Over the past few weeks, I've been playing Riot Games free-to-play CCG, Legends of Runeterra. Featuring well over 1000 cards and having already released numerous expansions, this CCG had a lot of meat for me straight from the get go, but was it cooked sufficiently? Let's go ahead and dive right in!

The first thing you'll notice about Legends of Runeterra is it's extremely polished look that takes on the aesthetics of other Runeterra based games. You'll see the same water color type art style, hear similar sounds and voices, and the overall feel of the UI will be familiar as well. It all gives the game a premium feel that is unmatched by most and arguably all of it's competition. The second thing you'll notice is that the premium feel carries on into the gameplay. You'll start off with a tutorial teaching you the basics, as Legends of Runeterra sports a more complex Magic: The Gathering style format for it's gameplay mechanics. Not only do you have attackers and blockers, but you also have numerous phases where you can trick your opponent into "showing their hand" and punish them for it. These added phases of the game provide much needed depth to the card game and when your mind-games are successful, it makes you feel like a master duelist. Due to this though, it'll take a bit for you to really master the format, as it's simple to learn, but a bit more difficult to master. In time though, you'll wish a lot of card games did this as it adds a much needed extra dimension. 
Another thing that adds an extra dimension to this game is the over the top card effects you'll notice while playing. Continuing our theme of the game feeling very polished, every card you play is voiced, every effect is extravagant, and champion cards are especially flashy. Champion cards take after their League of Legends counterparts and all allow you to create various different types of decks. You can do anything from an Anivia control deck, to a Jinx aggro deck, to a Ryze Exodia style deck, or even a Yasuo stun god deck. There's so many options due to the plethora of champions that even after playing 30+ hours, I still run into new styles of decks, more on that in a bit. Each of the champions are able to level up and when they do, there's an over the top and really cool full screen animation that follows, really selling that they are a champion and not a normal card. That level up mechanic is also neat because it adds another dimension to the cards you play, as each champion has prerequisites to level up, such as stun 5 enemies for example. 

The existence of Runeterra champions also expands into the games various modes. In Legends of Runeterra, you have everything from basic AI matches to basic unranked PVP and of course ranked PVP. However, there's also themed gauntlets that happen periodically where you have to craft special decks to see if you can win a certain number of games in a row without losing 2 straight. These gauntlets can qualify you for tournaments too, which is a neat touch for those more competitive. Where this game shines brighter than it's competition though is the extensive rogue-lite PVE mode called The Path of Champions. 
The Path of Champions contains some of the many champions, each with added additions that can be gained through leveling or completing adventures. Adventures are where the rogue-lite mechanics come into play, as numerous nodes spawn on a map and your goal is to reach the end. The adventures and paths contain different types of battle mechanics to spice things up and there are also nodes along the way to buy cards, enhance cards, enhance champions, heal, and more. If you die along the way and don't have an extra revive, it calculates all of the champion XP you gained and you have to start that adventure all over. Due to the many champions having their own campaigns, plus separate campaigns that can be played by anyone, and the temporary adventures that pop up on a daily to weekly basis, you could be very happy with just playing Legends of Runeterra as a single-player title. There's that much PVE content, it's insane. That said, one con is that the adventures aren't voiced, which is a shame considering how many other aspects of the game are voiced. I guess the budget had to be tightened somewhere. Another con is that for some reason, sometimes after completing an adventure the UI will bug, requiring a restart. Hopefully that's fixed sometime in the future, but thankfully the game boots relatively fast.
As for the PVP, it's quite balanced overall. One of the major things folks run into with the many card games out there is imbalance as you rise up the ranks. These balance issues usually result in very few play-styles being successful, ultimately limiting deck building creativity and resulting in the game becoming a copy cat simulator. On top of that, a lot of card games try to emulate Hearthstone, which means RNG galore, which just feels terrible unless you're a slot machine connoisseur. With Legends of Runeterra, your deck building creativity is safe because somehow, someway, Riot did a fantastic job of ensuring the viability of their card collection. Meaning, you'll see a lot of deck variety as you climb the ladder, keeping the game fresh. 
Oh, but it doesn't stop there, worried that the game is free to play? Well, due to the game being very balanced and having an extensive single-player mode that's rewarding, your card collection will grow quickly. Plus, there are many different progression mechanisms in the game to accelerate that card collection growth even more. One of which is the region system, which contains free battle pass like progression paths that level up quickly as you complete various activities. There are a lot of these paths, as they are themed after each region in the Runeterra universe, so there's a lot to gain from them. A second are the actual battle passes that pop up when a new expansion goes live, which include a paid and generous free tier. A third are quests which help accelerate Path of Champions growth and provide a lot of general XP, shards, and packs. The fourth are the weekly vaults, which contain increasingly good rewards depending on how much overall XP you gain each week. It doesn't stop there though, the card packs you get are a mix of cards and wild cards, the wild cards being of different rarity and are able to be consumed on any card you want of that rarity. These wildcards can be bought for real money and RNG card packs cannot, leading to the game's monetization system being super friendly. As for the rest of the cash shop, it's just cosmetics like boards, pets, champion skins, card backs, and more. This is by far and away the most generous free to play monetization I've seen in a mainstream card game, it's phenomenal. 
As you can tell, I love Legends of Runeterra because not only is it well balanced, but it also contains an absurd amount of single-player content and has a generous monetization system. Riot Games really hit it out of the park with this title and the best part is, it can be played on mobile as well. So, it's a card game you can take anywhere you want, feel rewarded each time you play it, and never feel like you're forced to pay real money. Legends of Runeterra is a masterpiece that deserves more attention from the stubborn card game community that is extremely loyal to which ever title that got them hooked. Download this, play this, you'll love it.
Rating: 9.6/10 



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