics typically found in board games and card games, throwing a tiny dash of RPG in, and presenting it on a light-weight client, they’ve managed to create something rather unique in a saturated market. Of course, RuneScape is also a much-loved and well-known setting, so instant popularity for the game is almost assured. If you’re a fan of strategy with a bit of chance thrown in, you may find yourself enjoying Chronicle: RuneScape Legends. It certainly has both in spades.
As Chronicle is a card game, you can bet that a majority – if not all – of the customization in the game centers around your deck. And you would win that bet, at least at the moment as your Legend customization is still a work in progress. You choose your Legend, your hero that themes your deck style, and you build your deck around him or her, choosing from the cards you’ve collected from booster packs or completing tasks. Of course, what modern online card game would be complete without the ability to customize the back of your cards? So Chronicle has this option. Currently the selection is small, but I have a feeling we’ll see it grow in the future.
Perhaps it’s just a perspective thing, but I felt like building my deck was a lot more fun in Chronicle than I’ve experienced in most other card games. Knowing that your selections will both conflict with and benefit you has an odd psychological effect. Sure, the same is true with other card games, but with Chronicle it feels more… personal. Simply because you’re ‘building your own quests’ rather than building a deck to ‘destroy your opponent.’ Like I said, it’s similar with other titles, but the way Chronicle presents the concept makes it an entirely new way of looking at the genre.
Similar to other card games you can recycle cards to gain resources to craft new cards. This is a great way to get rid of cards you’re never going to use and get your hands on the ones you need to make your strategy come to life. It’s not a huge part of the game – I almost completely missed it. But it is there and offers another layer to the game. That’s about all I have to say about that.
The game makes use of 2.5D graphics, making for some interesting visuals while playing. Each chapter within a match, a new play area is raised from ‘the Book’ and you get to see it grow before your eyes. The art style is reminiscent of the art style used in RuneScape, though a bit more detailed (at least until RuneScape pushes their NXT update). The developers could have gone full-tilt with the graphics, but it seems they purposefully limited themselves by retaining an art style that both RuneScape players and even those who haven’t played RuneScape in years (or at all) will find nostalgic. This means the game doesn’t look as amazing as it could, and textures and models aren’t incredible when it comes to quality. Don’t mistake that to mean that Chronicle doesn’t look good; it certainly does. It just means the developers are purposefully using a stylistic art style that fits the story, setting, and history of the franchise.
Card design is quite nice. Sure, it’s something that would never work in reality. That’s the magic of online card games, however. You can create card effects and battles that are just over-the-top ridiculous and never before done in table top versions. The overall design concept is similar to that of lots of other card games, especially Hearthstone. Whether that was intentional or not, I couldn’t tell you. It is a bit more simplistic and easy-on-the-eyes than a lot of other card games, however, meaning you can get all the relevant information on a card with a quick glance.
Chronicle is primarily played with the mouse. There are some minor key bindings, but you can literally do everything with the mouse. I didn’t notice any issues with the controls while playing. In fact, I didn’t even think about them at all until I began writing the review. That’s how things should be when it comes to controls; be intuitive enough that people can play it without thinking and keep things working as intended so players don’t have to be annoyed while trying to play.
The community that plays RuneScape will probably be the bulk of the community that plays Chronicle. The community I remember from playing RuneScape when I was younger was much more immature than the community I’ve encounter on Chronicles forum and sub-reddit. It actually seems pleasant, which is two concepts you usually don’t mix when it comes to MMOs. Community and pleasant. So, in general, Chronicle seems to have a great community to start it off. Now let’s hope that great community survives the open beta release today!
Unlike in most card games, the players are not always battling each other. In fact, most of the battling you do will be inflicted upon yourself by your own choosing. In most card games, you and your opponent take turns playing and battling monsters against one another. In Chronicle, you play monster cards against yourself. Well, against your Legend, anyways.
For most of the game, your opponent will likely assault you with nothing more than suggestive knowing smirks.
Unlike most card games, direct conflict with the enemy doesn’t happen that much, unless you specifically build a deck around rushing your opponent down before they can unfold their master plans.
As a result 90% of your matches feel like the PvE edition of the CCG genre. You’re building your own adventure and your opponent is just a minor part of it – a hassle is a better description. Sure, in reality, you ARE competing for victory against your opponent. But the developer’s have managed – intentionally or unintentionally – to create a competitive game that feels more personal than you would think it could be. I felt like I was competing more with myself than my opponent, and that added a new twist to the overall strategies that I usually employ while playing card games. It’s refreshing and fascinating.
