Thursday, August 25, 2016

A certain lack of celebration

The new adventure for Hearthstone called One Night in Karazhan has solo content just like all other adventures before it and so far I am not terribly impressed.  The design of the encounters is interesting and there are lots of new mechanics that work but the fights are just so easy it hardly feels like my choices matter.

In the old adventures Naxxramas and BRM I had to do everything several times.  It took a long while to build custom decks that could beat most of the heroic encounters and some encounters took dozens of tries to defeat.  I had to spend a lot of time learning all the cards I had to face and evolving my deck until it was just so.

In Karazhan I just slap together something vaguely appropriate and then win right away.  More than half the time I won on my first try, and many of those decks were deeply flawed because I didn't really know how the encounter worked or what I was facing.  But those flaws didn't even matter and I just powered on through.

The hardest fight so far took me four tries to beat, and even when I beat it my deck wasn't good - I just got a passable draw and beat the computer up.

These fights leave me feeling pretty uninspired.  I don't want to have to play for hours to get the perfect draw against a ridiculous fight, but I was hoping that I would at least have to put some modicum of effort into it.  Winning with a deck that completely failed to address the encounter's core challenge takes any satisfaction out of it.

It wouldn't take much to fix things.  The mechanics are quite good, and I especially like the chess encounter which was really interesting and new.  All of the fights could be good ones if the computer just had better cards or some other advantage.

As an example, Nightbane has a Hero Power that makes both the player and Nightbane start with 10 mana crystals.  This means that the best deck is basically just a bunch of extremely expensive legendary minions.  Nightbane's deck isn't really equipped to handle that at all though, and it rapidly runs out of steam and dies.  I didn't have to try at all, really, and any random pile of expensive trash would likely be enough.  What I don't understand is why this encounter is such a joke.  It should be that only Nightbane starts with 10 mana, but the player starts with 0 as normal.  Or if not, maybe that the player starts with 10, but Nightbane does something bonkers like deal 10 damage to the player every time a minion of theirs dies.  If the boss had a basically normal deck, and a Hero Power that equally helps both players, how is this a heroic encounter?  Hell, I could probably win with just a regular deck, and that is pretty sad.

I guess Blizzard wants everyone to be able to win even if they suck and have no cards, but I don't understand why that is.  Everyone should be able to beat the normal encounters and get their rewards, sure, but nobody *needs* to beat the heroic encounters.  They don't need to all be as absurd as Chromaggus was in BRM, but they should at least require people to build a decent deck and play enough to figure out what the enemy does.  I am quite sure that there are tons of cards and maybe even mechanics that I never saw in a lot of these heroic fights because I beat them so quickly and effortlessly.  There should be real challenges for those people that like such things, as I do, and when there is nothing on the line except challenge, then the challenge should be there.

I don't feel good about beating up these bosses.  It feels like beating up a six year old for lunch money.  I want to feel like I did something hard, and that only comes when Blizzard puts in enough effort balancing that there is some actual opposition there.  I hope the last wing of the adventure has some serious bosses in it because so far the cards are good but the solo content is a big disappointment.  Good lore, good creative ideas, but really weak implementation.

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