Like Hearthstone does with alternating adventures and card expansions, Elder Scrolls: Legends is following suit, as The Dark Brotherhood storyline released a few months ago, and now the first major card injection is here. Titled Heroes of Skyrim, more than 150 new cards have been added to the game, all based around the game that Bethesda insist on re-releasing over and over again. It's the obvious choice, since many players' first experience with The Elder Scrolls was with Skyrim, and it's massively appealing to return to the mountains and dungeons where dragons lurk around every corner, albeit in a vastly different genre.
Just a quick heads up: if the Heroes of Skyrim expansion is your first introduction to Bethesda's collectible card game, we recommend reading our review of the full game here first. It's not quite like any other CCG, and while it takes a lot of elements from popular titles like Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering, it also adds a lot of new features and elements such as the two lanes and the rune mechanic when a player takes damage.
Heroes of Skyrim adds even more to the mix. Dragons are one of the most central aspects of the expansion, and rightly so given how much of an important role they play in Skyrim itself. Every attribute/class receives a few dragons and cards that interact with them, from the cheaper three-magicka Blades Lookout that draws a card every time you summon a dragon, to the more expensive Swiftwing Dragon that is a 5/5 card with Charge.
Both Alduin and Paarthurnax feature too, with the former being the most expensive card and can be easily compared to Deathwing in Hearthstone. Alduin's card text, for example, reads: "Costs 2 less for each Dragon in your discard pile. Summon: Destroy all other creatures. At the start of your turn, summon a random Dragon from your discard pile." Wordy, but if you have a heavily dragon-themed deck and manage to play Alduin, he almost always wins you the game. Paarthurnax, on the other hand, costs 12 magicka for a 9/9 body, but also adds three random shouts to your hand when summoned.
Shouts are another big addition to the mechanics of the game, although not as core to the expansion as dragons are. Ranging from one to three magicka, there's five different shouts, one for each of the attributes, and just like the shouts in Skyrim itself, there are different power levels to each of them. Cast a shout for the first time, and the next time you cast it it'll have a more powerful effect, and once more after that. An example is Fire Breath, an Intelligence shout that costs three magicka, and does two damage to any creature at level one. Play it for the second time though and it'll deal four damage, before doing ten at the third level.
Fire Breath is largely considered unplayable though, whereas the Endurance shout, Soul Tear, only costs two magicka and allows players to draw any creature from their discard pile, before doing the same thing at level two but giving it a +2/+2 buff, and a +5/+5 buff at the third level. Shouts largely depend on players cycling through a lot of their deck, as you can only put three of each card in, so are far more suited to control-style archetypes.
For the Strength and Endurance attributes, werewolves have also been introduced. With a new keyword called Beast Form, it's only found on some Nord cards, and is essentially a buff that gets applied to the card when you destroy one of your opponent's runes. An example is the two-magicka Circle Initiate, a 2/2 body that gains +2/+1 when Beast Form is triggered. On the other end of the scale, Aela the Huntress is a legendary 3/3 for seven-magicka that deals one damage when summoned, and gains +2/+2 when Beast Form is triggered along with destroying a wounded creature.
Alongside Alduin, Paarthurnax and co, there's plenty of other returning faces. Everyone's favourite pack mule Lydia is a five-magicka 3/8, but she has Guard and protects both lanes. Remember the friendly talking dog Barbas? He's been immortalised as a five-cost 3/3 that has one of three options when summoned: Stay, Fetch, or Roll Over. Innkeeper Delphine, who ran the Sleeping Giant Inn in Riverwood, returns too as a three-cost 2/3, but changes into a 5/5 whenever you play a dragon or a shout. There's a bunch more too, such as J'Zargo, the Khajiit Sorcerer from the College of Winterhold; Brynjolf, the Nord thief in Riften; Balgruuf the Greater, the Nord Jarl of Whitehold Run; and lots more.
Special mention needs to go out to support cards such as Dragon Mound, that costs six-magicka but transforms all cards in your deck into random dragons and makes them cost one less. If you can play it and maintain board control, it's immensely game-changing due to the power of most dragons. Journey to Sovngarde is another, as it's a seven-cost, and shuffles all creatures from your discard pile into your deck, gives them +5/+5, and reduces their cost by 5. Play it toward the end of the game and it's almost an instant win.
Bethesda has done seriously well to integrate the characters, creatures, and locations everyone remembers from Skyrim into Elder Scrolls Legends, and while some cards are blatantly far better than others, the shout mechanic is neat and dragons have created an entirely new archetype. Legends is far from getting stale, so hopefully the content drops won't stop and the meta will stay fresh.