Towards the end of 2019, Riot Games showcased the latest lineup of games they will release while celebrating their 10th birthday. After ten years of only developing one game, the Los Angeles-based developer finally expanded, creating games for other genres.
There were a number of games that they exhibited at the time, FPS named project A which is now known as Valorant, the Legends of Runeterra card game, LoL iteration on Mobile called Wild Rift, Teamfight Tactics for mobile, and a fighting game project. After some time has passed, the digital card game Legends of Runeterra, which was released on May 1, 2020 yesterday, may be the first game in the line to be released in full.
Although it has a genre of Collectible Card Games (CCG) that tends to be niche, but this game turned out to get a pretty good enthusiasm from gamers, with total downloads reaching more than 1 million in the Play Store when this article was written. Maybe you are now attracted to playing it, but still frustrated for one reason or another.
Maybe you haven’t played because you’ve never played CCG before and are afraid to be faced with a complicated strategy game? Or fail to play for fear of being faced with a pay-to-win game scheme that requires you to go weak to get the coveted card?
But is Legends of Runeterra a digital card game like that? Card games that will intimidate prospective new players because of complicated mechanics or endless card gacha?
To decide whether you will start investing time (and money) in this game, let’s get acquainted first with this digital card game made by Riot. Check out the following review of Legends of Runeterra.
CCG With MOBA Sense
Legends of Runeterra (afterwards called Runeterra) is a card game based on the story of one of the most popular MOBA games in the world. If you are a League of Legends player you will definitely see familiar faces in this game, such as Ashe, Garen, or Lux.
If you look at the first trailer of Runeterra, you can also already see how the Champion League of Legends characters turn into cards in the game, which are called the strongest cards in Runeterra.
This also makes me say that the Runeterra card game has a sense of MOBA in the mechanics of the game. No, this is not just because there is a Champion League of Legends in Runeterra, but also because of how the Champion cards work in this game.
If you also play MOBA League of Legends, you certainly understand your job in MOBA is to raise the Champion level so that you have stronger skills, while collecting gold to get items to strengthen physical or magic attacks. Interestingly, Runeterra also has game mechanics like MOBA, which raises levels to make Champion cards stronger.
But the difference is, raising the Champion level in Runeterra isn’t as simple as hitting a Minion. Each Champion has different requirements in order to level up. For example, Garen must attack twice or Braum can level up if it has withstand enemy attacks. Leveled champions will have even more deadly damage or effects.
Another thing that makes Runeterra card games increasingly feels like MOBA is from the way the player gets the win. In MOBA, after your character has become strong, the next task is to keep on crashing, destroying the Turret by Turret until it reaches the core building that must be destroyed, Nexus.
Likewise in Runeterra. Each player has a goal to destroy the enemy Nexus and there are a number of ways that can be done. The simplest way is to summon or summon or place your card on a table or field. Then order the card to attack towards Nexus. There are 20 Hit Points (HP) for Nexus, which will be lost first.
How easy is it?
Easy or not we will discuss in the next section. But in general, destroying Nexus in Runeterra is actually not that simple, because there are three types of cards in this game, namely Champion, Follower, and Spells.
Champion and Follower have power in the lower left of the card that indicates attack power, and the HP in the lower right of the card that indicates defensive power. The two cards will remain on the table as long as you still have a cellphone. If the HP runs out, the card will disappear from the game; unless called again with special effects. While on the other hand the Spell can usually only be activated once, then it will disappear after being activated.
Your job as a player here is to make maximum use of these three types of cards so you can destroy enemy Nexus. Champion and follower have the simplest functions, namely attacking Nexus.
While the Spell function is more varied because there is something that can directly damage the Nexus, damage the Champion or Follower, or give the effect of disturbing the enemy.
In general, how to play Runeterra is more or less like the TCG Yu-Gi-Oh card game. You call the card to the table, then tell the monster to attack. If there are no monsters on the enemy table, you can attack directly (if in Runeterra towards Nexus). You can call Spell Card to attack or help make your card stronger.
Then if you have a Trap Card at Yu-Gi-Oh, what about Runeterra? Another interesting thing in Runeterra, which also makes it feel like an MOBA battle, is the order of the streets that keeps changing.
In each turn, players take turns holding the Attack Token as a sign that you have the right to walk first and attack. Then, every time you do something (call Champion / Follower or activate a Spell) the enemy has a turn to respond with whatever they have.
If you use the Yu-Gi-Oh analogy, then you can say the Spell in Runeterra functions like a combination of Trap and Magic Card. Because it runs alternately continuously, the spell can be activated at any time. Therefore, Runeterra has three levels of spell speed, namely Slow, Fast, and Burst.
