Scrolls is Open Beta and Loving It!
I grew up with Magic the Gathering. All through my childhood and adolescence I was constantly tweaking and adding to my decks, slipping in new cards and eventually having to pare them back down once I had added too many. Ever since those days I have always had a certain appreciation for card games of varying forms. Scrolls is the latest in a long line of video games trying to bring the fun of deck-building to the digital world, and honestly does it better than any other I've seen; available right now at Scrolls.com.
I am not sure what I expected in a card game from Mojang, but I am not surprised to find the product to be very well-polished, even while having just started its open beta today.
The scrolls which new players have to choose from at the start are limited to one of three separate pre-made decks. All three decks have their tricks and specialties, and from what I can see so far they seem to be fairly well balanced, with more emphasis on picking or sacrificing the right scroll at the right time than on having the better pre-made.
Naturally, once a player starts acquiring new scrolls all bets are off, and this is where the game differs in a very positive way from every other (decent) digital card game. The game has two forms of currency. It has shards, which are bought with real-world currency, and the in-game gold earned simply by playing.
Everything in the store so far can be bought with either form of currency. Obviously shards buy more than gold, but perseverance and playtime will bring the same eventual rewards. Every other worthwhile digital card game I have seen requires new cards be bought with money, so this system is immensely welcome.
The game itself is also a lot of fun. The game has no mana cards; players must discard scrolls in order to generate the energy they cast spells with every turn. They can also discard a scroll to draw two new ones, though a player can only discard one scroll per turn so they have to pick which they want to do. Discarding the right card at the right time is a lot of the game's strategy, since players only draw one card per turn.
Each player has five idols along the back of their side of the battlefield. Destroying three of your opponent's idols wins the game. Players take turns using scrolls to cast spells of various effects or to summon beasts and warriors that attack every couple of turns and have their own unique abilities. The positioning of these summoned creatures is incredibly important to the game's strategy.
Obviously, different creatures have different effects and different costs. Scrolls places a lot of emphasis on resource management, but resource management is always in the players hands (literally). Taking that bit of randomness out of the game makes it feel much more strategic, as the player has to start making tough choices literally from the first turn in order to generate any of the energy they will need to use any of their scrolls.
Graphics and Sound
As might be expected of a game from Mojang, the graphics and sound are both fairly simple, but smooth and perfectly suited to the game at hand. Music is fairly generic, but sound effects are clearly indicative and not quite repetitive enough to be annoying. The graphics are a mixed bag with a few things having slightly cartoonish shapes (most notably among the various forms of cannon in the game) while most of the creature models are actually quite crisp.
Scrolls is a new and well-done take on an ages-old style of game. The random elements are kept fairly minimal, allowing players to feel like they are in control of their game while still allowing for certain tense moments as hands get low and battles get close. The only real complaint I have about the game so far are a few server issues, but those are likely a result of the game being in beta and only having been available for less than 24 hours.
Scrolls has solid gameplay, a good aesthetic, and a fair monetary system for its cards. I recommend it to anyone who has enjoys any sort of digital card game, with the closest parallels I can think of being Poxnora and Eye of Judgment. For $20 over at Scrolls.com, it is hard to argue with.