Now that it’s out for the world to see, a proper review for Legends of Runeterra (LoR) can be done.
Riot’s take on the card game genre is at first glance a combination of Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone (which so happen to be the 2 most popular card games online).
Is there more to this game, or is it just a combination of the 2 with fancy Riot graphics and lore? This review will be split into a Storyline, Gameplay, Visuals and finally, Personal Thoughts sections. Without further ado:
Table of Contents
The game does not have any storyline.
There are however various interactions between cards and champion, and some flavor text for every card in the game.
Riot verified that everything mentioned in the game is canon and in line with the main lore.
That said, that doesn’t mean that all interactions have happened and are facts that happened in history. Canon means that their interactions are what they would be if they happened to be in the position you put them (for example, 2 champions saying aggressive things to each other even though they are friends canonically, just because they are in opposing decks).
Ok, so instead of mentioning everything this game has that’s similar to other card games and then listing the differences, I’ll just explain its whole gameplay.
Like any card game, you must build a deck. Your deck can have only 40 cards, no more, no less. Another requirement is that you can only have cards from at most 2 regions, with regions being the card’s “faction”, “color” whatever you wanna call it. Finally, the deck can have up to 3 copies of any card, and up to 6 champions (including duplicates).
Some cards have 2 regions. That essentially means that they can be part of any deck that contains any of their 2 regions.
At the start of the game, after the one who plays first is chosen randomly.
The first player will take the attack token (1). This means that they are the ones who can attack that turn. The attack token alternates between players every turn. Essentially, every player gets a turn of attack, followed by a turn of defending, back to attacking, etc.
(2) shows the cards in play for both players. The attacking player can use any of his to attack the enemy, while the enemy must choose which of his cards will block which attacker.
The attacking player has priority, meaning that if he initiates an attack, neither player can play monsters until the battle takes place.
A battle in LoR is practically players alternating between moves. After the attacking player makes a move, the defending player makes a move, and then the attacking and so on and so forth.
(3) show the mana available to each player. As you can see, one player has 3 empty mana and the other has 2 empty and 1 usable. The first player, however, has 2 spell mana.
Spell mana is used exclusively for spells. When a turn ends, up to 3 unused mana will become spell mana. While your spells will prioritize spell mana, should it not be enough (or should you not have any), spells will take up regular mana like every other card.
Speaking of ending turns, a turn ends when both players pass. The game automatically makes you pass if you have no eligible moves.
Finally, (4) is the Nexus health for both players. Obviously, the target is to make the enemy’s Nexus drop to 0.
Speaking of which:
This is a card. (It’s actually a regional variant Poro, you can actually make a deck with these little rascals!)
When a battle is initiated, both the attacker and the blocker deal damage to each other equal to their strength. Their strength is the yellow number. If a unit drops to 0 or lower health (the red number), they die.
In order to damage the opponent’s Nexus, you must have a unit attack unblocked. Excess damage from your strong units will not go to the Nexus. You have to be very tactical.
Another thing to note is its keyword. Almost every card has keywords and/or skills. Depending on the skill, you can use it during combat or on summon, or even after a requirement is met.
Of course, that’s just a follower. There are 2 more types of cards, champion cards, and spell cards.
The above is satan… er, I mean a champion card.
As you can see, he has everything a regular unit has, including a keyword and a skill. However, this unit has a Level Up requirement. Once completed, the unit levels up, gaining better stats and/or abilities.
The requirement usually requires you having played the champion, but many champions can evolve by having their requirements met while in the hand or deck.
Onward, to spell cards.
Spells are pretty straightforward. What needs to be said is the type of spell.
This one is Burst for example. Burst spells are instantaneous and take place immediately without leaving any chance for the opponent to react.
There are also the Quick spells, which can be played whenever, but allow the opponent to respond, plus after resolving, they spend your move, giving your opponent time to summon, or cast spells of their own.
Finally, Slow spells can be played only when no combat takes place. It also leaves room for the opponent to answer as well.
The final type is field cards, err… Landmarks.
Landmarks are permanent (though not always…) structures that can’t be interacted with (except for specific cards that directly state that interact with them). Their point is to sacrifice tempo in order to give you long term effects. Generally, Landmarks have a variety of effects, with some Landmarks providing an alternate win condition as well.
Now if you’re observant, you might have noticed that this Landmark has an effect that benefits both players. So why should someone spend resources in order for them and the opponent to get the same benefit? I have to note that this Landmark has caused lots of arguments due to its nature.
Anyway, the reason why you would play something like this is simply because you are building around it. For example, you could have a deck that is filled to the brim with high cost cards. Then, almost every turn, you would get more value than your opponent, and would probably be able to finish the game in a few turns after.
Now that we’re done with card types, I should note that every card has a view button so you can see their whole artwork (which is pretty awesome for some cards, just check the Sinister Poro). The view option also offers some flavor text as I mentioned in the Storyline section.
LoR relies on regions in order to create a base playstyle for each deck. Different regions are good at doing specific stats.
At the time of this article, the game has all 10 regions:
- Demacia: Demacia relies on many different small units that can be buffed, or by larger meaner ones. Demacia definitely wants lots of units down. Demacia has a small number of spells, most of which don’t affect the enemy, rather, they buff your units. Its champions are upfront and rely on assaulting the enemy.
