Chronicle: Runescape Legends is a card-based strategy game built around Jagex's smash-hit MMORPG. Straight off the bat, the visuals are really eye-catching, and everything is themed around a storybook brought to life, with both players represented by characters facing each other across a table. The game itself plays out across pages filled with detail that RuneScape fans will enjoy, with figures moving between encounters in what is effectively a digital board game. With it being a CCG a big part of the strategy comes from your deck building. You unlock cards over time to improve your collection, and then take your deck into battle.
Players choose a well-known character taken from the lore of the MMO, each with their own unique decks with specific play-styles. During pre-release, Chronicle contained Ariane, The Raptor, Ozan, and Linza, with the full release introducing Vanescula to the mix (we had hoped that more would be introduced). Each is suited to a particular style; so The Raptor is combat-focused and will have a lot of support cards that stack up his armour, while Ozan will get more cards giving him gold boosts, thus allowing the use of more expensive support cards. They all feel well balanced, but it's important to note who uses what so you can work out the best strategy to use against them.
During a match there are five Chapters that make a Story, a Story being a Match, and Chapters being rounds. At the start of a match one player is chosen to go first, with the second player getting an extra card to level the playing field. During a Chapter each player gets a selection of cards drawn from their deck at random, and can then place four cards along a set path, and then, once both players have set down all four, their character will move along the trail activating each card in turn. However, Chronicle puts a twist on the CCG formula, and it's in regards to how the cards are used. In most other CCGs (like, say, Hearthstone) the cards will usually have an impact on your opponent, but in Chronicle the cards you place down are for the most part used against yourself, which sounds like an odd system, but when put into practice it works really well and requires a lot of strategy. Simply put, each character starts off each new game with fresh stats, and the cards they encounter along the way determine how their stats change.
Cards are split into two different categories; Attack and Support. Attack cards come in the form of monsters that your character will fight, your attack stats going up against their defence, and if that's not enough to end it there and then, they return fire and chip a bit off your health as determined by their attack score, before you go back and finish the job. Elsewhere, support cards are used to provide gold or stat boosts. There are five different variables available for players; Health, Damage, Gold, Weapon Durability and Armour. Weapon Durability gives a temporary increase to your damage and armour adds another layer to your health, which is helpful given how health is capped to 30 and the only way that number can be extended is by using armour. Some cards also have effects assigned to them, which are triggered when a card is activated. This could result in added health, more cards, or it could even inflict damage on your opponent. Effects need to be carefully monitored, because when used correctly they can turn a match.
Once both players have placed their cards the Chapter will begin, with the characters advancing through their hand. This is where the game gets really interesting, because each card's effect is immediate. This results in a lot of unexpected events, things that could leave some of your later cards redundant, or maybe in some cases make them more useful. For instance, if you were to face an enemy that you're strong enough to defeat with a weapon booster, but your opponent places a card that takes your weapon away, you could be left at a disadvantage when battling your own monster card. It could be argued that this leaves a lot of the game down to luck, which in turn makes planning tough, however this isn't such a bad thing. The spontaneous interactions between your deck and your opponent's ensures that matches are tense and each one feels unique.
Ultimately Chronicle requires a lot of planning; your cards will need to be placed in an order that's efficient throughout the game if you're to be the stronger of the two Legends. If at the end of all five chapters both characters are alive they will fight to the death, which acts like a regular battle, so it's a good plan to play cards that will strengthen your stats before you get to that point, if you can. Of course a game can finish earlier than that; there are cards that when activated deal damage to your opponent, so if you manage to inflict enough pain on them and then if they slip up and play an attack card that's too strong, it's possible to win before the final duel.
The multiplayer is of course a large part of the package, and connecting to games is quick and easy (for the most part). Ranked games can take a little bit longer, but we were normally waiting just over a minute at most. Your first few rounds should most likely be considered practice, where you learn which Legend suits you best, and then you can decide which decks will suit those Legends. It takes a few attempts to find a good balance between Support and Attack and which cards will work, because sometimes you'll find yourself with too many support cards with no gold to use them, or not enough support cards to rank you up against some of the attack cards. Players can either have friendly matches in the Casual mode, or can climb up the ranks in the more competitive Ranked mode, where victories have you move higher up in your league. In ranked play the community is split into different leagues depending on how many matches they've won, starting in bronze and working up from there.
Chronicle is free-to-play but there are optional paid-for features, but they're in no way required to win the game. There's a premium currency alongside one that's earned in-game. While it is possible to earn the premium currency by levelling up, naturally it's a lot quicker to splash the cash. The premium currency is for cosmetic items, decks, and buying booster packs (which contain five cards, usually one of which is rare). Simply put, if you invest it's possible to build better decks earlier in the game. However, we don't think non-paying players will be at a total disadvantage. The premium path does let players progress more quickly, but successful play still boils down to how cards are played and when they appear in your hand during a match.
Overall Jagex's latest adventure is definitely one to check out for fans of both CCGs and Runescape alike. The setting is immersive and it's beautifully realised, and the characters and the backgrounds are dynamic and pleasing to behold (even if there's not enough of them). The multiplayer is very strong, and there's a seamless transition between games that themselves only last only about ten to fifteen minutes, yet are still exciting and require a lot of tactical thinking. Even if you're not a fan of Runescape this is still a great strategy title, and we'd say it's definitely worth your time (especially considering the price of entry).