Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hearthstone: Goblins vs. Gnomes Review

Goblins vs. Gnomes, the new expansion for Hearthstone, has been out for almost two weeks now. I've waited this long to post a review to make sure I had a chance to explore all that this expansion had to offer and see how the additional 120 cards would change the metagame of constructed play. Overall I have been very impressed with this expansion. Here's why:
  1. Giveaways: Blizzard celebrated the launch of the expansion with two major giveaways: first, they gave everyone a free Arena run that included the new Goblins vs. Gnomes cards before they were officially released; two, they gave everyone three free packs of the new expansion. This was a fantastic way to get people excited about the release and even let the "free-to-play" crowd get their hands on some cards right away.
  2. Little Touches: The "little" touches, such as artwork, sound effects, the new duel scene, and card animations are excellent. They fit in that perfect balance of being new and flashy while also being integrated so well with what came before that they fit seamlessly into the game.
  3. Card Balance: Some people had expressed the fear that the new cards would totally invalidate the decks that existed prior to their release. This has proved not to be the case. The strong cards that existed before the release have not been overshadowed by any means. As a result, most of the strong decks in the previous metagame still exist, with only a few tweaks.  At the same time, the new cards have also allowed several new decks to rise in power and popularity. And best of all, the weakest of the hero types now seem to be much closer in overall strength to the rest of the field. 
  4. Randomness Theme: In keeping with the theme of crazy inventions of the gnomes and goblins, the new expansion has a decided emphasis on randomness. A whole cycle of cards summon a random type of minion when they die, while others do a wide range of possible damage, and some minions even randomly choose to attack a different target than the one you selected. Rather than making the game less about skill, I would argue this actually creates more possibilities for good players to shine.
There were also a host of other small tweaks and changes to the game, including the addition of Spectator Mode, which allows you to watch the games of players you're friends with. This new mode, while not perfect yet, not only adds some new social possibilities to the game, but also is a great tool for the world of e-sports, making it easier to stream tournaments and the like.

With Goblins vs. Gnomes, Blizzard continues to deliver on their promise of a fun, high-value, online CCG that is both accessible to new players and engaging enough for veterans. If you haven't picked up Hearthstone in a while, this expansion should be more than enough to bring you back to the game.

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