Hearthstone Mercenaries is a quick and clever take on a card game RPG

Hearthstone Slowly, the organization has been expanding its support for the competitive card game format. Sometimes that’s something as elaborate as single-player adventures or experimental like the eight player auto chess mode Battlegrounds. The game’s newest mode, Mercenaries, moves even further away from the game’s core formula in order to offer a nimble and engaging turn-based RPG. You can build a team from mercenaries and equip them with the gear they need to level up. Then you’ll use these mercenaries against a variety of villains.

Hearthstone’s Mercenaries mode, I am able to collect a variety of heroes from the entire span of Warcraft’s vast history. Here, the canon has been thrown out the window. I am free to build my own squad from any assortment of action figures that I like or happen to have. They’re divided into a holy trinity, with a rock-paper-scissors logic to them: Casters, Protectors, and Fighters. With only three heroes on the board, I create a party with six heroes.

Each hero has a set of unique abilities, so as I acquire new ones through gacha mechanics and in-game rewards, I mix and match based on who I like and who I don’t care for. Rokara, for instance, synergizes with other orcs, so I shelf her early on Meanwhile, Milhouse Manastorm’s arcane powers are so strong that I begin hunting down other arcane heroes like the Blink Fox so I can beat up monsters and other players alike.

Combat is very simple. My abilities are mine, and the enemy’s. We rank each ability based on speed and make all our decisions simultaneously, then we watch the process unfold manually. There’s enough strategy to keep things interesting: Do I nerf an enemy’s attack power and do a little damage, or focus heals on my tank in an attempt to keep my squishy casters alive? I’m never overwhelmed or frustrated.

Once I find my feet and go through the game mode’s tutorial, I start hitting up bounties. Each bounty requires me to pick a path littered with individual encounters — would I rather fight a band of enemy heroes for some extra experience, or mow through an easy Fighter mission? Do I pick a boon that will allow me to revive an old hero from the dead or a branch leading to a spirit healer? Each run is brief and complete. Failure doesn’t apply any lasting or meaningful penalty. No matter what I do, I get some kind of reward — a piece of treasure that buffs my current run, a new character, some random shards for characters I don’t own but might in future.

This is the worst part about Mercenaries. Sometimes I’m bopping along, having a great time, and then I crack open a reward pack and the game showers me with shards for a bunch of characters I don’t own. It’s a reminder that no matter how happy I am with my personal progress, there are tons of fantastic, top-tier characters I don’t own. It’s a great feeling to start the game with a clean account. VeryIt’s different from doing it after you have dropped $50. A strong list will make the journey much easier.

Mercenaries has a solid loop with that sticky one-more-turn draw, but I’m wary of the monetization model just overhead. Blizzard suggests that I spend $50 to get a bunch of random shard packets with the Lich King and Diablo as the heads. (If I want Sylvanas, the Lich King, and Diablo, plus a whole bunch of packs full of random shards for a killer starter team, that’ll run me $130.)

It’s nice to have a playground for Warcraft lore, especially one that’s detached from the increasingly complex and elaborate main plot of World of Warcraft However Hearthstone publisher Activision Blizzard faces wide-ranging allegations that it maintains a toxic workplace environment that’s particularly hostile to women. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) investigated the company for two years before filing the lawsuit, and found that women are paid less and subject to sexual harassment, without meaningful punishment applied to perpetrators. This makes it difficult to engage in a romp though the Barrens and Winterspring without being critical, particularly when combined with aggressive monetization schemes and gacha mechanics.

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