The Scrolls Foretell a Great Future

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Mac, PC

As the video game industry continues its evolution, it’s only reasonable to expect changes in the way we play and interact with the medium. While some of these changes are obvious, such as improvements to graphics and gameplay, it’s easy to forget that it’s not just the games that are changing, but the industry as a whole. That became clear when Mojang released Minecraft, putting out the beta and then offering continual updates.

The rollout was so prolonged that Minecraft first launched May 17, 2009, and it wouldn’t be until a full year and a half later that version 1.0, the “official” release of the game, actually went live. The change in distribution style was surprising, but seemed to resonate with gamers in a way that developers releasing traditional games haven’t in the past.

Released bit-by-bit, Minecraft was a near-perfect success for Mojang, placing Markus “Notch” Persson in the pantheon of gaming gods. With all of its acclaim, the logical, safe thing to do was make Minecraft 2 and continue the rise to glory. Persson, however, was too busy building a game that has absolutely nothing in common with Minecraft in any way, shape or form, except for its release pattern.

Currently in early beta form, Persson has seemingly struck gold again with Scrolls, a dynamic strategy game that takes cues from Magic: The Gathering, tower defense games and strategy RPGs. The game beautifully intertwines the genres, creating a fluid experience that’s sure to garner a hard-core following.

Players begin by choosing one of three starter decks: order, energy or growth. Think of the decks as you would cards in Magic. Each plays differently, built with a unique style in mind. Energy is for quick, direct players; growth hinges on synergy among the scrolls in the deck. Order plays as a mix between the two.

Each game starts out with two grids facing each other, one for each player. The grids consists of five rows with idols at the end, each with 10 hit points. The object of the game is to destroy three of your opponents idols while preventing the same from happening to yours.

Every scroll has a resource cost before you can play it, and during the course of a turn, players have the option to sacrifice a scroll to generate a resource of their choosing. Alternatively, the game also gives you the option to sacrifice a scroll to draw two more. Regardless of the action chosen, you can only do this once per turn.

The scrolls are divided into four basic types: creatures, structures, enchantments and spells. Creature and structure scrolls consist of attack power, health and countdown, which is how many moves have to pass before a creature attacks. Enchantments alter a creature or structure currently in play, and spells have a direct effect, such as dealing damage.

So long as you have resources available, you can play any scroll in your hand during the course of your turn. Character scrolls can also move one space in any open direction once per turn, adding an extra strategic element to the game. Depending on where you and your opponent position your units, creature units attack in a straight line when their countdown hits zero. If creatures or structures are in the way, the attacking creature damages them, and depending on attack power, may continue on to deal damage to the idol as well.

Even though it’s only in its infant stages, the graphical style Scrolls strikes a bull’s-eye. The detailed artwork on each scroll is gorgeous, and although the animations are currently limited to basic movements, they work well in bringing the battles to life.

Simply put, in its beta stage, Scrolls is more polished than many final versions of games currently available. With continued updates and improvements, there’s no doubt in my mind that Notch has created another winner. And if the community support for Minecraft is any indication, Scrolls is going to have a long, successful life as one of gaming’s true gems.

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