- Noxus: Noxus is the brute force of the bunch. It relies on strong units that (literally and figuratively) overwhelm their opponent. They can do that in 2 ways mainly, but the end result is the same. The first is pure Noxian strength, just super strong units further buffed by their spells. Noxian spells also directly deal with the enemy. The second way is by passively building your units’ attacks through their abilities (which usually involve hurting themselves to buff their attack). Their spells are mostly damage, whether by buffing attack or directly dealing damage. Noxian champions are mostly damage oriented, except Vladimir who just relies on damaging allies to hurt the opponent’s Nexus.
- Ionia: Ionia relies on lots and lots of spells and tricky unit in order to win. Most of its units are either very good supports, or elusive, which means they can only be defended by other elusive units. Their spells have a number of effects including buffing, disrupting, or generating advantage. Their champions focus on being good at one aspect. Pure Ionian decks aren’t very good, but their cards can be (and are best) used in conjunction with other decks. Ionia is usually not used as the main region to build around, instead, you use it as a secondary region for the powerful disruption and effects it provides.
- Piltover & Zaun: After their combination into one city-state in the lore, Piltover and Zaun now come as 1 region. Piltover & Zaun have a variety of units at their disposal, but their main thing is generating an advantage, usually helping with discarding as well. Piltover & Zaun mostly rely on their spells, which like Ionia, they do pretty much everything, only here, they actually can play more aggressively. Their champions rely mostly on spellcasting, or Jinx, which really likes discarding.
- Shadow Isles: What would you expect from Shadow Isles? Death and only death. Every unit relies on dying or at least is expendable to die. Spells kill you or the opponent’s units. Champions rely on death or have some synergy with it. If you like these tactics of sacrificing to gain power, be my guest.
- Freljord: Freljord is the classic control deck. It relies on having decent units, that are buffed through their spells. Their spells are also extremely disruptive to the opponent. Freljord champions are actually pretty competent but usually work better in combination with other regions in their own decks. However, a Freljord only deck is extremely powerful.
- Bilgewater: The region of RNG and high-risk high reward. Bilgewater is the region that is most associated with random effects, albeit controlled ones (for example, summon 2 random allies but only 1 cost). They also make the most use of the “Plunder” keyword that is practically effects that activate if you damaged your enemy’s Nexus this turn.
- Targon: Targon is quite a defensive region, much like Ionia, but in another way. Targon is the de facto healing region, more so than Ionia, which focuses on disruption. They also have (so far) exclusive access to the “Invoke” mechanic, which lets you choose 1 card out of 3 randomly generated ones (from a preexisting pool of cards, to keep things less RNG). Targon can also be very powerful as a supporting region, providing (besides healing) lots of buffs. Thematically, Targon is the region of space, constellations and the solar system and stars.
- Shurima:: An awesome region to try if you just like the Arabian and Mesopotamian cultures. Shurima is the region of landmarks having lots of ways of generating them. Their landmarks are mostly based on self-destruction, either with countdown effects (x number of turns before it destroys itself and grants an effect) or through their own effects (like destroy me when the enemy summons a unit, again to grant an effect). Shurima also has another unique mechanic: Ascension. The region’s Ascended Champions can, through Shurima’s signature landmark, the Sun Disk, evolve a second time for a total of 3 levels!! Generally, you could say Shurima is overloaded but it does not have any direct damage-based removal worth playing. Generally Shurima just likes going wide with units and controlling the game like that.
- Bandle City: Everyone asked for Void or Ixtal. Now comes Bandle City to ruin those dreams. Bandle City came to introduce dual regions in the game. Mechanically, the yordles are excellent at filling the board with small creatures and amping them up for big swings. They are also pretty good at generating value out of their cards. It’s definitely fast paced and quite fun to play admittedly. Also, since it introduced it, it supports the dual region mechanic better than anyone.
All in all, the deck options are not that limited as it might seem. You can have 2 decks using the same 1 or 2 regions, with completely different playstyles.
The game also has ranked mode, and Riot doesn’t allow the system to drop you, divisions, after you climbed (except for season resets) to promote different deckbuilding.
Finally, something about the game’s SFX. The cards have voiceovers and various interactions. This holds true mostly for champions. It’s a fun thing to have.
Details about the availability of cards and the p2w and p2p arguments will be discussed in the Personal Thoughts section.
Not much to say, the visuals are akin to League of Legends, refer there if you want.
On to the main argument.
As a card game, many will think it’s either p2w or p2p.
Let’s get the p2p out of the way. You can play the game for free, never pay a single dime, and still get all the cards.
About the p2w. Well, practically, yes, you can pay to get all the cards, but that’s all you get you still have to be skilled to win.
And it’s not that hard to grind to get the cards for free. The positive is that the cards don’t utilize a leveling system that makes them stronger and can make the game feel unfair. 3 copies of every card is all you need.
Besides, Riot gives you 3 starting decks with lots of cards from every region. You can build a meta deck and use that while you grind for all the cards.
Other than that, LoR is a pretty fun card game, and I recommend it if you are a fan of the genre. However, I don’t know if it has what it takes to straight-up antagonize its best competitors. But it can easily draw new blood by utilizing their name.
General Rating: 8
That’s it for my review. Have you played it yet? What is your favorite deck? Leave a comment below.
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