Slow Spells can only be activated outside the battle phase. When activated, enemies can respond with the spells they have. Fast Spell can be activated before or during the battle phase, enemies can also respond to this Spell. Finally, the Burst Spell, can be activated at any time, immediately active immediately, and cannot be responded by the enemy.
The responding action stops when the Attack Token owner advances the troops (Champion / Follower) and enters the fighting phase. In the battle phase, the defender can no longer summon any troops, can only Block with troops that are already in the field, or respond with Fast Spells.
After the defender activates the Spell, selects the enemy forces that his attack wants to hold, the Attack Token owner then attacks, the amount of damage is calculated, then the Attack Token owner has the last chance to take one more action, which the enemy can still respond to.
When attacking, Legends of Runeterra also presents an interesting feature called Oracle Eye. This feature can be in the middle between two Nexus in the attack phase.
This feature allows you to look into the future, the results of all the battles of troops and spells that are activated. If you are not good at calculating or not sure how the effect of the spell you will use, this feature will help you understand the outcome of the battle.
All actions of summoning troops and activating Spells will use Mana. The game starts with 1 mana, and continues to increase by 1 mana in each round. If you do nothing, Mana will be saved in addition to activating the Spell later.
In my opinion, the changing game mechanics also make Runeterra feel like a MOBA battle. Because in MOBA you have to be good at managing the resources you have, skills or mana, as well as in Runeterra.
Is Runeterra Friendly For Beginners?
This problem becomes important in the discussion of a game, especially CCG games like Runeterra. The complexity of the game will usually make players discourage trying. Moreover, the CCG genre is often labeled as a “thinking game”, which makes many players lazy at the beginning because they do not want to think when playing the game.
After reading my explanation above about the general mechanics of the game, are you already dizzy? Oh calm, that’s not all, because the longer you play, the more you have to accept the fact that Runeterra will take you diving into intricate and exciting mechanics.
Although this game is complicated, but I can still say that Runeterra is friendly for beginners. One reason is because the Riot Games effort explains how to play Runeterra through the presentation of an intensive set of tutorials.
Everything I discussed at the beginning of the article will be taught when you first log into the game. You will be taught what Nexus is, how to attack and defend, how to work Champion, Attack Token, what is Mana Point, and how to activate and classify Spells.
But salute to Riot Games who try hard to teach the game mechanism Runeterra to players. When you enter the game, on the Play menu, you can choose the Challenges menu which contains an intensive course to understand how the various cards work in Runeterra.
In this section you will be taught how to work a variety of Keywords, aka keywords from card effects in the game. For example, the Challenge titled Overwhelming Force teaches you how to work, and the effectiveness of using cards with the keyword Overwhelm. Cards with Overwhelm (Champion Darius, for example) can deal damage that goes through Nexus if you have a difference in the number of attack cards with the HP of the defensive card.
Riot also encourages players to challenge because we will receive XP prizes to increase progress rewards, which I will explain later in the section on the Legends of Runeterra monetization scheme. New challenges will also always be present, when Runeterra introduces new Keywords.
For example, when the Rising Tides update was present when the official release of Runeterra introduced the Bilgewater region, Riot immediately presented 4 new Challenges: The Deep Dive to introduce the Keywords Deep effect, Plunder Pays for the Plunder Keywords effect, Easy Pickings to introduce the Vulnerable Keywords, and Barrel to Victory which introduce the workings of the Powder Keg mechanism.
Don’t worry, what is in Challenges is just the surface of the full range of Keywords in Runeterra. Because until now, more or less there are about 40 more Keywords in Runeterra that you must understand and learn.
Already dizzy? Same with me, too. But don’t worry, at the beginning of the game you are given a “Starter Deck” from the 6 initial regions in Runeterra, to learn how to play and optimize the basic cards.
Perhaps one thing lacking from Challenges is that it does not teach characteristics and interactions between regions. The Region Mechanism is the way the Runeterra card game tells the world of League of Legends. Until now, there are 7 regions in the Runeterra card game, there are Bilgewater, Demacia, Freljord, Ionia, Noxus, and Shadow Isle.
Each region has its own characteristics that can be combined with other regions. For example if you want to make the enemy unable to move, you can combine the Freljord Region which can stop enemy movement with Ionia which also has a lot of mechanics that make the enemy distracted.
But certainly, the experience of playing League of Legends will also help you to understand this game faster. Having been playing League of Legends since 2012, helped me understand the picture of how Champion works. So because I know that Braum is a Tank hero who likes to withstand attacks, then I already have an idea how to use Braum to its full potential in Runeterra.
