Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Blizzcon 2015 Wrap-Up: A Hearthstone Adventure

img: Blizzard
While I found the opening ceremony preview for the next Hearthstone adventure quite endearing, I hadn't actually planned on sitting down to test it out on the floor. But sometimes, life has other plans for you and you've got to make due with your available options. Basically, my friend and I ditched the Linkin Park concert a bit early (despite the fact to my surprise, they put on a great show) with the intention of playing Overwatch without having to wait in a long line. It worked for us last year...and didn't work for us this year. Clearly the Overwatch hype train is roaring at full-force.

Realizing we didn't want to spend a great deal of time in line just to try something we played the year prior, we strolled over to the Heroes of the Storm demo area. We checked out the new Arena mode earlier in the day and thought about trying to new map this time around, but that would've also involved a 20+ minute wait. Then we realized there wasn't a wait for the new Hearthstone adventure, so we thought, "What the hell!" What follows is an "I played some of the new Hearthstone adventure, what the hell, I'll toss some thoughts out there" write-up. This will be light on details, with more focus on impressions. I figure if you're interested in Hearthstone at all you already know about the new cards, maps, mechanics and the like. If you're interested in a casual player's perspective, read on.

I sat down at the PC and was greeted with a screen that allowed selection of one of two heroes: a rogue or a shaman if my memory serves me. It wasn't immediately clear if this signaled two separate adventures, or if it simply provided two class options for the same adventure. It turned out to be the latter, the adventure being The Temple of Osiris.

I chose the shaman (or whatever class it was) first. Pretty sure it was a shaman. It actually didn't end up mattering which class I picked because very early on in the match I had a card that, when played, replaced the default hero power with a random hero power. I ended up getting the warlock's Life Tap. However, because of the format of the adventure itself, the hero power didn't really factor much in the two matches I played.

The board looked like an underground temple ala Raiders of the Lost Ark. Naturally, I spent a bit of time clicking around the four corners to see how I could interact with the board itself. Nothing too memorable, but thematically appropriate. In this game, I didn't face an enemy hero---I fought against the temple itself. The key was to survive 10 rounds without dying. Doing so meant I'd essentially escaped the temple with my physical and mental facilities in tact.

I was given a pre-built deck in each instance. The temple did possess a zero-mana hero ability that summoned powerful minions to try to prevent me from escaping. But this wasn't the only interesting mechanic; after almost every round, I was given a choice to do something---usually I was shown two cards and had to pick one. One I can clearly recall was a choice between drawing two cards or healing my hero for 10 health. About halfway through the 10 rounds, the temple's ceiling caved in and cleared the entire board of minions---a blessing or a curse depending what I or the temple had placed on the board prior.

img: Blizzard

That all said, I didn't really have a problem countering what the temple threw at me with the cards in my deck. It was a fun experience, but I can't say it was a particularly challenging one---I'd have to assume it would be the same for anyone with basic familiarity with Hearthstone play. The second playthrough with the rogue felt a bit more difficult due to the cards I drew, but I was still able to escape with relative ease. What's more: I had a friend playing next to me who had never played a game of Hearthstone in her life. I looked over and she had 6 health remaining and five more turns to survive. At this point she asked me to assist and I guided her on what to play for the remaining rounds, assuming we were doomed. At least I'd get to see what losing looked like.

To my astonishment, she also escaped the temple with her life. It made me think that perhaps we'll see some balancing tweaks before release, but considering it will go goes live within a week today my guess is that there will be variance in difficulty modes to offer greater challenge to more skilled players. Either way, it's a cool take on the solo adventure, much different from Naxxramas or Blackrock Mountain. Well worth the money or gold, in my opinion.

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