Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hearthstone: Whispers of the Old Gods release

The latest Hearthstone expansion released yesterday, together with the introduction of the Standard format.
As far as releases go, this one wasn't terrible, though certainly not perfect. Sometimes major updates to online games can be a major fiasco, with all kinds of game-breaking bugs or ridiculous downtime. The Hearthstone folks did this one right, though, with two separate updates: first the 5.0 patch a few days ahead, then the new set release yesterday. Putting too much into a single update is a great way to screw up the system, so I was glad to see the two-part release. Not everything was smooth, though. There was still a lot of downtime for some people (including me) when the authentication server had some problems, which lasted several hours past the scheduled outage window. Annoying, but fairly minor as expansion launch problems go.

Once the server issues were resolved and I could log in, I was greeted with a short introduction to the new Standard format, as well as three free Whispers of the Old Gods packs. Opening those packs also gets you C'Thun, the signature legendary creature in this set, and two of his helper cards. It's important that everyone get C'Thun right away, since many of the cards in the set directly interact with him. I suspect we'll see a lot of people playing C'Thun decks at first, largely because it's new. Besides, who doesn't like destroying your opponent via tentacled elder gods? Interest will likely fall off pretty fast, though, as there's a whole lot of ways to get around C'Thun, not least of which is to simply end the game before he can be played on turn 10. Still, it's a fun idea, and useful to newer players since C'Thun is available to everyone.

There probably aren't many Hearthstone players who haven't already seen the news about the Standard format, but it's nice that the developers put in a little bit of explanation for those who somehow missed it. There's also a handy deck construction feature which will highlight the cards that aren't Standard-legal in your existing decks, and suggest replacements. The suggestions are pretty bad, to be honest, but that's OK. The important thing is knowing what needs to come out if you want the deck to be usable in Standard. Once that's taken care of, you can make your own judgement about what replacements to use.

It's important to have Standard-legal decks, because you need to win some Standard games in order to complete two special release quests. Winning 2 Standard games is worth 5 Whispers of the Old Gods packs. Completing that quest gives you another, to win 7 Standard games, for 5 more Whispers of the Old Gods packs. Thirteen free packs (10 from quests, 3 from the initial free stuff at login) is pretty nice. Blizzard clearly wants people who aren't spending a lot of time and/or money in the game to feel like they can catch up with the newest things.

I ended up retro-fitting a couple of my decks (Dragon Priest and Aggro Shaman) for Standard, which was a pretty easy process since each of those only used 2 older cards. I also built a Beast Druid deck. None of them are spectacular, but between the three I was able to win the 9 games needed to complete the quests in fairly short order. It helps that I wasn't in the higher echelons of ranked play to begin with. Much easier to win at the lower ranks, which is where I tend to stay since I play very little constructed.

So the new set release went fairly well. I'm glad that Blizzard is going out of their way to make it easy on players to get into the new set and constructed format, with the new cards and deck construction helper. It bodes well for the game's success when the developers are smoothing the process for older players to return and newer ones to get started.

No comments:

Post a Comment