Things of No Interest: Legendary DXP (Beta) Review

Things of No Interest: Legendary DXP (Beta) Review

Fair warning! This review is based on the last BETA build we received. It is (to the best of my knowledge) not the final version sent to Apple. A number of issues I mention may have or should have been addressed by the release date.

For those who are not familiar with the Legendary deck-building games, Legendary DXP (DXP = Digital Experience) is the upcoming electronic form of the popular Upper Deck Legendary system. It was originally released in tabletop form as Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building game. There is no Marvel license here, but if you are familiar with that game, this is the same game with a re-theme (again, in electronic form). 

I received an invitation to join the early preview (i.e. beta testing) of Legendary DXP a few weeks ago and wrote a preview of the iOS application. This week the game will be released to the Apple App store (coinciding with GenCon). The final release version has been sent to Apple and the Beta testers currently have access to what is essentially the same release - of course, the development team is working like crazy this week to minute server fixes and possibly a patch which would follow the initial release.

As I mentioned, the release this week (Aug 17th) is only for iPads. The development team has said the tentative release schedule looks like Android users should get access to the game around October, and the game should be available on Steam around December. The game is built on the Unity engine, so the singular code base should make for the same experience regardless of platform (of course, your performance milage may vary depending on your device). iPad 4s are being set as the low bar, but currently iPad 4 users in the Beta have been less than thrilled with the performance.

The game will be free to download, but will only come with limited cards. During Gen Con it will be on sale for $1.99 to unlock the rest of the content. After Gen Con the price will go up to $4.99. There will be in-app purchases that will allow players to buy in-game decorations such as card sleeves, game boards (mats) and so on. Also, if you purchase during GenCon, you'll have access to an exclusive card sleeve (Android and Steam users will have their own window as well).

For those unfamiliar to Legendary, it is a deck building game. Each turn your hand of cards will deliver an amount of purchasing power and/or an amount of attack. A steady stream of heroes is available to purchase as well as a steady stream of villains for you to beat down. Finally, there is a mastermind behind it all who is trying to pull off his plot scheme (i.e. the game's scenario). The heroes and villains and mastermind and scheme can all be randomized to vary the game and the games. 2-5 players (or bots) team up to stop the mastermind and if the mastermind can be defeated, then the points each player has scored over the course of the game determine the winner. Otherwise, everyone loses or ties. Based on the details of the scheme, a loss can happen in varying ways - too many villains might escape or the players take too many wound cards or simply run out of cards in the villain or hero decks.

Legendary DXP looks good so far (to be fair, I am playing on the large iPad Pro, but still...). The art team has done a good job with all brand new art made just for this version of the system. The art is bright (mostly) and the text is generally clear and easy to read (again, I'm on a very large screen). There is a small bit of iconography, but it doesn't take long to learn. For those familiar with Legendary: Marvel - Alamyth is the city, Guild Hall the SHIELD Helicarrier, Mayor Shufflebottom is Maria Hill, Villagers are Bystanders, etc. 

The game has a number of different play modes that will be available. Quick Match will setup between 3-5 players together in a match (depending on how many players are waiting in a queue at the same time). Solo mode will let you play against 2 bots (always 2), though in solo mode, you can select (or randomize) the scenario and mastermind. There is a mode for playing vs friends (you can also include bots if you like) and finally a daily Gauntlet / Tournament. The Gauntlet pits you and four other players against each other, with all prizes for all players based on how you finish. Quick Matches, Solo play and Gauntlets all earn you silver coins for prizes. Winning Gauntlets may also win you bonus animated or "foil" cards.

Finally, there will be Challenges (daily/weekly/hourly?) that players can attempt (though they hadn't been revealed during the Beta).

Friend mode will let you play against friends or bots, but no coins are earned for those matches.

One thing to note, this game REQUIRES online play. That's right, since there are ongoing tournaments and prizes, the development team elected to control the game logic by putting that on the servers, not your device. You cannot even play solo without a connection, even if you wanted to play without the chance of earning anything. There has been a fair bit of suggesting on this that perhaps solo should be a future enhancement, but I suspect that is not being seriously considered.

Because the game is online only, a couple of things should be noted:

  • Your turns are timed. You get 2 minutes to take your turn. When your time is up, your time is up. 
  • When other player actions require you to show a card, discard a card, or KO something (or anything where you need to do something) - you get a 15-20 second timer to make your decision. If you don't, the game takes your top card(s) from your hand as your "choice".

So you really need to pay attention to your game when it isn't your turn.

The animations are slick and fast (too fast at times). The main issue I have with the animations is that all too often it is too busy - too much happens quickly and in rapid succession which can make things hard to follow. I highly suggest you resist all urges to try and get a better look at anything when it is not your turn. There still seem to be some unresolved animation issues and occasionally a card gets "stuck", blocking your view (at which point all you can do is kill the app and quickly restart - something you may end up doing a lot).

You should also note that there is not currently a confirmation dialog when discarding or KO'ing cards, which can lead to a lot of frustration when what you really wanted was to view a card or select a different card, but you accidentally touched the wrong spot on the screen. After a few frustrating games, you'll know better, but you won't enjoy accidentally KO'ing your favorite card when you really just wanted to dump some crap.

I have a few other user interface complaints that I suspect will change over the next few months - mostly that you can't view everything you'd like. You can look at the KO pile, but the cards overlap and you can't "pull one out" to see the card itself. There still is no way to view things like the wound stacks which makes some scenarios hard to know if you are going to lose.

My biggest complaints with the user interface is that the designers tried to do something a little different or more stylistic and while it has style, the style gets in the way (which is an issue since there is a timer and no confirmation when you have to get rid of cards). This isn't the first deckbuilder to hit the app store - Ascension, Star Realms, Pathfinder, and Race For the Galaxy all do a number of things better than Legendary does when it comes to the user interface. At this point, things like not being able to clearly see all the cards in your hand or that I should have to confirm a KO before I lose a card forever shouldn't be something I have to point out isn't done well.

And so with all those complaints, you'd think I don't like the game. Wrong. I love this game. Despite the home-brew fantasy setting, the game is still a lot of fun. Yes, I'd like it that much more if it was Spiderman, the Hulk, Thor, Rogue, etc, but the game engine itself is still fun. And make no mistake, the cards are the same as the original game, just re-themed, so game balance isn't what the developers have had to work on.

One thing a lot of folks don't like about Legendary is the amount of time it takes to setup and tear down - with the game being electronic, you can knock out a game in about 15-20 minutes (on average) vs a pair of bots. 5 player games are more likely to be around 25-30 minutes. A welcome reduction.

I've wasted $2 (or more) on a lot of crap games for my phone and iPad, and even with some of the issues, $2 is a bargain for this game. I'll be one of the first in virtual line to grab the game and login for some gaming goodness. I've played a fair bit already and can't wait for more material (just like the real game).

I do expect the launch to be a bit rough. We'll see if the servers can handle the load and if the players can forgive the bugs at launch. I suspect that they'll be a lot of complaints like mine above (and LOTS of complaints about online only and iPad only at launch). Have a little patience, because there is a decent game here and it should clean up and be available on other platforms soon.

See you in the Gauntlet!

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