Review: Legends of Solitaire: Curse of the Dragons

LegendsofSolitaire_1

Solitaire is a simple card game most known as an addictive time-killer that comes pre-installed on any modern PC and is readily available in many forms across online casual gaming portals and mobile app stores. With Legends of Solitaire, The Revills Games has taken the humble playing card game everyone knows and loves and elevated it to encompass the grand scale of epic high-fantasy fiction like The Lord of the Rings and Dragonlance. Matthew Brock would love it!

In addition to standard options for free-playing random levels as well as a TriPeaks variant, the centerpiece of the game is its campaign, a massive quest that has you venturing across the villages, caves, castles, forests, deserts, marshlands, and seas of an expansive world map as a brave band of heroes out to rid the Solitaire Kingdom of the dragons perpetually terrorizing its villages.

Playable at casual, normal, or hard difficulty settings, the campaign spans 40 world map locales and a grand total of 400 individual hands of solitaire (that’s 10 per chapter), which all told takes a meaty 15-20 hours to complete. Play time will vary, of course, as each chapter’s 10 rounds have a set of cumulative objectives–get ‘X’ number of perfect hands, earn ‘X’ number of stars and gold, combo ‘X’ number of cards, fill the Dragon Meter–that must be completed within the allotted hands, or else you have to start over from round one. Naturally, the objectives also grow more demanding as the quest advances.

LegendsofSolitaire_2

A narrator provides exposition before each chapter in a dry monotone that is adequately acted but also rather stiff and sluggish. I followed along to the whole storyline, which makes no attempts to originate upon generic fantasy conventions but serves as a decent enough plot to frame the experience. If you’d rather skip the introductory dialogue at the outset of each chapter and jump straight into the card playing, you won’t be missing a whole lot. Though static, the painterly background illustrations do look nice and heighten the high-fantasy vibe, providing at least some level of immersion by matching the scenery with the story descriptions and world map locations.

Adhering to the fantasy theme, Legends of Solitaire introduces some RPG-lite wrinkles to flesh out its traditional rule set of matching cards backwards and/or forwards in sequence until the board is clear or the deck runs out of cards. At the start of the game, you get to choose a companion, and over the course of the campaign your party will grow to a maximum of four characters, each offering a special ability tied to one of the four card suits that charges during play as cards of the corresponding suit are cleared. The Wizard’s ability randomly removes one card from play, the Dwarf randomly reveals face-down cards, the Elf uses his bow and arrow to shoot down a target card, and the Nomad slices down a card from play with his scimitar.

Solitaire, like any card game, relies to some extent on luck of the draw, as well as a general ability to calculate odds when deciding which cards to match. Additional strategic control is provided with these hero-based suit abilities, because in many hands, especially later on, using them at just the right time can be the difference between a perfect hand and outright failure. Another helpful feature, once it’s discovered, is the option to buy wild cards, six of which can be stocked on standby at any given time. Although it’s somewhat hidden within the interface and never directly explained (I played through probably a third of the campaign before I even found it), a plus icon down at the bottom of the screen allows you to buy a random wild card for 600 gold, which is relatively pricey but can be worth it when the deck is running out and you just need that one lucky card to spark a combo or remove that last remaining card on the board when the deck is exhausted. When a bad run of cards strikes, wild cards can definitely help to pull out a much-needed objective and avoid starting a chapter over from scratch.

LegendsofSolitaire_3

Don’t blow all of your gold on wild cards, though, as the blacksmith’s shop offers prized loot to aid on your adventure. Of course, you’ll first need to earn gold. The quickest way to bank a fat gold pouch is to consistently match long card chains. The longer the chain, the higher the multiplier grows–and at the end of each hand the multiplier is applied to the gold banked during that hand. Simply scoring a perfect hand isn’t worth a whole lot monetarily without making at least one decent size combo. Another neat mechanic to take advantage of is the ability to earn additional bonuses by matching cards of the same suit versus mixing and matching suits in no particular way. For example, a bonus will be applied if you combo a seven of clubs with an eight of clubs.

Once enough gold is earned, it can be spent on the blacksmith’s stock of limited-use items, including axes, swords, and maces to break down walls or cut through vines blocking card stacks, skeleton keys to unlock gates, and potions to extinguish dragon fire that temporarily prevents playing off of certain cards, as well as special gear that provides permanent passive upgrades. For example, the Hour Glass of Time grants one extra undo per level, the Elven Ring shows how many cards are left in the deck, and the Scroll of Future allows you to hover over the deck to reveal the next face-down card to be drawn. This mimics the sense of reward and character development you get from an RPG in a very basic way. The only problem is one of balance. For me at least, I had purchased all of the upgrades a little over halfway through the game, which in turn meant that the second half of the game lacked the same sense of saving up for and looking forward to that next piece of loot.

Legends of Solitaire should not be held to the standards of a traditional, narrative-driven role-playing game (for obvious reasons), but give The Revills Games credit for being bold enough to bring those elements together with such a simple card game as solitaire. At the end of the day, solitaire is solitaire, and fundamentally this is a great game of solitaire, addictive and easy to pick up and play like it should be. Having the fantasy elements–the hero abilities, equipment upgrades, and lengthy campaign story–only sweetens the pot.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Addictive core solitaire gameplay
+ Huge campaign offers a ton of gameplay
+ Clever implementation of fantasy RPG elements
+ Nicely drawn world map, card art, and background illustrations

Cons:
– Wild card icon isn’t as clearly defined as it should be
– Upgrade system could be balanced better on the backend

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: The Revills Games
Developer: The Revills Games
Release Date: 9/28/2015
Genre: Card/Solitaire
Players: 1

Source: Review code provided by developer

Buy From: Steam

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!