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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has finally received its first official expansion in the form of Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas. This is themed heavily after the Naxxramas raid zone that was featured several years ago in the World of Warcraft.

First off: if you are somehow unfamiliar with Hearthstone, then you should bring yourself up to speed by reading our review here. The Curse of Naxxramas expansion includes several new features including new cards, solo adventure content, and class-based challenges for the different decks.

It is important to note that before a player can access the new content all 9 classes have to be unlocked through the various practice fights. But, once they are unlocked you will be able to access the content if you have purchased it (the first quarter is currently available for free). These are significant challenges so it is recommended that players tweak their decks and learn the advanced strategies first, however, before taking the plunge.

The first quarter is available initially, but additional wings will become accessible in the future. Once opened these wings can become purchasable either by spending 700 in-game gold or by paying $20 to unlock them all.

The first quarter available in the expansion consists of three boss fights. Defeating each boss earns you you a new card. Defeating the third boss earns you a legendary card to add to your collection. This also unlocks two class challenges and the heroic mode of the quarter.

Class challenges pit a player against one of the classes using a random deck. For each class challenge that is defeated another card is unlocked. In heroic mode you fight the same 3 bosses on a much higher difficulty. In heroic mode is different in that your opponent starts with 45 life instead of 30. They also have a more powerful hero power. Last but not least in heroic mode your opponent can and will use cards from multiple classes. The deck is more than a little stacked against you in this mode (metaphorically speaking). Players will need to use trial and error will be needed to determine which deck is best suited for each boss.

Overall,I found the new content to be a solid addition to the game itself. There are other fun upgrades like a new game board to play on (and click!) and access to the new cards that are unlocked in the arena mode. The only drawback I encountered is that while playing solo adventure content in the expansion you do not earn gold for victories, and quests cannot be completed. Those are minor complaints though. The expansion is definitely a good thing.

Note: I will be sharing my thoughts about each of the different quarters of the solo adventure content in individual articles since they are being released separately.

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Blizzard has finally released details for its first expansion of the Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft digital card game. Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas will introduce a single-player adventure mode based on the Naxxramas dungeon in World of Warcraft.

The adventure will include five “wings” of content that will be released one wing per week, starting with The Arachnid Quarter on July 22nd. The pricing plan is convoluted, but basically you can buy each wing for $6.99 or 700 in-game gold. If you purchase more than one wing at a time you’ll get a discount. For those that don’t want to spend money and who immediately spend all their gold on card packs (yeah, that’s me too), Blizzard is giving away the first wing during the release window (roughly a month).

Another thing that the Curse of Naxxramas expansion brings to the game, something much needed to Hearthstone, is new cards. Player pundits have begun strongly lamenting the stagnation of the game’s different strategies over the last few months. The “good” decks have gotten so streamlined that there is little to no variation between them. This creates a frustrating environment for new players. The Curse of Naxxramas will introduce 30 new cards that center around the “Deathrattle” keyword (Deathrattle is an effect that triggers when something dies), with most of the cards either including the Deathrattle keyword on the card or dealing with death in other ways (definitely appropriate for an expansion build around a massive undead city). The crown jewel of this collection of new cards is the new legendary card called Baron Rivendare, who makes your minions trigger their Deathrattle abilities twice.

For more information, check out the excellent wiki page over at Gamepedia.com.

Let us know in the comments if you’re planning to brave the necropolis of Naxxramas. We certainly will be.

 

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Blizzard Entertainment

Available online and on iPad (Coming to Android in the future)

 

Overall Review

I am… was… a man of principle. I was not going to play Hearthstone. I didn’t care that everywhere I looked I heard about its deep strategy, its colorful graphics and sound, and the lure of opening packs. I refused to try it. This was a free-to-play game and I stand for Truth, Justice, and the Console way!

But as the official release grew ever closer, I could feel the desire building. When, at last, a version came to the iPad, I took my first baby steps into a world of gaming I’d not been in since dabbling in Magic: The Gathering back in college.

Hearthstone is a digital CCG (collectible card game) in which you collect cards, build decks, and battle friends and strangers alike. Cards are bought with either 100 in-game “gold” earned through daily challenges or with real money ($2.99 for two packs and up). It’s the fairness of this system that really won me over. Each day you get a challenge, usually worth 40 gold, that might require you to win three games as a certain Warcraft class themed deck, or perhaps deal 100 damage to enemies. Most of these can be done the same day and that equates to a new pack of cards every two to three days. There is also a crafting system that allows you to “disenchant” cards you don’t want into “dust” and use it to create new cards. You can easily play this game seriously and never pay a dime, or you can spend money if you want. It’s a free-to-play game that didn’t make me feel icky.

