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GD Star RatingLoot and Legends,
Free to play games are widely considered one of the worst things to happen to gaming since Custer’s Revenge. But every now and then, a free to play game comes along that isn’t unfairly monetized and manages to offer something new that no one’s quite seen before. Loot & Legends is an iPad port of the PC free to play Card Hunter, a game featuring luminary designer Richard Garfield as a consultant. Is this loot worth hunting?
Loot and Legends is, at heart, a tactical skirmish game set in a fantasy universe. There are, however, a couple unique things that set it apart from other entries in the genre.
Once you’ve gone through the introductory adventures, your party will consist of 3 archtypical characters – a warrior, a wizard, and a priest. Each character is controlled via its own unique deck of cards. The cards will allow you to move, attack, defend attacks, and so on. Each turn you’ll draw a Move card (which race you select determines how many spaces it’s worth) and two other cards from the deck.
Each card you play grants you one corresponding action. Playing a Move card allows you to move up to a set number of spaces from your current location, highlighted in blue once you play the card. Tap the space you wish to enter, then tap the Confirm button to move there; tap anywhere else on the screen to cancel the move. The visuals on the board aren’t simply to establish theme; as in any tactical miniatures battle, terrain plays an important part. Blocked spaces block both movement and line of site; difficult spaces do not block line of site, but your move ends upon entering one. Further, you must stop moving if you become adjacent to an enemy – even if you began adjacent to that same enemy, which allows otherwise small and inconsequential foes to lock you down in a corner for several turns.
Other cards allow you to attack. Each attack card has a range and a damage, and many have additional abilities. The very-well-done art direction makes it easy to see a card’s vital statistics at a glance, and a tap-hold will zoom in, allowing you to read any text describing its abilities. When you play an attack card, the attack range is shown on the screen, and by default the valid target closest to death is selected – if you’d rather hit someone else, simply tap your preferred target before you hit the Confirm button. Armor cards are held in your hand, and will automatically come out to prevent you from taking damage if attacked – note that your foes possess this ability as well, so observing their hands (in small windows above) to strike when they hold nothing becomes a vital strategy.
Players alternate playing one card per turn. If you have no cards that are valid, or simply don’t want to play one that is, you can pass your turn; once both players pass, the round ends. If you end the round with more than 3 cards in hand, you must discard down to three. You’ll then draw one Movement card and two other cards and begin the next round. This continues until one side amasses the requisite number of victory points, either via a capture-the-flag mechanism or by simply defeating all opposing figures, whichever happens first.
Though card-driven tactical games are not exactly a new concept in gaming, Loot and Legends manages to bring something new to the table with how the decks are constructed.
Each victory will give you a chest containing 2-4 pieces of loot to add to your collection. Note that the game features a “Loot Club” as one of its primary monetization tools. The club costs pizza slices (the game’s premium currency) and membership is active for 1 or 7 days depending on your purchase. When active, your chests are much more likely to contain better items; when not active, you may see some awesome items that you COULD have earned had you only been a member.
Items, in turn, are equipped to your characters in various slots, and adds cards to their respective deck. Each slot, when unlocked, comes with a basic item offering basic cards; your goal is to replace these as quickly as possible with better items, which correspondingly have better cards. Note, however, that items aren’t necessarily better just because they are rarer; if you are facing a collection of heavily armored enemies, your Rare club isn’t going to be nearly as useful as your Uncommon sword, which includes attacks that bypass armor.
There are two main modes, the primary adventure and the arena. The primary adventure consists of an overworld, and you select each encounter you wish to engage. You can go back and refight an adventure that you’ve already vanquished, but doing so earns you nothing but a few gold. The arena, meanwhile, earns you points, and each trophy cup contains multiple point tiers that earn you rewards – pizza slices, items, and so on.
The game’s visual style is quite unique. The boards and pieces are styled to look like an epic print-n-play game, and each skirmish in the campaign mode is introduced with a “module” cover that is lovingly illustrated with an obvious nod to early TSR products.
There’s also a cute bit of meta in that the player is supposedly locked in mortal combat with Gary, the game master. Gary pops up from time to time with nerdy one-liners, and he gives you a quick tutorial when you first get started. There’s a soap opera going on between him, his brother Melvin, and Karen the pizza girl, and this bleeds into the presentation without interfering with the gameplay, adding a touch of humor to the proceedings.
In addition to the Loot Club, you can purchase chests that contain items for either gold or pizza. $5 gets you 5 Rare chests worth of pizza, and it scales up from there. In an unusual offering, you can also purchase “starter packs” which include in-game currency, item chests, and membership in the Loot Club. Unlike many free to play games, Loot and Legends doesn’t feel like you’re screwed without buying, though it is noticably harder for Loot Club non-members to get really cool toys. The bad news is the requirement of an always-on connection. In the big brother Card Hunter this makes sense, as the nature of that game is PvP, but Loot and Legends seems quite solidly planted in the single-player camp, to the point that they even created a faux-PvP arena environment. The need for an always-on connection is thus puzzling at best, and makes us wonder what all data is being collected. We’ve also had a few “something went wrong, please reload” messages – so far none of them actually during game play, but they’re frequent enough to cause concern that this may happen.
While it’s inconvenient to have to stay in the cloud to play a single-player game, Loot and Legends is still a winner. The appealing visual style sits atop surprisingly deep gameplay, and the unique deck construction mechanic is approachable while still allowing an impressive number of options. We hope this game continues to receive content – and we hope they manage to remove the online connection requirement, or at the very least make it more crashproof.
Check out other great games:
- Intuitive card play
- Innovative deck construction
- Engaging visual design
- Requires an always-on connection
- Still a few stability issues to work out