The card-collecting craze began with Mojang’s Scrolls, announced in 2011, and continued when Blizzard’s massively popular Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft released last year. With Jagex’s Chronicle: Legends of RuneScape, the genre may start to get a little crowded.
Jagex is certainly looking to emulate Blizzard’s success with Hearthstone. Both companies have successful MMORPG games, with the lore and fan base to support expansion into other games and genres. From its inception, RuneScape has been perceived as a more casual MMO – less about raids and complex skill trees, and more about activities scattered around the world. That key difference has been important in distinguishing Jagex’s property from World of WarCraft.
Chronicle is both similar to and different from Hearthstone. Players collect cards and build decks. The slightly cartoonish art style is reminiscent of Blizzard’s game, and the music in both sounds like something that would be played in a medieval tavern. Simply looking at and listening to Chronicle will immediately remind players of Hearthstone.
That’s where the similarities end. Like Blizzard’s game, two players still compete against each other, but indirectly, rather than head-to-head. The game, set in RuneScape’s world of Gielinor, is played in a magical pop-up storybook. Each match is split into five stages with different settings. Players must pick up to four cards before traversing each stage. Instead of using those cards directly against each other, they encounter each in the chosen order at four points across the chapter. What would function as a minion card in Hearthstone acts instead as an enemy in Chronicle. Defeating enemies can grant weapon and armor buffs, in addition to providing gold. Other cards work as allies, providing health and other bonuses.
The fundamental difference in Chronicle is that players have to work both against each other and against their own cards. Striking the other player mid-stage is still possible, however. This allows for a good amount of tactics and strategy. It may be helpful, for example, to place a card that allows you to strike your opponent and do twice the damage as the number of cards in your deck a node after the card that allows you to draw an extra three cards. But that card may require seven gold – which you can acquire if you defeat two minion cards at the nodes before that. Which cards to place, in addition to the order they are played, is crucial.
This parallel competition – two players journeying with and battling against each other – makes Chronicle play differently than Hearthstone by adding additional ways to defeat your opponent. Even though many matches will end with players battling directly against each other, it is totally possible for a player to die in the middle of Stage 3 and lose the match.
Chronicle is still in closed beta, so many aspects of the game aren’t ready to be used just yet. I was able to play both in practice mode and online against other players during my time with the game. There are four characters available for play, but not a great variety of cards per character. As to be expected, there are bugs; while travelling and playing on my laptop, I couldn’t connect to the servers to sign in. Some animations dropped halfway through. These issues are normal, however, and aside from my login difficulties, did not impact gameplay.
From what we’ve seen so far, Jagex may have something interesting on their hands. A game that adds strategic parallel play on top of traditional card-battling tactics could be different enough to garner serious interest from collectible card game fans, and even win some players from HearthStone. Time will tell how successful the company is, however.
As the beta expands and more content is available, keep your eye on Gameranx for updated impressions.