I’ve been willing to wake up in the middle of the night to play very few games. But there was a period of a couple weeks where, when sleepless and tossing in bed, I’d get up to check on my progress in Pantheon: The Legends. It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t good. It was an addiction. But it was so engrossing. I’ve never been one for mobile card games, but Pantheon: The Legends managed to rope me in with just the right mix of card collection, casual gameplay, and strategy.
“Card game” is a pretty loose term for mobile devices. I grew up with card games like Star Wars and Pokémon, games where you build a deck based on a bunch of cards, take turns trying to create the perfect combo, and get pissed off as hell when the opponent has better cards than you do. Mobile card games tend to be a bit more casual; in Pantheon: The Legends you’ll create a “deck” of characters based on Greek mythology. Each card can be leveled up by sacrificing other cards to gain experience; you can gain additional cards either through in-game purchases, or by going through the story mode.
Story mode progresses like many other mobile card games; you progress through levels by spending energy; energy recharges based on a timer and you can wait a set amount of real time for that energy to come back or buy/use items to rejuvenate yourself. There’s no real “gameplay,” but there’s plenty of charm and humor to be found in the quest’s story, especially if you’re looking for a way to burn just a few minutes while on the road or waiting for a meeting to start.
Pantheon’s real appeal, however, is in its details. Combining particular characters in teams increases their stats, making you hunt for the best combos. You can also get treasure fragments while questing; combining those pieces creates items that you can attach to characters for even more power. You can also attack other players, stealing their items and money to strengthen your team. After gaining some power you can join or create a polis, Pantheon’s equivalent of a guild. You level up the more you play, giving you additional energy to use in questing and battle. And each and every one of these actions takes place with just the press of a button; there’s no complicated combat or rules to follow, but it’s deep enough to hold hardcore gamers.
I’ve cut myself off cold-turkey, but every time I see a notification pop up for Pantheon I’m tempted to play again. Though it might be a bit light for traditional card-game enthusiasts, Pantheon: The Legends is a nice reprieve from hardcore gaming. You can make tons of progress without spending a dime on in-game purchases, though you may find yourself spending a few bucks from the addiction. Check it out on the App Store for iOS devices for free.