But again, the goals, card effects, etc… are the same or very similar to other card games. It’s the presentation which is different. And the presentation is probably one of (if not THE) most important thing when it comes to a card game, because there really is only so much you can do with it before you find yourself in a completely different genre. Chronicle treads the line between genres very carefully and it’s paid off in the form of an exciting concept and an interesting game. Both a solo-RPG and a competitive card game, set in a well-known world with a history that’s grown for over fifteen years.
And that history is very important to Jagex when it comes to Chronicle. When building your deck, you select a Legend. These are characters from RuneScape lore that are well-known to the community and have a reputation from the game. The developers have an interesting blog post on the subject where they discuss how they go about making a character from RuneScape into a Legend in Chronicle. Honestly, I haven’t played RuneScape since I was a kid, so I was way out of touch with the Legends. Playing Chronicle has gotten me to read up on a few of them, though, and that has gotten me more interested in RuneScape lore than I have been in a long time.
Certain Legends seem to do quite well while facing certain other Legends. In general, though, everyone has a chance. For example, I always struggle against The Raptor whenever I play Ozan (my favorite Legend). It just seems like the strategies I usually employ while using my Ozan decks just don’t work well against the armor-heavy Raptor. Honestly, I think I’ve only won once while playing Ozan against Raptor, and that was in practice mode. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is an important insight into how the game is designed that I think a lot of card gamers will appreciate.
I mentioned the ‘armor-heavy Raptor.’ Each Legend has an attack and health stat by default. However, by defeating monsters that have an armor drop-effect or making use of purchase cards that give armor, you can gain damage-absorbing armor. Some monsters will drop gold (most, really), weapons, even health. Some monsters have effects that come into play when you defeat them, too. Such as “deal 4 damage to rival.” You’ll want to stock your deck with enemy cards that benefit the strategies possible with your Legend, or at least mitigate gains to keep your foe from snowballing into an impossible lead.
I mentioned Purchase Cards. These are cards that can be activated by paying a price in gold (which can sometimes be zero). These cards range from weapons which boost your damage capability, give you health, exchange weapons or cards for more gold, allow you to strike or battle your opponent, etc… In most of my decks, these cards make up a bit more than half of the thirty you can have. I couldn’t tell you if that’s a good composition to have or not, but it’s just how things tend to end up whenever I’m building my decks. Chronicle is extremely punishing to decks that lack monster cards, as forcing you to battle and take damage against your own cards seems a vital part of the game balance.
Matches are separated into five chapters. Each chapter allows you to place four cards into play. You and your Rival go down a linear path through the map, defeating or activating cards in the order you both selected. Your goal is to cause your enemy’s health to drop to zero while keeping your own health as close to thirty as you can manage. At the start of the match, you draw a hand and are given a chance to re-draw any cards you don’t think will benefit you soon enough to warrant keeping. If both you and your rival are still alive at the end of the fifth chapter, the winner is determined via an epic battle between the two of you.
Each chapter is represented by a randomly chosen map. You get to see this map “pop-up” from the book that is also the game board. These maps are based off of iconic locations from RuneScape, so that’s a nice touch. Other than being satisfying visually, I couldn’t really discern a purpose for the different maps. At least it keeps things interesting and changing, though it is possible to have the same map drawn multiple times in an adventure. But even that is fine, as it helps portray the fact that you’re on a quest while playing. As the game is still technically in open beta, I imagine we may eventually see tactical cards interacting with these maps.
As I’ve said a few times, this set up really lends itself to the idea that you’re playing by yourself and your Rival isn’t the most important factor in the match. You are. You feel like you’re taking part in an adventure or completing a set of quests rather than playing a competitive card game against someone else. It’s a very unique way to play a card game and it does a fantastic job of blending elements from various genres. RPG, Online, and card – all wrapped into one package that is Chronicle: RuneScape Legends.
Conclusion: Great (4/5)
Of course, RuneScape is also a much-loved and well-known setting, so instant popularity for the game is almost assured. Perhaps not on the scale of World of Warcraft’s Hearthstone, but only time will tell. If you’re a fan of strategy with a bit of chance thrown in, you may find yourself enjoying Chronicle: RuneScape Legends. It certainly has both in spades. Personally, I found the game to be a fantastic source of fun and the light-weight client allowed me to play it alongside my current addiction, Black Desert Online. Now if only they’d release a mobile version (which is confirmed to be in the works), I’d have trouble putting it down.
Features: 4/5 – A nice selection of features for an online card game.
Customization: 3/5 – I would like some more customization options. They’re in the works, but withholding judgement until Jagex delivers.
Graphics: 3/5 – I enjoyed the stylistic choice of art style, but felt that perhaps more could be done.
Controls: 5/5 – Perfect.
Community: 4/5 – More mature than I remember the RuneScape community. It seems it’s grown with the game.
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