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Legends of Runeterra review | Macworld

For the longest time, the collectible card game genre was dominated by Magic: The Gathering (MTG). When Blizzard released Hearthstone in 2014, it brought the company’s signature polish, simplicity, and personality to the digital realm and became an instant smash hit.

There have been lots of attempts to make hit card games before and since, some of them better than others, but nothing has felt like it really understands what makes either of those games truly great or what it would take to dethrone them.

Riot Games is famous for its esports smash hit League of Legends (LoL), and I honestly didn’t expect it’s LoL-themed card game Legends of Runeterra (LoR) to stand a chance of out-Blizzarding Blizzard. But I think perhaps it has.

Simple, deep, and full of personality

Blizzard’s games are outrageously successful because they are, by design, streamlined and simple enough for anyone to learn, while still providing enough complexity to sustain high-level competitive play. Combine that with welcoming technology that doesn’t need a high-end computer or game console to run well and fantastic art direction, not to mention slick interface design, and layer everything with loads of personality.

lor gameplay02 IDG

Big bold animations puncutate the game. With great voice lines, it gives the game a lot of personality.

It sounds so simple, but of course producing a game that nails all of those aspects is rare. I wouldn’t have expected the maker of hyper-competitive and somewhat inscrutable League of Legends to do such a fantastic job on all fronts, and yet Legends of Runeterra delivers in spades.

Much like Hearthstone and many other digital card games, the general game flow is somewhat simpler than physical games like Magic: The Gathering. LoR follows most of those simplification innovations—players have a single resource (mana) instead of multiple “colors” that automatically escalates as play progresses, cards don’t “tap” and become unusable, the rules about which players can play which cards are simplified, and so on.

But LoR is decidedly more complex than Hearthstone. You can play more cards during your opponent’s turn, and respond to their own spells with spells of your own. This back-and-forth, “last-in-first-out” chain of events is part of what makes MTG so strategically deep and rewarding, and LoR delivers more of it than Hearthstone.

A clear interface

Of course, more back-and-forth play and the ability to respond to your opponent with your own spells also makes a card game more difficult to learn. LoR’s fantastic interface is loaded with small touches to make everything clear. Cards you can play are highlighted. Selecting a card brings up a large version of it along with all other cards and effects it can produce. There’s a tooltip for every single keyword that explains it.

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