Thursday, July 27, 2017

Legendary DXP (Beta) Preview

I received an invitation to join the early preview (i.e. beta testing) of Legendary DXP last week and wanted to share my early impressions. Currently, Beta testing is underway for iPad only (not iOS as phones are not included, just iPads). Please keep in mind that anything I describe is still in an early form, and anything can change at this point.

For those not familiar, Legendary DXP 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 it, this is the same game with a re-theme. 

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 approach (though currently, the set of available cards has been limited). 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. 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 time.

As I mentioned, currently testing 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). The iPad version of the game is set to launch at GenCon in mid August. The game itself will be free in a limited form (i.e. the card sets available) or $2 for an expanded version or $5 for the full version. There will also be in-app purchases the allow you to get gold coins, which will in turn unlock cards, sleeves (card backs), playmats (i.e. backgrounds), and more. Of course, you will also be able to earn coins and more through weekly tournaments and giveaways. 

The 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. 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, etc. I love the playful names. 

The animations are slick and fast (too fast at times) and the interface is generally ok (a number of suggestions have been made repeatedly by testers to improve the interface, as it currently has a few flaws - I won't bother to enumerate any of that as it is likely to change some based on feedback).

Currently the Beta has only supported two play modes while bugs are worked out - Quick Match and Solo. Solo is essentially you and two bots playing, while Quick Match is 3-5 real players playing it out. Currently, the bots are dumb, which actually makes it hard to beat the Mastermind in most scenarios (they don't tend to do the "smart" things to prevent a loss, like saving hostages or finding ways to not gain wound cards). I'm excited to see what the custom mode brings and to play in the Gauntlet (tourney mode).

One thing to note - this game requires online play. All of the logic is on the game's servers, not in the apps (to prevent cheating and exploits), which means that currently you can't even play solo offline. There are tradeoffs to this kind of game, and while I generally dislike online only games and non-async games, this one has been a blast to play (UI flaws aside). I think async wouldn't really work well for this game, as there are a lot of things that happen on each player's turn and between turns that require each player to respond.

Turns have a 2 minute time limit (even if playing solo) which keeps things moving along at a good clip. I don't have a good feeling for how long a game takes, as the solo games are hard to judge because of the dumb bots. (Also, if you drop out of a solo game, you can't get back in - you can get back into a quick match, though occasionally the re-connect doesn't work quite right. Again, this is an early build, so those kind of issues aren't unexpected). A 5-player (real player) match might take about 25-30 minutes (which is MUCH faster than at the table).

There isn't currently an undo feature, so a card played is a card played, which also speeds things along. Generally, a turn only takes about a minute or less once you are familiar with the card choices.

And that's it for now. Let me know if you have any questions (for me or that I can ask of the dev team).

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