Legends of Norrath Review

by Cody "Micajah" Bye
by Cody "Micajah" Bye

For the last few days I've been wiping sweat out of my eyes, trying to devise a winning strategy for my newest game of choice. The game has a number of tricks and twists, with tactics and strategies that could make the common person's head spin. I squint at the computer screen, reading all the details of my latest procurement. Should I opt for the Blackburrow Gnolls or the Elementals? Should I be a Mage or a Priest? Fighters get a ton of weapons, perhaps I should take a look at their line-up. Should I trade Fippy's Paw for the Journeyman Boots? Or do I just wait to see if I can get them to drop?

Here's a screenshot of your actual gameplay area. The two sections are where your quests are played.

While it may sound like I was playing either Everquest or Everquest 2, delving through the Gnoll infested depths of the Blackburrow or summoning pets to add me in my hunting as a Mage, but it truly isn't the case. In truth, I'm actually putting together a deck for the Legends of Norrath Trading Card Game, the latest use of the still incredibly powerful Everquest intellectual property. Featuring over 350 digital cards, Legends of Norrath is an incredibly deep stand-alone card game that brings the lore of Everquest into the forefront in epic confrontations between players that are represented by the "Oathbound" - digital avatars of the various Everquest-ian races that the player can choose from in the game.

Following a format similar to any of the various trading card games, Legends of Norrath runs on a back and forth, turn-based system that allows players to complete certain actions in their turn before calling an end of turn and giving control to the next player. To win, players must either complete four quests or kill the opposing combatant. Typically players focus on one of those two goals, but there are times when a player tries to do both, often to his rather quick, unfortunate demise.

At the start of the game, each player draws six cards. Then the first player to go (a decision that is randomly executed by the computer) begins his turn. Each players' turn is then divided into four phases: the draw phase, the quest phase, the ready phase, and the main phase. Each of these phases is enacted in that order (unless you're the first player to go at the beginning of the game, then you don't get a draw phase due to the obvious advantage of going first). Some phases, like the draw phase, are pretty self-explanatory; you draw two cards. On the ready phase, the computer automatically "makes ready" any cards that have been "exerted" in your - and your opponent's - last set of actions, which basically means that you are allowed to use cards that were used last turn. .

However, many of you may be wonder what exactly the quest phase and the main phase entail. In essence, these two phases are the most important in the entire game, and offer you several opportunities to beat your enemy. Although the quest phase comes first, we'll discuss the main phase before moving onto the final phase that needs explaining. The main phase of Legends of Norrath constitutes the phase of the game that you're allowed to play the majority of your cards. To play cards, you use your avatar's power (which is the same no matter what race/class you choose), which automatically increases as you progress through the game. You'll have six different types of cards that will make up your play deck, which consists of an avatar, abilities, items, quests, tactics, and units.

Your avatar has his own health, attack, and defense values.

You'll only have one avatar who represents your presence in the game world and acts as your commander on the battlefront. In one of the most intricate moves I've ever seen in a trading card game of any kind, the developers at SOE Denver actually allowed players to create their own avatars, having them choose between various races and classes to develop a character that truly works with the deck a player has created. Upon first entering the game, players simply create an avatar that represents them, but eventually they'll create specific avatars that allow them to create specific kinds of decks based around a certain theme. For those unfamiliar with trading card games, you'll often see the term "meta-game" tossed about, which describes how different cards become more or less valuable as different expansion packs are released. I anticipate that the customizable avatars will become a fairly integral part of the meta-gaming scene as expansions are released and players attempt to create ways to destroy particular types of decks.  

Ability cards are like particular powers that you might play with in an MMORPG; they give you specific powers that can be used once or are an ongoing part of your particular deck strategy. One of my favorite abilities continues to be "Enduring Breath" a priest-only ability that allows players to draw a card every time they play it. Mix this in with a draw-heavy deck and you've got yourself an interesting strategy. I'm particular to the draw decks, as I enjoy having a pretty firm control on what I'm playing, so that I can manipulate the game how I see fit. Abilities also function as your means to complete quests, and have different "levels" associated with them.

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