Derek here. I posted these on the Steam forums for FFI and thought I’d post them here as well for those interested. What do y’all think about the video game adaptation so far?
I post now my thoughts on early access so far after a week of play. While I’ve only logged about as many hours as some of you did on day one, I thought it important chime in on behalf of the casual/tabletop-experienced/super-handsome crowd. This is mostly just anecdotes; not a lot of bugs to report or specific card changes to suggest. My issues lie mostly with UI/UX. It feels quite clunky compared to other digital card games, but I’ll get into that later.
Tl;dr I love it so far and think it captures the vibe of the tabletop, despite a few minor issues.
I love the flavor! The fact that you get to play familiar characters using familiar weapons, and that it sets up the campaign, is very cool. Things open up at the end, but I must complain that it is a bit railroady. Sometimes I saw a move I wanted to make but couldn’t because the tutorial was directing me otherwise. I don’t know if this is helpful for newer players but I didn’t care for it. Another little suggestion would be to put the checkmark that advances the tutorial right by the text box. It’s a simple quality of life (learned that from Tim) improvement that helps us to focus on learning the game, rather than navigating the tutorial.
Will we see a tutorial for the deckbuilder? I’ve already noticed posts on the socials, wondering how to use tier 2 cards and so on.
Control & Gameplay
The game feels good for the most part! I had trouble finding optimal settings, so at first things were a bit hitchy. Running it on Low at native resolution helped a lot and it still looked good. There are a few wonky things that still feel unnatural.
Having to drag everything without the option of simply clicking once to “stick” the card to the mouse is one of those. Hopefully that feature can be added. Also having to click the cameo to activate powers etc is a lot of mousework. I hope a click-hold or right-click context menu is coming in the future for those. It would also be nice to just drag an attachment to a cameo, rather than dropping the card first then selecting the character. Maybe that’s just my old Hearthstone habits talking, and I am getting used to it, but still. Speaking of which, it would also be nice to mouseover a cameo to see the card rather than clicking.
The game also seems unnecessarily slow. When I take actions there is always a pause before it takes effect, then the resources are reduced, etc. While I get that you want to make sure we see what’s going on, it’s a bit sluggish. Another example is having characters ready one and a time during upkeep. That could/should be done all at once. I don’t know if that’s WAI or lag on my end or what.
I’m not a good player, but I am an experienced player of both tabletop LOTR and various digital card games. So I was getting pretty hot mad when quest 2 took me about 5 tries to beat on Normal. I’m perfectly happy to admit that I’m just a terrible card player, but I would hate for someone to be turned off to this game just because quest 2 is too challenging. Sure, there’s easy mode, but I might also suggest that rather than having the next quest only playable if you beat the previous quest, maybe you can try it after you make an attempt on the previous quest. At least that will give you something else to try if you’re banging your head against the wall because of a different question.
Of course this is all subjective. A person the LCG Facebook group asked if the game was too easy, as he had gotten a perfect score on hard on most of the quests, and I’ve noticed my own skills improving since finishing the campaign, so maybe it’s properly balanced.
I’m sure we’ll see a lot of improvements here as EA goes on, but boy does this need some help. Clicking a card should put it in your deck, not bring up the fluff. Same thing for heroes. We ought to be able to have our decklists in ABC order or sorted by type so we can see the ally/attachment/event ratio, that kind of thing.
Theme (or, The Most Important Thing)
For the most part you guys are sticking very closely to the lore and I love it. While the main menu and its polygonal buttons aren’t very evocative, the map and campaign tokens certainly are. I just hope that the cards can remain very flavorful, just like tabletop, and that means good “Tolkieny” titles. For example, the card “Get the Orcs” is apprpriately titled, but is it thematically titled? Something like “Ancient Grudge” would be more appropriate and Tolkieny in my opinion.
Along this same train of thought come comparisons to the original tabletop game. As a long time player, I can confirm my initial reaction when I watched the streams and say that I believe you’ve captured the “vibe” of the card game while making it appropriate to the digital card game genre and audience. So congrats on that! Even though the rules and cards are different, and even though everything happens at once (as opposed to phases like the card game), I find I’m still making a lot of the same decisions regarding the action economy. Who quests? Who defends? Who attacks? When do I play this event? I still get the same “Oh &$%* feeling as enemies pile on at each new location/stage. I still feel like I’m having an adventure in Middle-earth.
The writing is also really solid! Feels just like tabletop. My one complaint, and I don’t expect you all to change the story, is that there are too many instances of the heroes making mistakes during the narration. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from GM’ing many tabletop RPGs it’s that (for most games) you want the players to look awesome. So when they screw up, it’s not their fault but the environment’s or because just how mean their enemies are. To see the heroes of Middle-earth just flubbing (I’d have to re-read the narrative text, but one example is in quest 3 I believe when you’re pursuing orcs and you just happen to give away your approach) is a little anticlimactic. I realize that’s a nitpick but isn’t that what ea is for?
(by the way, if you ever fail to hyphenate Middle-earth I will get you)
Theme kind of is a nice transition point to talk about presentation. On the whole, A+! I love the use of art, the cameos, the music is top notch. Most of the effects work, but there are some that just don’t fit. The screen shake when you blow up a big enemy or attack with a hefty character is completely unnecessary. I know y’all are trying to dodge Hearthstone comparisons and this one only makes me think of Hearthstone. As Dan said, these are the heroes of Middle-earth vanquishing big enemies — it’s epic enough without a screen shake!
A few other notes: I hate the Guard effect, visually; objectives and characters could flash briefly when their passive effects trigger (ie, I don’t want to have to wonder where it came from when I draw an extra card from Erebor Record Keeper — a little blip would help me to know what’s going on immediately); why does questing feel like attacking? The effect could be gentler (wasn’t there a foot in an earlier build?) and the characters could say “Let’s go!” or the like instead of grunting as if they’d just brought their sword down on orc-necks.
I really have no idea how to rate the value of the game so far. The only other game I’ve bought into (as opposed to playing for free) is Hearthstone and that’s $20 for a single player campaign — it isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison (HS campaigns get you a bunch of player cards, for example) but it seems like y’all are as reasonable or more in your pricing, especially now if campaign 1 is free.
I bought in with the collector’s edition and was expecting to be able to open everything. As the valor started to run out I realized this was not the case. But then I thought, for what I paid I got the core set, all the hero packs, most of the valor cards, and all the current quests. In physical card terms that’s a steal. Someone mathed it out to be something like $16/quarter to get all the content and if that’s accurate then I think you’re doing fine.
I will say that you might offer some compensatory (“pity”) valor when we lose. Even if it’s just a few, or like 10 per location that we defeat, that will ease the sting of defeat. It sucks to get so close and then lose and earn nothing. But I suppose the pleasure is to play.
Other Random, Basic Quality of Life Stuff
This stuff is probably on your radar, but being able to turn off the intro movie, press enter after typing in a deck name, pressing space bar or enter or something to skip to the next story screen would be really nice.
That’s it for now! As a long time fan of tabletop and someone who had genuinely been asking for this game for years, I’m super excited. I want to login and play every day and I have fun every time I do. It’s a great option for someone like me who loves tabletop, but is tired of card management and whose life circumstances aren’t always conducive to an hours-long play session.
Forgive the length of my feedback, but I hope its helpful!