Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Searching for Depth in Digital CCGs?

Joshua Vanderwall | 10 Oct 2016 14:00
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Disclosure: Escapist Editor in Chief and author of this article, Joshua Vanderwall's wife works in communications for Magic: The Gathering at Wizards of the Coast. Nothing here should be construed as endorsement of or recommendation for Magic: The Gathering.


Before we get started, I just want to take a moment to make clear that I absolutely adore Hearthstone. I still play almost every day, and I think it's playing a huge role in driving interest in CCGs, both digital and paper. One of the big reasons Hearthstone's success helps other games is its simplicity. Blizzard games are almost always focused on accessibility, and Hearthstone is one of its greatest successes. CCGs and TCGs have never been a particularly welcoming genre, with so many cards and mechanics to learn, plus the process of deck building and meta-gaming, that it can be one of the more daunting hobbies to get into. Hearthstone made it easy enough for millions to join in, and now some of them want something deeper, and to that end, I've got a couple of stellar examples of digital CCGs that are pushing depth of strategy hard, while maintaining at least a bit of the accessibility that simpler fare has to offer. Namely, Duelyst and Eternal.

It's probably fair to assume that you're familiar with Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering at least at a basic level, so I'll be using those to offer a basis of comparison. You may not be so familiar with Duelyst or Eternal, though, so I'll touch on the games a bit before I get into the side-by-sides.


Duelyst. Developed by counterplay Games. Published by Counterplay Games. Released on Steam August 23, 2016. Available on PC and OS X. In-game card packs provided by publisher.

We've covered Duelyst before here, and it came with a strong recommendation. I've been playing here and there since then, and got into it a bit more with the new expansion, Denizens of Shim'zar. What sets Duelyst apart from the rest more than anything else is its tactical combat gameplay, but as new cards are introduced, like with the recent expansion, the experience is even more dynamic as the metagame shifts to accommodate new, powerful mechanics. Most recently, for example, the Denizens expansion introduced Battle Pets, a new creature type that acts independently, according to some basic rules.

Beyond everything else, I think Counterplay deserves to be lauded for its commitment to the community's competitive scene. The company pledged to set aside 10% of all expansion pre-order proceeds for prize pools in the World Championship Circuit. I don't know what pre-order sales were, so I have no idea whether that's a substantial amount of money, but it's a strong gesture and valuable show of faith to the players.

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