I was watching Brian Kibler’s stream about a week ago and he was playing a card game other than Hearthstone. It wasn’t Magic, either. Now, that would be news. It was called Eternal and, from what I could gather, it appeared to be a cross between Magic and Hearthstone. As I explained it to Chris, it has the mana and interaction on your opponent’s turn of Magic, but the quick matches of Hearthstone.
I know that might sound antithetical. Hell, Chris and I have spent many a text conversation discussing how much better Magic is than Hearthstone for a variety of reasons. The only thing that we agree is better in Hearthstone is the mana system. Gaining one mana per turn instead of hoping on a wing and a prayer that you curve properly is the best thing about Hearthstone. We tried a version of Magic with the Hearthstone rules and, it turns out, being able to do stuff every turn is a good thing.
Nevertheless, I watched the stream and the game. I also chatted with several others since Kibler’s is one of the few streams that doesn’t descend into spam/meme chaos every day and you can have a conversation. It was especially easy since only about half his viewers care about Eternal or don’t care at all what game he’s playing. They politely answered my questions, as well as questions that others had. After about a half an hour, I was convinced. I needed to try this game. I was going to download it via the Steam client and try it. Then, something even better happened. I learned that it was on mobile. I downloaded it, started playing through the tutorial, and immediately texted Chris.
This whole game is good. In fact, it’s great. One of the selling points was that it is very F2P friendly. I’m still the grumpy old man gamer who refuses to pay good money for digital goods/currency, so if a game doesn’t let me compete without dropping hard earned cash, I’m not playing. I was skeptical at first, but that skepticism soon faded. The tutorials give away starter decks, which isn’t different from Hearthstone on the surface. Underneath, though, it only takes 4 wins to earn a whole deck, where Hearthstone makes you play through 10 levels of the character to get all of the basic cards.
There are also puzzle levels that teach you about the basics of the game and give, as far as I know, 20 gold per. I have only finished one of them as of this writing. The reason for that is because I am having so much damn fun playing the game. Who wants to read the instructions when you can just be out there slinging spells and minions at your opponent’s face?
There are a ton of game modes in the game. In addition to the typical casual and ranked versus modes, they figured out a way to do an actual draft mode where you don’t have to wait for people to sit down at your “table”. There is also a PvP mode called “Event”, which has a special rule and loot attached to it. While most come to a card game to test their mettle against other people, guys like me are perfectly content beating the snot out of the overmatched AI. Thankfully, Eternal takes care of us with two single player modes. In “Gauntlet”, you choose a constructed deck and fight against AI until you win 7 games or lose 1. “Forge” is a draft like mode similar to Hearthstone Arena where you pick from 3 cards to build a deck and then fight the AI until you win 7 or lose 2. The difference here is that you get to keep all cards drafted.
That brings me back to the best part of Eternal. The individual who told me that the game was very F2P friendly was not lying. Nearly every day you are getting at least one pack. The packs are full. None of this 5 cards per pack nonsense. Modes cost more than Hearthstone, but you are also compensated better for performing in them. I won 7 games in Forge and got the 2,000 gold entry plus in rewards. I also received a couple of packs for my trouble. There is no problem in building a decent to good collection in this game.
In keeping with my pie in the eye optimistic gamer attitude, there isn’t much that I can categorize as bad in this game. The most obvious is that the mana system is like Magic. Sure, they give you less of a chance of flooding and screwing with one mulligan of your opening hand and by limiting the number of influence (mana) you can draw in the opener and mulligan. Also, there is a card that lets you draw influence for the cost of one. Still, the flood and screw will not be denied and some games you just sit there and stare as your opponent beats you mercilessly.
The only other “bad” in the game is mostly likely just due to the fact that I’m a noob and don’t have the time to dedicate to getting better at drafting. Because of how it is set up, the skill cap for drafting is much higher than it is in Magic the Gathering. Again, instead of sitting down with a pod of players, you are “passed” a pack that has been opened sometime, somewhere, by someone and had cards taken from it. So, you can’t really pick up on signals or bully players off of strategies. What you can do is draft much more with synergy in mind. I just don’t have the skill to do it, so my only draft has ended with a very embarrassing 0-3 and I haven’t been back to try again.
I always worry with these types of games. Before you know it, the developer pulls the plug and you are left with a stagnant game or, worse, one that gets shut down completely. Now, honestly, I haven’t seen either of those happen with any of the games that I play. They must all maintain a high enough player base to justify keeping the servers open.
I’m not saying that Eternal will shut down. However, I am worried that it won’t be able to maintain the player base in the face of all of these other games. One thing that it has going for it is that it is mobile and it seems to be quick paced, which has so far been a recipe for success with these types of games. The other side is that Magic is releasing their new digital property and it appears to occupy a lot of the same space as this game. I hope that Eternal can hold its own, but if not, it’s going to be ugly for me.
Eternal is a fun game. I have been playing it regularly for the last week. Unlike Hearthstone, which I log in to every couple of days to clear out quests and don’t really have much fun playing, I lose hours to Eternal and don’t regret it one bit. I know that it won’t ever reach Hearthstone levels of popularity because Blizzard just knows how to hook and then keep people running on that treadmill. However, I have had no problem in finding a match any time I log on and play to do the daily win quest.
Eternal is a cheap gamer’s game. They advertise it as a game where you can collect every card without spending any money. While that is probably true for Hearthstone and I’ve done pretty well by it, Eternal’s quest rewards are just an embarrassment of riches and I don’t doubt that I’ll have most, if not all, cards in a relatively short period of time.
Eternal is a well designed game. It is made and distributed by a company that employs prominent names in the gaming community. While that doesn’t always work out, I think of them as the Image of gaming. Image broke off from Marvel and DC to allow their creators to keep their creations and market them as they see fit. It didn’t work for everyone because not everyone is a marketing genius or able to keep a tight schedule. However, Image is still around, they are still allowing their creators full reign, and they are still making great comics. I hope to see the same from Dire Wolf.