Hearthstone has a simple premise. Collect cards to build decks and battle others. The cards come in five levels of rarity: free, common, rare, epic, and legendary. As rarity increases so to does the cards power and potential to impact the game. Each card pack contains five cards and at least one of them is guaranteed to be a rare or better. Depending on your luck, you might get additional rares, epics, or legendaries, with a legendary being on par with winning the lottery (that might be a smidgen of exaggeration, but in my months of playing I’ve only found one legendary). You might also get a gold card of any rarity, which are nicely animated and can be disenchanted for a lot of dust.

The point of collecting all these cards is to build a 30-card deck based on one of the eight champions: Warrior, Shaman, Rogue, Paladin, Hunter, Druid, Warlock, Mage, and Priest. Each has a Hero Power that can be used once per turn for 2 mana (we’ll get to mana later). For example, the Hunter can deal two damage to the opponent’s hero or the Warlock can take two damage and draw a card. Each hero is based off a legendary character from the World of Warcraft ethos.  If you like WoW, you’ll know immediately who these heroes are. If you’re like me and have never touched WoW, they are still very cool. While each hero has a pool of class specific cards, there is a much larger pool of Neutral cards that can be used with all classes.

The “mana” system is what you use to play cards. Each card has a cost in the upper left corner, and if you have enough mana you can play it. You start turn one with 1 mana, and each turn after that you get another until you reach the maximum 10 mana per turn. Each turn the pool is refreshed for your playing pleasure. There are also some cards that can affect the mana pool.

When you first start up Hearthstone, after the obligatory account sign up, you are given a single hero, Jaina Proudmoore the Mage. With her you will face a series of tutorials cleverly disguised as battles. Overcome these trials and you’ll unlock the Play area, where you can play ranked games or casual ones. Win in Ranked (also called the Ladder) and you’ll move from level 25 down to 1 and finally Legend, or you can spend your time experimenting in Casual without consequence. When you grow tired of Mage, you can go into Practice mode and battle each of the other CPU-controlled classes to unlock them. Unlock them all and you’ll open a new play area, the Arena.

“The Arena” is a mode where you pick one of three presented classes. Then you get thirty 1-out-of-3 choices to build your deck and off you go to face one online player after another. Lose three matches and you’re out. Win and you get a pack of cards, and maybe some additional gold or dust. Keep winning and your prizes get bigger and bigger. Entry into the Arena costs either 150 gold, or $1.99. Since a pack of cards alone costs 100 gold, it’s often a better deal to save just a bit more for the chance at bigger gains.

A description of Hearthstone’s mechanics doesn’t give justice to the immaculate craftsmanship Blizzard has pulled off here. Each card is played to their own intro. Whether flashy or subtle, they all have a personality and a weight. The cards feel real, and when you see a large minion slam to the ground with a web of cracked earth, you know you just made something significant happen. Beyond the beauty is a deep strategy that is oh so satisfying when you pull off that amazing combo that shatters your opponent. (Literally! If you beat your opponent and their icon break into pieces). 200+ games in and I’m still learning new things every time I play.

Family Gaming Assessment

This game is built on attacks and aggression. Weapons abound, and violence is accentuated by the card portraits, the (well developed) quips of the minions as you play them, and the animations when damage is dealt. Also, the themes of many card portraits and some of the attack descriptions have a dark almost horror theme.

As with many other entries into the Fantasy genre, Hearthstone is sometimes guilty of showing excessive skin in its character portraits for both heroes and cards. Think excessive cleavage, men in loincloths, that sort of thing. However, they are certainly less guilty than many entries and I found it remarkably subdued for the genre.

Playability Assessment

The game play itself might frustrate younger players, especially considering it has frustrated me enough times. Each turn presents several complex choices that must be made with a timed turn and a thorough understanding of what each card is doing is necessary to play the game effectively.

Players will need to be able to read well and have strong reading comprehension to be able to play this game at all.

Conclusion

This is a free-to-play game so I recommend that everyone who likes the idea of a digital CCG game to give it a try. Iam loving it!

The Future

Blizzard is releasing an update to Hearthstone, Curse of Naxxramas, and it is expected as early as this month. This expansion will introduce thirty new cards into the game through single player adventures. Look for more on Naxxramas and the world of Hearthstone in future articles.

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