Let's Take a Look: "Eternal" Review
I am not much of a video-gamer; I fall more into the category of casual retro-gamer. I like my video games a little more vintage, or at least with elements that hearken back to that. More importantly, the game itself has to be fun; not merely winning being the sole source of enjoyment. Also, games in which I can pick up, play and set back down; while I can enjoy games with a campaign element or a daily reward system, they are not the type of games I go out of my way to play.
With that personal insight out there I can definitely say (as of currently implemented), Eternal the Card Game is NOT a game for me. It is far better suited for the hyper-competitive crowd who prefer winning to having a good time. It supports pay-to-win habits over casual gaming behavior, does not adequately reward good design or sportsmanship, and the developers appear to turn deaf ears to those who are not among their highest ranking players. Is the game worth it? Let me break down Eternal.
The Inevitable Comparisons
Eternal has been compared to Hearthstone; however, I prefer to relate it to Magic: the Gathering. NOTE: I have not played nor seen much footage of Hearthstone, so my knowledge is limited; hence, my using Magic as a comparable.
In any case, in Eternal players collect cards and then construct decks with a minimum of seventy-five cards. At least one-third of the deck must be comprised of Power cards, which are the primary resource by which players are able to play their various Spells, Relics, and Units; there are other cards types, but these are the most common cards. Then players pit their decks against other players online or against the AI. The objective of matches is to defeat your opponent; either by reducing their starting health (twenty-five) to zero (or less) or when their deck has run out of cards. Players also have the option to concede their match.
Building decks is by far the most entertaining portion of the game. Utilizing cards in interesting and unique combinations and discovering different (sometimes unintentional) synergies rewards the players for their creativity. And the game does this in spades! There are so many unit abilities (called Battle Skills) that are mainstays of decks; and other special rules which further diversify the strategies and tactics used for matches. Players can even construct their decks centered around creatures of a similar type; a personal favorite is the Valkyrie, humans augmented with artificial wings to enable flight.
But how is the gameplay?
While making the decks certainly act as a high point in Eternal, conversely, the actual matches are resoundingly disappointing affairs. Players possess extremely limited means to control over their decks. Yes, they craft their decks; subsequently setting the probability of a given card being drawn. However, the game shuffles your deck for you (as makes sense for a video game) and then determines which cards are available for you on your next draw. Players do have the option to redraw and reshuffle their hands; not too long ago, the developers programmed the option for players to reshuffle a second time, but subsequently draw one less card for their starting hand. While the game is programmed to ensure that players have anywhere from two to four Power cards in their initial hand after reshuffling, there is NO guarantee that players will have more than two Power cards; or that they will have any usable cards in their hand; or that they will have any further Power cards drawn in subsequent turns. This problem pervades the game to such a systemic level that many players concede their matches either after the initial draw or within the first few turns of a given match. This diminishes the entertainment of the game not only because the actual gameplay becomes all too brief, but also because players feel disempowered by the game itself. They are not playing a game, but watching someone else play; or when the games deals them a winning match, then it cheapens the victory. A player’s experience is predetermined by the game and not by their choices.
And against the computer?
Losing to destined outcomes conveniently defines the lackluster experience of playing the game’s AI matches. Early matches trend towards “softball” rounds where players can easily defeat the AI. However, later rounds become more obviously stacked against the players; with the AI decks “conveniently” drawing the exact cards necessary to halt a player’s progress or just flat-out trounce the player. Stacking the deck more and more against a player does not equate to a higher difficulty; it is simply cheating!
Another aspect that solidifies Eternal’s status as a “free to play, pay to win” game is the Ranking system. As one plays Ranked matches (against other users), their wins progress their percentage to the next rank; win enough matches, and then one ranks up. At the end of the month, there are bonus prizes based on rank; and the prizes for winning Ranked matches are slightly better than Casual matches. However, each loss reduces progress to the next rank; at the higher ranks, the percentage losses can be higher than the gains. So, at the higher ranks, it is only worth the heartache and hassle if one has bought their way there or, if playing for free, do not lose. Again, for a casual player such as myself, that trouble does not make for an enjoyable gaming experience.
Any Good News?
But . . . let me not drown this review in pure negativity. Allow me to elucidate some of the features that kept me playing the game over these months. I LOVE their campaign system. One can pay to access the campaign either with real-world currency or with the in-game currency. The AI matches there are much more balanced and have unique rule sets that make each match interesting. Each campaign also explores Eternal’s setting and overall story. The characters and setting are developed, the stories different, and the narrative is compelling; and for the collectors and competitive players, completing chapters in campaigns reward the player with new cards for their collections. Sadly, there has not been as much development on the campaigns as there has been to balancing the rest of the game (which the developers do a great deal) or to their leagues and events.
Oh the leagues! I personally detest them. Again, though, this area is for the competitive players. It costs in-game or real-world money to participate in their month-long leagues. Entering in the leagues automatically awards players new card backings for their decks; and at the end of the month, players are rewarded more card packs and possibly Premium (read: shiny) cards based upon their rankings in said league. Their events are typically a two-to-three day affair over the weekends. Here, special rules go into place in terms of game play or deck construction. Rewards are divvied out based on participation as well as wins over losses. Events happen with decent regularity, but just like the leagues, I rarely participate because of their overtly competitive nature.
In conclusion, I cannot recommend Eternal for anyone who wants to play casually. As a competitive game that rewards you for spending more into the game as well as dominating your opponents, sure go ahead. Eternal contains many other features and mechanics that I did not review here. I wanted to focus on the lowest and highest points. I have grown too exhausted from the game and will be uninstalling the app from my phone fairly soon. I started the process by eliminating decks from my collection when they lose three Casual games in a row; when I no longer have any decks remaining then I will finally pull the plug on Eternal. Fun fact: my record so far is two decks in a row. You can let that sink in if you so choose.
Dire Wolf Digital has been involved with Renegade Games; and produced the supplementary application for their games. One of my favorites is Clank! Also, the Renegade Games app is well-executed and works wonders to improve the quality of the tabletop gameplay.
Final, Final Thoughts
So I may not have been the most positive regarding Eternal. But! I promise to make this up with a much more positive review next week.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Kevin Debler