When people hear of Mojang only one word comes to mind, Minecraft. Minecraft was a viral sensation that in many ways felt like a game that would just not hit it off. The blocky visuals and the idea of incorporating a mining simulator that in actually underpins the game felt like it would not have much mass market appeal. On paper it’s easy to argue this game would never even make it onto the radar of any major publishers, but in reality. The gameplay is something sensational and has topped many game charts over its life time so far.
With a highly innovative and smash hit in the bag can Mojang follow this creativity with another fantastic title? Or will they be relegated to one hit wonder status. Scrolls hopes to prove Mojang can indeed continue to innovate with the best of them but can this leap into another genre really provide the studio with their next smash hit?
[Private_insider] Scrolls is a turn based strategy game in which you develop your own deck of cards and pummel your opponent into submission. From someone who has had little experience with card based games other than the odd game such as The Trouble With Robots my direct knowledge of the genre may be a little limited. I do however play a great deal of strategy games and see great potential in Scrolls.
Although Scrolls does not seem to do anything revolutionary with the genre – so don’t expect the next Minecraft – what it does do, it does well. Still in the early alpha stages the gameplay is solid and even after having my ass handed to me on countless occasions I could not help but feel this was not a balance issue but more of my stupidity.
From my time playing Scrolls I could see that it’s very easy to get down the basic gameplay traits. However mastering the basics can only get you playing the game coherently; it will rarely end with you winning. Scrolls will require a good portion of your time to master as strategies can become rather involved. With three different types of energy decks you can play with and mix together it can become a rather complex affair. And this is even before you reach the battle arena.
In Scrolls you start off with a wide selection of cards and are also able to trade between players or buy from the in game store with in game currency earned by winning. You begin with three pre-set decks making up the three different energy types: Growth, Order and Energy. Each has their own unique feel and unique card set, for example the deck “growth” is focused on nature. So your nature deck will consist of cards for wolf summons along with all manner of nature inspired cards.
Although each deck has its own unique energy class you are able to create a deck combining all three of these types together. Due to each deck having its own strengths and weaknesses this is a very interesting strategy, but one I have not managed to pull off… yet. Of course doing this will result in fewer points per energy type but in the late game – if you can last – allows you to perform several actions at once and really pick up the pace.
This added variety is great and even before the game begins you will be forced to overcome many dilemmas about the deck you want. With a minimum of 40 cards per deck and each individual card having a limit to the number you can take it’s up to you to assemble a well balanced deck taking into consideration creatures, spells, structures and enchantment cards.
Once you assemble or selected your deck it’s time to get away from the complex theory crafting allowing you to leave your pen and pencil at the door. And get into the actual gameplay.
The game begins with both players presented a blank board and four cards. The board does provide a great deal more thought into each game. You are able to put up to three units or structures in anyone row, but they are by no means just restricted to that row. You can also move creatures around to perform surprise attacks on unguarded idols or just to avoid incoming attacks. The board in actuality does add yet another dimension and forces you to think even more.
Each game starts off with no energy points, so you first move will always involve sacrificing one of your cards to the energy gods before moving on to any number of choices this opens up to you. Your objective is to destroy three of your opponent’s idols before they can destroy yours. This as you may expect can really prove very taxing and is often times very difficult to achieve.
Scroll adds in a great deal of risk-reward that is presented to you by either playing a card, exchange it for extra energy, or even trading it in for two additional random cards. With the great depth of gameplay from creating your own specific deck, the risk rewards, and the board gameplay I feel Scrolls really hits the nail on the head in terms of its implementation of strategy. It is literally brimming in strategy.
As I mentioned early Scrolls is very easy to just pick up and battle with. Part of this comes from a very informative tutorial that I feel is a must – even if you hate tutorials like me. Once you have the basics explained the rest of the game flows nicely and is rather straightforward in its mechanics at least. I did find – like in any good strategy game – in order to actually do well at Scrolls you will need to sink considerable game time into it. This comes from fine tuning and refining of strategy, which cannot be achieved just against the computer either and you will have to venture online at some point.
Though it was nice to see an AI battle mode and in the current closed state of the game it was vital. This allows you to get a feel for the game and really show the machines who is boss by tearing up the computer opponent and showing them human domination – take that Skynet. However the AI does, at times feel unjustly cruel in scenarios when you keep drawing pointless enchantment cards when the AI seems to have a never ending steam of creatures cards coming at you. I am not sure if this is balance or merely me selectively remembering the bad points. At times I did feel slighted by the AI on occasion and do demand satisfaction.
Scrolls is still in closed alpha and because of this I do not expect a great number of plays online at any one time. However even after PC Gamer UK gave away of free Scrolls codes to every reader I found that the lobby generally struggled to push double digits most of the time. These very low numbers did surprise me a little; however I am sure as Scrolls developers more it will start to generate a much larger following. To also counteract low numbers Mojang are continuing to run community events. In which the development team login to battle with the community and interact with all the Scrolls player, making for a great evening for all.
It must be remembered that Scrolls is still in the early stages of its life cycle. With much left to add and more refining/ fine tuning my early impression so far is a positive one. As with Minecraft Mojang will no doubt be evolving Scrolls greatly over the coming year or so and I am sure by this time next year the product presented will in fact be much more polishing and complete with a large vibrant community.
All in all the gameplay is great fun and really is a nice diversification away from Minecraft. In my mind Mojang have proved themselves to not be just a one trick pony and I eagerly look forward to hearing more about the future of Scrolls. [/Private_Insider]