Another thing that makes it easier for me to understand Runeterra is probably my experience playing Yu-Gi-Oh card games in the PlayStation era. At a minimum, when I started playing I could immediately murmur, “Oh it turns out this game is similar to Yu-Gi-Oh,” and no need to be confused anymore.
Amazing Artwork, and Visual Variations that Spoil the Eye
Okay, you might already be tired of reading the discussion of Runeterra’s game mechanics, which were initially simple, but are becoming increasingly … confusing. A little break, let’s take a moment to see how Riot presents Legends of Runeterra audio and visual.
One that I like the most is how when you open the game immediately the game with the image of Ashe standing on an iceberg with the sun rising in the eastern horizon, while accompanied by a song with a solemn violin like the typical music of the elf kingdom in the colossal film Lord of the Ring.
The main menu is equally delicious. At one time you will be faced with a view of Jinx on the roof of the house to see the atmosphere of the city of Piltover on a quiet night. At other times your spirit can also be triggered by the image of Darius shouting war cry to the troops of Noxus who are preparing to colonize other Region in Runeterra.
Artwork from each card is also another visual aspect in Runeterra that successfully spoiled the eyes. So maybe, if you are tired of playing because you keep losing, you can pause, open the Cards menu, and see the Artwork of each card. Moreover, the card artwork also features a story that increasingly brings you into the world of Runeterra.
One card I like the most in Artwork and stories is the Cithria of Cloudfield card from the Demacia Region. The visuals and explanation of this card succeeded in presenting the atmosphere of the story of a girl who aspired to become a Demacia army, because she heard the heroic story of her mother fighting on the battlefield defending the name of the kingdom of Demacia.
Unfortunately, serving artwork spoiled the eyes in Runeterra is only limited to Champion and Followers. On the Spell card, while still presenting a description that has a story, but the visual presented is quite limited because it does not present full-screen Artwork like on a Champion or Follower card.
The next thing that seems to me to be visually inspiring is the cool animation presented in Runeterra. The evocative visual has also been felt since we are in the main menu. Transitions between menus are always decorated with simple, yet eye-catching animations.
Going into battle, in my opinion there are at least two things in terms of animation that make Legends of Runeterra visually evocative. First is the presence of an interactive Guardian accompanying us when the duel is being held.
Guardian is not really a feature that affects anything in the game, but only the eye conditioning that adorns your board. The funny thing is, Guardians are interactive, which will take action if you swipe or tap on it.
Poro’s Guardian, which is free, for example, will give you a big tantrum or yawn response if you tap it on its head quickly and too often. Although it doesn’t help in the game, at least Poro can be a solace when your hands are ugly, or the enemy shows a dominating game.
Apart from Guardian, another visual addition that is no less interesting is the Sticker and also the skin for the Board where you play. Sticker is your only means of communicating with enemies. Usually this is used to joke with enemies when there are adorable moments in the game.
The skin for the board where you play is also another visual that spoil your eyes. The most basic skin board is Summoner’s Riftt, but you can buy skins for this board, starting with the theme of Region in Runeterra or a certain Champion. Each Board not only spoil the visual, but also has a distinctive song from each of them that spoil the ear.
So far, Jinx’s Mayhem has become my favorite skin board, because it is not only visually eccentric, but also has a dark-electro genre theme song that matches the personality of the Champion Jinx.
Pay or Grind to Win?
Many people assume that card games are usually pay-to-win. For those of you who have played several times or have friends who play TCG or CCG games, you may already be familiar with the Booster Pack or Loot Box, a gacha box that contains random cards. Interestingly, Legends of Runeterra actually has a quite different monetization scheme.
Maybe Runeterra is a CCG card game that doesn’t use the Booster Pack system. All cards here can be purchased with a choice of 3 currencies, namely Wildcards, Shards, or Coins (Premium currency). Wildcards and Shards can be obtained by playing diligently or grinding.
Wildcard and Shard’s main sources come from Region Rewards. Region Rewards functions more or less like the Battle Pass in Dota 2, which has many levels, and has attractive prizes for each level. Region Rewards level can be obtained by continuing to play.
You can get XP when you play, whether it’s winning or losing, doing a daily quest, or playing a Challenge. But the amount of XP gained in one day has a limit. If you have reached the limit, you will only get around 100 XP if you win, and get nothing when you lose.
