Eternal Card Game is a digital Collectible Card Game (CCG) that is being developed by Direwolf Digital. It follows the “traditional” CCG model that Hearthstone popularized of “dusting” and “crafting” cards. It is a collectible game only as there is no trading system. Eternal is currently in open beta at the time I am writing this, so you should take all my thoughts here with a grain of salt as I am sure anything I talk about here is very much subject to change between when I post this and when the game is marked as a finished product.
To date I have logged a few dozen hours playing the game in open beta and have spent probably an equal amount of time playing it during closed beta. I am going to focus on three areas when talking about the game today: Game Play, Software Quality, and Formats (Limited / Constructed / Single Player).
The core of Eternal’s gameplay is similar to other modern card games today. There are five “factions” that require different “influences” to play cards from. The resource system Eternal utilizes is identical to that of Hex: Shards of Fate, which is a good thing in my opinion. It is a modern take on the resource system that Magic introduced two decades ago.
The game play in Eternal strikes a very interesting balance between the slightly clunky priority system Magic utilizes and the fast pace, little interaction, game play of something like Hearthstone. In general I am a fan of the pacing of the games in Eternal. I get some interaction on my opponent’s turn via “fast” spells, but I do not need to manually pass priority or configure different “stops” to play the game properly.
The fast game play does come slightly at the cost of strategic gameplay though. Eternal only pauses to give your opponent a chance to respond to things when they have the ability to actually respond. This means that if your opponent passes the turn with resources up you can often play a “test card” to see if there is a pause for them to respond before playing out the card you actually want to do something with.
The mulligan system in Eternal is worth commenting on a well. Each player is allowed exactly one mulligan per-game, but the mulligan you take is guaranteed to have between 2 and 5 resources in it. While I think this system does a good job of creating less non-games than something like Magic’s mulligan system does, you do still have some non-games where your second hand is nonfunctional due to the curve or types of influences it requires.
To prevent abuse of this mulligan system there is a deck building requirement that all of your decks must be at least ⅓ resources.
Direwolf Digital is a software company and the quality of their product shows it. The Eternal client is fairly slick in almost every aspect. It is fairly attractive and runs smoothly on everything from my Linux / Windows PCs to my Android phone. Even though the software comes with a beta tag it has been nothing but stable for me throughout my dozens of hours of game play.
My only two complaints about the current client are fairly minor and could easily change before the stable release. The first is that the “end turn” button is located in the same place as every other button in the game. This leads to accidently skipping turns when you do not intend to. The button for passing your turn should likely be in a different location or have a confirmation that you intended to press it.
The second is that it can often be hard to distinguish between cards that are “exhausted”, or used, and those that are not when looking at the game board. Cards that are used are simply a faded color as opposed to changing direction / size / something that makes them clearly used.
There are four primary methods of playing games of Eternal. Gauntlet (single player constructed), Forge (single player limited), Ranked (PvP constructed), and Draft (PvP limited).
The limited in Eternal is hands down the best I have played in any digital card game to date. Forge does a good job of introducing new people to limited. Each pick gives you three cards to choose from and once you have two different factions of cards you will only see cards from those factions for the remainder of your picks.
The draft format is where the innovation really is though. The draft is fully asynchronous, which means you can draft on your own without ever waiting for other players. You can always pause mid draft and pick back up later on. There is no timer on your picks so you have plenty of time to make important decisions. You draft from four, twelve card packs until you have 48 cards and you get to keep the cards you draft. You then build a 45 card deck with 48 cards you have drafted plus resources.
People who follow me from other games know that constructed is my true passion. I enjoy tuning new ideas and working on things that are traditionally outside the box. It is fairly expensive to get all of the cards you need to be able to play a variety of decks in Eternal’s constructed due to many of the better cards being legendary and being four ofs in the better decks. While most card games come with a large price tag to own everything, Eternal’s lack of trading means any money you put in can never be cashed out.
I put $40 into Eternal to buy some packs and do some extra drafts, not only because I wanted to support Direwolf, but also so I could play some constructed. I was able to battle to Masters (the highest rank) with a budget deck that did not contain any legendaries, but my interest in the game started to wander when I realized I need to spend a good deal of time grinding or dump in a pile of money to get all of the cards I wanted to experiment with.
For reference if you want to craft a specific legendary card it would cost you approximately 8 USD worth of product to do so assuming you were not lucky enough to open that specific card.
All in all Eternal is a very reasonable digital offering. It does a good job of offering faster game play, while still having many of the tactical decisions generally only present in longer games like Magic. The technology support is there, so the main thing that will be the driving force to determine if Eternal can become and stay popular is the strength of their card design team. We currently only have one set released, so time will tell if they excel in this area or not.
You do not have to take my word for the game though – it is completely free to play so head on over to Steam and give it a try.