Mercenaries of Hearthstone is the new game mode coming from today in which players will collect Mercenaries, with which to form groups to face missions and collect the bounties related to them.
It is a completely new mode, different and distinct from both the traditional Hearthstone gaming experience, and from the various extensions released so far such as the Arena, the Battle and the Duels.
We at Eurogamer had the opportunity to try it in preview for a week and in this article we will talk about it, and we will also talk about our first feelings about a very deep and strategic experience, which combines role-playing games with roguelike elements and of course Hearthstone characters. You’ll basically have a new game hosted inside the Hearthstone client!
Mercenaries immediately catapulted us into the action thanks to a handy tutorial that allowed us to become familiar with the basic mechanics. The mode revolves around a group consisting of a minimum of one character and up to a maximum of six, who belong to one of the three available roles: the Fighters, the Enchanters and the Protectors.
Fighters are green-framed and tend to use aggressive skills to deal as much damage to enemies as possible. Spellcasters have a blue frame, cast spells for powerful effects, sometimes support, sometimes attack, but still tend to have lower Attack values, making them more attractive targets for enemies.
The Protectors have a red frame and are the defenders of the group, called to support and protect it. They often have a lot of Health and tend to use effects like Taunt or buffs that control the flow of battle; they usually have no remote options and are a bit slower than teammates with other roles.
There are no limitations: you can create mixed teams or teams of six mercenaries with the same role, but there is a fundamental rule to always keep in mind: when they attack, the Fighters inflict double damage on the Spellcasters, the Spellcasters inflict double damage Protectors and Protectors deal double damage to Fighters. A kind of Hearthstonian version of the old “paper, scissors and stone”.
Each mercenary will be equipped with special abilities, which will be unlocked when our character levels up and can be enhanced thanks to the Coins of the Mercenaries, the currency of this new mode. In addition, each mercenary will be able to receive equipment, which is another way to create synergies between our characters.
Mercenaries leave without any equipment, which can be purchased and upgraded with Mercenary Coins. Unlike Skills, a Mercenary can only wear one piece of equipment at a time.
The heart of the mode are certainly the bounties, of the missions that will lead us to fight different characters on randomly generated maps, up to the boss, keeper of the treasure chest. But the encounters will not consist only of fights: during the mission we will be able to decide the path to follow, meet allies, fountains of regeneration to bring back the Mercenaries fallen in battle and find treasures. The treasures are artifacts that will remain with us only for the time of the mission and that, a bit like in Duels, will greatly enhance our abilities.
In the combat phases there are three fundamental elements: the positioning of the Mercenaries, the choice of Skills for the turn (the “order phase”) and the automatic development of the fight (the “combat phase”).
Positioning our characters correctly will be essential to bring out their full potential, just as it will be very important to choose the order of skills. Under each Skill is written a number that determines the order of action at each turn. Taking into account the Speed of the different skills is crucial to being able to make the most of them. Some abilities also have a cooldown, which indicates the number of turns that must elapse before they can be relaunched. These are usually very powerful moves, which are worth the wait.
Once we have decided the order of our skills, the combat phase will start, which will take place automatically. It all sounds very simple, and indeed it is. But like all simple things, the depth that can arise from it is however very wide: with the progress of the game and the growth of our characters and our collection, and the synergies, combos, strategies to bring to the field will increase. There will be a lot to study, especially to face enemies with a Legendary frame or heroic bounties.
Now let’s talk about another fundamental element of this new mode, the Village. At the beginning it will be just a desolate clearing, but as we acquire the resources we can go on to create buildings that will enrich our game experience. We will be able to manage our collection in the Inn, visit the Workshop and decide to upgrade the other structures of the village, take a trip to the Meeting Point to choose our next size, buy something at the Merchant’s Wagon, read messages to our Mailbox .
Finally, there are the Bonfire and the Battle Pit. The function of the Bonfire is to house the Quest Board, which has a similar function to the quest log or quests in the Hearthstone Journal. Once a day we will have a new task to complete that will reward us with various rewards, such as Coins of the Mercenaries, packs of Mercenaries or equipment for a certain Mercenary.
The Battle Pit, on the other hand, is the place where players will be able to clash their teams of Mercenaries. The more you win, the higher you go up in the leaderboard, just like in the Hearthstone ladder or the Battle leaderboard. The leaderboard will show the top 200 players from the Battle Pit, with a numerical rank based on the internal MMR, as in the Standard and Wild leaderboards. The score reset will happen once a month, while the MMR will change as you go, similar to how the internal MMR works in Standard and Wild modes.
Lots of stuff, right? Team 5 has put a lot of meat on the fire, it is no coincidence that the release of Mercenaries has been postponed over and over again, but we believe it was worth it. As we said at the beginning, this new mode is in all respects a new game that draws inspiration from some Hearthstone mechanics and from which it borrows the iconic characters, only to depart from them completely.
Having been able to play with it, especially in this moment when the traditional ladder is starting to get stale (mini-set, where are you: we need you!), We were really excited. We were able to test a basic account, which allowed us to gradually discover the mechanics of the game, but then we also had the opportunity to try a full account, with all the Mercenaries at their best and all the sections unlocked. We do not hide from you that we had a lot of fun and we can’t wait for you all to try it.
It is also true, however, that its being so distant from what Hearthstone is, may not please everyone in this mode. Maybe card game purists may be intrigued by it, but they may also decide not to devote themselves to it so as not to take away time from climbing the traditional ranking. Also because Mercenaries did not seem like a “hit and run” mode, but rather the sizes will be faced by planning our strategies well, especially the toughest ones.
It is good to remember that, as usual, Mercenaries is absolutely free: all the cards, skills, equipment and even the alternative skins can be unlocked simply by playing and we must also say that for now the game seemed really generous to us. offer rewards of all kinds.
Blizzard plans to make Mercenaries part of the normal development cycle, with regular updates in most patches and at least one major update for each expansion, such as Battle.
It will be interesting (and crucial) to see how the pairing of the PvP mode, the Combat Pit, will be handled. Because if it is true that Mercenaries is a “free to play” game mode, it is also true that whoever wants to can invest their money by buying packets and coins, thus accelerating the growth and strengthening process of their group. How could the challenge be between a player of this type and one who hasn’t decided to invest? Surely the former will have an advantage, which could even be overwhelming.
We are sure that the ranking of the Fossa will be taken very seriously by users and this problem could arise in the first period where the MMR will be almost the same for everyone. We will therefore see how this will be managed, to avoid immediately creating a wave of discontent that would make a bad publicity to a mode that seemed very interesting to us and that could bring new users into what it is is becoming a real one. “Hearthstone universe”.