Not only that, there are still other sources that make it easy for you to complete your collection of cards in Runeterra. There is a Daily Login that has become a hallmark of many gamemobile, Weekly Vault which are both collected through XP, and the last is Expedition,
Expedition itself is arguably like Draft Mode. Expedition game mode can be followed by using Coin, Shards, or Expedition Tokens obtained from Weekly Vault. In Expedition Mode you are asked to make a deck of several card options presented by the system. After the deck is finished, you will be pitted by other players who also follow this mode. The more wins, the better prize you receive. Conversely, if you have lost 4 times, then your trip will stop and get a little prize.
Riot Games doesn’t seem to talk nonsense when it comes to wanting to make Runeterra a fair card game, both for free-to-play players and those who invest in buying cards. With this system, casual players who are free-to-play are still able to have the opportunity to compete with paid players, provided they are diligent in playing.
Moreover, being a paid player is also not detrimental in Runeterra. Because players don’t need to mess around because of Gacha on disadvantaged days. You can freely make any deck and immediately buy the card you need, without the hassle of scavenging for Loot Boxes or Booster Packs.
Looking at this mechanism, it seems that the only difference between free and paid players is time. Free players take longer to get the cards they want, while paid players only need to click a purchase to get a card.
Version 1.0 is still lacking
Legends of Runeterra entered version 1.0 when it was released on May 1, 2020 yesterday. Even though it has been officially released, I still feel that Legends of Runeterra is like being in an open-beta phase.
Why? Because in my opinion there are still many features that are actually important, but not yet presented in Legends of Runeterra. Some of the features that had become a conversation in the community were the absence of match history, replays, statistics, and spectate friends.
Indeed these 3 features become something important, especially when talking about the readiness of Legends of Runeterra as esports. In competitions, especially those that are online, match history is the only evidence to report wins. Although there is already a feature to challenge friends on the friend list, without Match History the victory cannot be proven.
Then in addition, features such as statistics, replays, or spectate friend also become another important feature to make Runeterra a competitive game. Statistics and replays can help players learn the game themselves.
When did he make a wrong move? What can be corrected from the defeat he experienced before? What card is ineffective and must be replaced? The three become a number of things that players can do with the presence of statistics and replays features.
While spectate friend is an important feature to make the match on Runeterra be watched by many audiences. Because if we talk about esports, we are not only talking about competition, but also talking about how to make the match presented to the audience.
Finally, although it might not be that important, I feel that Legends of Runeterra still lacks a collection of audio or visual cosmetics that can be enjoyed. One example is the type of Board, Guardian, and Card Back cosmetics which are still fairly limited. This is certainly expected to increase over time, because in addition to buying cards, cosmetic items are also no less important in adding fun to the playing experience.
The last thing is probably about graphics optimization. For now the actual graphics optimization of Runeterra is quite good, but there are still things that can actually be improved even more. One example is animation when Champion levels up.
On mobile platforms, frame-drop occurs several times when Champion levels up, because the animation does indeed require intensive graphic computing. Another thing from frame-rate graphics optimization for platformmobile. Legends of Runeterra itself is a cross-platform game between PC and Mobile. Unfortunately, frame rates of 60 fps are currently only available for PC platforms, while frame-rate Mobile platforms are locked at 30 fps.
In the end, Legends of Runeterra might be the only CCG that managed to incite me to try, even addicted to playing it. I feel that at least there are several factors that make Runeterra attractive to me who actually prefers fast-tempo games like FPS and MOBA. These factors are:
- The League of Legends theme made me curious about the game for Runeterra’s world story
- Fast-paced interactive gameplay that allows you to still do something even if you are holding on
- Great animation from battles, which sometimes makes me forget that this is a card game
- Successful Daily Login, Daily Quest and Region Rewards systems keep me motivated to keep playing to get new cards and strengthen my deck.
- The Booster Pack and Loot Box features that are removed make the player paid so they don’t have to mess around with Gacha.
But that does not mean Runeterra is a game without gaps. I feel there are still some shortcomings in this game, which although a little, but quite felt. Some of these include:
- Cosmetic choices are still limited.
- There is no high frame-rate option for mobile.
- Challenge Mode that does not explain the interaction between Regions.
- The absence of features for the needs of esports in version 1.0 of Legends of Runeterra such as match history, replays, statistics, or spectate friends.
- Lack of language that might make players in Indonesia so reluctant to try because of difficulty learning the mechanism of the Legends of Runeterra game that is quite complicated.
- The large number of keywords, which might make the game more complicated later.
So is Runeterra worth a try? In my opinion this is a game that is too bad to miss, especially for you lovers of League of Legends. If you don’t play League of Legends though, this game is still worth a try because it offers a fairly fresh concept in the CCG genre game.