What do you get when you put Hearthstone, Magic the Gathering and Yugioh together? You get a love child of 3 really popular card games without really know who the parent is until Dr. Maury tells you that the lie detector was a lie. Let’s unpack this twisted love triangle and explore what this red-headed stepchild has to offer.
Eternal is a free-to-play online collectible card video game developed and published by Dire Wolf Digital. Eternal is available for iOS, Android, Xbox One, PCs using Steam and Nintendo Switch. The game features cross-platform play, allowing players to use any of the supported platforms to compete against each other. The game takes place in a Weird West fantasy setting. The game was in Steam early access in November 2016 and then had its official wide release in November of 2018 that included support for the Xbox One. Eternal recently released on the Nintendo Switch on October 8th of 2019.
This review is going to be primarily focused on the mobile and recently released Nintendo Switch version of the games. I have not and probably will not be playing it on any of the consoles, just a fair warning. But I wanted to compare the new release with a platform of the game that has already been released.
I first took a look at the mobile version of the game. The first thing a player is met with is the short story campaign tutorial and where I think the way they made the tutorial was very good and explained the game very well, I do have some minor gripes. The tutorial was very informative, you play against AI to learn the basics of the game and some of the effects of cards. However, my only real issue with the tutorial is that you cannot bypass or skip the event. You have to play out each different level of the tutorial before getting to the full game. As someone who played Yugioh and Magic back in the day and someone who plays Hearthstone now, I personally don’t require a tutorial on the basics. So having to spend roughly 30 minutes or so on a lot of mechanics I already knew seemed like a bit of a waste of time. Now if you are someone who has not played a Card game in the past, the tutorial is an amazing source of information and I would strongly suggest paying full attention to the information. There are a lot of different combos and abilities in the game that the tutorial will go over, for new players its a great addition!
After getting through the tutorial you finally arrive at the main menu of the game. The menu is very well designed aesthetically and the music is not too overpowering, it’s more just background atmosphere and I think it really fits the type of game Eternal is. One aspect I love the most about card games, whether they are on the computer or in real life, is deck building. It’s enjoyable to see what kind of silly combos you can put together with the cards you have so obviously that is the first thing I took a look at. There are 5 different card types — Fire, Justice, Primal, Shadow, and Time. Fire (red) is the faction of creation and destruction; most problems can be handled with quick and violent solutions. Justice (green) is the faction of order, both in civic harmony and brutal tyranny. Primal (blue) is the faction of nature in both its savage fury and pristine beauty. Shadow (purple) is the faction of ambition and instinct; hidden paths lead to dangerous secrets. Time (yellow) is the faction of learning and discovery; knowledge is the key to power.
With these factions, you can begin to design a deck to your specific playstyle, and what is cool about the deck building is that you do not have to stay within a specific faction. You can run decks with Justice and splash Time and Shadow in as well, there are thousands of different combinations of decks you can create and you are really only limited by your own imagination. The deck-building system is really what reminds me of Magic the Gathering, there are also some decks with similar effects as decks I’ve seen when playing Magic such as Mill and Control decks or better known as, “Nope” decks. While playing around with the deck building, I noticed a feature that lets you copy and import prebuilt decks from other players online and if you do not have the same cards you can build them using in-game currency, very similar to the Hearthstone currency. The devs also imported premade decks that can be obtained in reward chests or bought with crystals and the decks are actually fairly decent and very affordable if you do not know a deck to build I would start with these prebuilt decks.
I spent a lot of time just playing around with the deck builder and seeing what I could put together. After getting some decks together it was time to get a couple of games in. Playing through games on mobile is very fluid and enjoyable, even when not connected to Wi-fi the connection is fairly stable and I did not disconnect from a single game. The game plays out very similar to Magic the Gathering, you begin with 8 cards in your hand and you have to draw a resource much like Mana cards called, “Influence.” You play Influence to play cards and you sometimes have to have a specific type of Influence to play specific types of cards and like Magic, there are dual-color cards that require two colors to play.
Something unique about Eternal and Influence is special card abilities. There are some cards you can play that have a special ability that you can play at a cost, often requiring a large amount of Influence, sometimes multiple types. These abilities can buff your cards, destroy enemy cards, add effects and even summon other creatures to your field, it is an awesome mechanic that can really change the tide of battle. However, it’s very easy to forget these abilities because you cannot see it when the card is on the field, all you see is the image of your card and it’s life and health points. Because of this, many of my games were lost simply because I forgot about some special abilities I could have used during the game the possibly change the outcome of them.
After spending some time playing around on the mobile version of the game, I thought it was time to check out the newly released Nintendo Switch version of the game. I decided to make a new account so I could experience the exact same gameplay I did on my mobile device.
Upon booting up my Switch and logging into the game I was met with clear and obvious issues that really had no end, lag — and lots of it. It took several minutes to connect to a server before being able to attempt to log in. A card game with simple graphics and animations should not be performing so poorly on a next-gen console such as the Nintendo Switch. Sure I understand the Nintendo Switch does not have a huge amount of processing power, but The Witcher 3 port performed better than this card game, even the mini-game Gwent performed better, and Gwent is a card game!
Trying to swap from menu to menu is a chore, the control functions do not always register and the touch screen hardly works half of the time. When I eventually got into the tutorial the issues seemed to settle down for a little bit after the game began. However, there was a lot of stuttering, animation lag and minor sound delay with some cards. About 5 minutes into the game I could tell that a lot of these issues did subside and everything began to flow rather smoothly, much of the animation lag and sound delays were gone and there was no sign of stuttering. However, after finishing the first game you are placed back into the menu where the issues are ever so prevalent that even the deck building was no fun for me.
After spending what felt like hours on the tutorial, I was finally able to create my own deck and hop into a live multiplayer game, the same thing happened before with the sound delay, minor stuttering and animation lag, but again the issues went away shortly after. Even in a multiplayer game, the issues subsided rather quickly leaving the game to run smoothly until it spits me out back into the menu to slowly crawl into another game, or die, whichever comes first.
I know I’ve kind of been hard on the Switch release, and honestly, I mean well. I am just disappointed that a simple card game has this many issues when there are hardly any issues on the other platform’s counterparts. It’s a shame truly because Eternal is actually an amazing card game, sure it takes a lot of inspiration from Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone, but what card games don’t? There are so many different types of decks and combos you can create and even some of the more unconventional decks can be some of the most powerful decks. What’s more, this game is completely free, sure it has microtransactions to buy card packs, but you can also earn your cards and packs. The game is very well designed and the cards the devs created work very well together. In the future, as the devs continue working on their Switch port and continue updating it, I have no doubt it will be just fine and play perfectly. However, in the state it is in now, I strongly suggest that players avoid downloading the Nintendo Switch port for Eternal and play it on their phone or counterpart consoles.