Scrolls is an interesting concept. It's a weird mix between a hex-based board game and a TCG (trading card game) and it definitely has carved out its own little niche. But is it any good? Find out after the jump.
Scrolls starts off similar to many other card games. Each player begins with five cards, with the option to re-draw their opening hand if they do not like what they had initially received. From there, each player has the option to either sacrifice a card for one of four resources, or instead the player could sacrifice a card to acquire two more cards.
The four resources are Decay, Energy, Growth, and Order. Decay and Growth are self-explanatory (undead and life based decks), with Energy being focused on machine-based decks, and Order focusing on a more militaristic deck, or to quote a Scrolls developer, Order “… is meant to be designed… around the theme of military order and formations in the ranks.”
Once the player has enough resources, they can play a card on the battlefield. Rather than utilizing the traditional TCG board that games like Hearthstone or Magic the Gathering use, Scrolls decides to go in a more board game-esque direction.
The goal of the game is to win by destroying three of the five enemy idols, which are on the far right side of the board. You lower the idols' health by attacking them with minions that are placed upon the hex-based board. Once the health of three enemy idols are lowered from 10 to 0, you win.
Scrolls is more slowly paced then games like Hearthstone. A game can easily last a half-hour or so, with the fights sometimes devolving into slug-fests as both players try to dominate the board and win the game. A player can definitely stage a comeback in Scrolls, and sometimes it feels like a game of chess, with both players planning their moves turns in advance. Scrolls definitely has a more relaxed feeling than the rapid-fire pace of most TCG games, and in this aspect Scrolls may not be for everyone, although I personally found it a very enjoyable antithesis to other online TCG’s that have recently flooded the market.
There are a list of game modes for a player to play, although notably Scrolls is online-only for all game modes, even for modes that are single-player only.
Scrolls' tutorial does its best to ease you into the game, although it can be easy to get lost and confused at first. Even now, I still find myself asking questions such as: should I sacrifice a card for two more cards, or sacrifice said card for more resources? Where should my wall be played? Should I play it where my idol is currently weakest, or play it where my opponent is most likely to attack next?
The questions themselves are not easy ones to answer, and it is only when you become more acclimatized to Scrolls' way of thinking that you begin to realize how much of an acquired taste Scrolls is. As mentioned previously, Scrolls is slower, and a lot more methodical. You have up to 90 seconds to complete your turn, and most turns last at least half that amount of time. Scrolls rewards patience, and those that blindly rush through their moves will quickly regret it.
The modes themselves are mostly self-explanatory. The tutorial teaches you how to play, while Skirmish is to practice against AI opponents. Trials are a way for newer plays to acquire gold, which can be used to buy things in the shop. Quick match is a 'for fun' mode where you pair up against another player, while Ranked match is for those who want to get more serious about Scrolls. Judgement is a lot like Hearthstone's arena mode, but with the added caveat of drawing only 45 cards. This may not seem like a bad thing, but you could really end up with a bad deck in Judgement, but with more serious consequences then in Hearthstone. In order to have a half-decent Judgement deck, you really have to try and stick to a theme while building your deck, which can be hard if the four cards are all resources that you do not want or need.
For the actual ‘trading’ part of Scrolls, players have the option to go to the ‘Black market’ and buy cards with coins earned in-game.
Players can also buy shards, which come in increments of $5 (600 shards), $10 (1350 shards) and $20 (2900 shards).
Surprisingly, there are not that many ways to use shards, as players can use shards to buy (and create) their own in-game avatars, buy pre-constructed decks, and buy cards in a ‘just for you’ section, where six cards chosen at random go on sale every day.
Players can also pay for all of these options with in-game coins. Usually for most games this would mean that earning coins would mean a long and painful grind, but Scrolls is unusually generous. The ‘trials’ mode in Scrolls offers thousands of coins overall, while regular games themselves can offer anywhere from 100-600 coins per match (depending how well you play). It does take time, but Mojang has made what can sometimes be the worst part of a game (the grind) feel like a challenge without it taking forever, which is commendable. It gives players a goal to work to, while giving players the choice of taking a shortcut with real money if players wish it.
There is no real story to speak of in Scrolls, the game satisfied with being a strangely unique TCG. The graphics look very good, although there are no options to change your graphics settings. There is not much in the ways of options, only ways to play with the audio volume. This is usually a bad sign, but this does make sense somewhat considering it’s a card/board game, and such games don't usually take much to run on a computer.
Speaking of audio, the main theme of Scrolls is quite nice, with the overall score itself compelling enough for me to turn the volume up instead of muting it, which I usually do after a while for most games. Ideally, the music and audio works in the background to help maintain interest in your game, the music itself telling a story as the game goes on. Scrolls has a great soundtrack, with the in-game audio competent enough so that it does its job.
For anyone who enjoys collecting and making the perfect deck, there is a ton to do in Scrolls. The way Mojang has structured the tutorial is that while it explains the game sufficiently so that the player understands the mechanics of Scrolls, it also encourages the player to play the single-player mode, so that they can then earn gold. Mojang has done this so that by the time players dive into the multiplayer they fully understand the game, which both allows a player to begin building their own deck while also minimizing frustration after being beaten by players with a more advanced knowledge of the game. Players can earn all the cards or 'scrolls' through regular play, and can also upgrade their scrolls into a higher 'tier'. The good thing about Scroll's crafting system is that although players can upgrade their scrolls, it is only for either stats or cosmetics, and nothing that affects gameplay. It helps give players extra things to do, which is always welcome for players looking for an excuse to continue playing a game.
For gameplay, there is little that can be said in the context of this review. Scrolls is fluid, plays well, but most importantly everything makes sense, which was a nice change from the seemingly daily odd and strange decisions that seem to come out of the gaming industry daily.
The fact that you can also download a free demo is nice as well, especially considering the facts that demos are a dying breed these days, and that the game is merely $5. There is literally nothing to lose by giving Scrolls a shot, and if you like the game you can buy it for either Android or PC, and if you do buy Scrolls you get access to the title on both platforms.
This review may look strange to some, as there is not much in the way of negative feedback in this review. That is because Scrolls is the rare game that took its time and was properly polished and made ready for a release, with a beta that lasted nearly a year and a half until its full release. As a result, Scrolls is a complete experience and has my full recommendation.
Want to try the game for yourself? Pick it up here!
If you play games like Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering and are looking for a different approach to a TCG, look no further then Scrolls.