Saturday, August 9, 2014

Curse of Naxxramas Review

As I mentioned last time, I anticipate that I will be posting more about Hearthstone in this blog from time to time. Today, I want to post my thoughts about the Curse of Naxxramas Adventure.

For those of you unfamiliar with this expansion, Naxxramas is much more than simply a new set of cards for the game. True, it does add 30 new cards to the game, including one for each of the heroes. But instead of simply allowing you to buy booster packs or some such mechanic, instead the player must earn them by completing a series of AI battles and special class challenges themed around the Naxxramas dungeon raid from World of Warcraft. Additionally, the expansion is being released over a five week period, with players needing to purchase each week's worth of content separately (or all at once at a discount, although this does not gain you access to the content any faster).

In keeping with the 'free-to-play' concept, this expansion can be paid for either by cash or by the in-game gold currency. Each week's content, referred to as a wing, costs 700 gold or $7.00 (which means about $35.00 for the whole expansion, which is a fairly typical price for a video game expansion). On average, a decent player should be able to easily earn 350-400 gold a week just from daily quests, making this price fairly accessible even to a relatively new player. In fact, I ended up easily saving enough gold over the month prior to its release to be able to pay for the whole expansion with gold.

While some have complained about having to complete the various AI battles to receive the new cards, I enjoyed the new challenges quite a bit. While the first week's content was fairly easy to beat, the difficulty seems to be ramping up over time, although still nothing that someone with a decent collection of cards won't be able to overcome. The AI can seem fairly random at times, and even makes some pretty subpar play choices, but the various challenges give enough advantage to the AI that you at least have to work at it. Additionally, the specific hero challenges are each tied to a preconstructed deck, which makes for a nice change of pace. And finally, if the battles seem too simple, one can also try them on heroic difficulty, which makes them considerably harder.

The cards themselves range from mediocre to quite good, and several are seeing widespread play among the game's top players. While none of them have inspired any new deck archetypes as far as I know, they have changed up the metagame significantly, and given additional options to all the popular archetypes. In keeping with the theme, many of the new cards revolve around the Deathrattle mechanic, which triggers whenever a minion with that keyword dies. The new cards are interesting, unique, but certainly not broken.

Finally, the expansion matches the high production values of Hearthstone. The challenges do a great job of bringing the Naxxramas concept to life, especially the creepy background in which they are played. It also fits in with Hearthstone's humorous tone, particularly the antics of Kel'Thuzad, who mocks you, threatens you, complains when you win, and even intervenes when you try to 'cheese' your way to victory.

Curse of Naxxramas is an excellent expansion to Hearthstone, and one that I recommend wholeheartedly and without reservation.

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