Hearthstone: Whispers of the Old Gods Preview #2

Whispers of the Old Gods

Whispers of the Old Gods is right around the corner and I have a lot of cards to catch up on.  Obviously, I’m not going to cover all of the new cards, but I will highlight some of the most interesting that we’ll be getting in the new expansion to Hearthstone.  Before we actually get into the cards of Whispers of the Old Gods, there are a couple of corrections I need to make.  For one, C’Thun and the cultist cards that interact with it will not be available for Arena drafts.  While most of the cultists have premium stat lines, there are a few that have a heavy reliance on C’Thun and Blizzard has opted not to include any of them in Arena to avoid saturation (although there are already cards like Junkbot and Rend Blackhand in Arena that are far worse than any of the cultists, so…).  Secondly, my claim in the previous preview that each class would receive a Forbidden spell was actually a matter of miscommunication.  Only Druid and Warlock have received Forbidden cards in addition to Mage, Paladin, and Priest, and Druid’s Forbidden card is actually a minion.  I apologize for any confusion I may have caused.  With all that out of the way, let’s delve into the cards that will be entering the Whispers of the Old Gods game soon.

Renounce_Darkness

This may be the single weirdest Hearthstone card I’ve ever seen.  For just 2 mana, your Warlock can give up on being a Warlock and become anything else.  There is use for that as the Warlock’s hero power, while incredibly powerful in the early to mid-game, is the worst for any match that goes into fatigue.  Jaraxxus has already proven that changing your hero out late in the game is extremely good, but that raises the question of whether or not it’s worth playing this over Jaraxxus.  Generally, the answer is no, but it could have some applications.  It could work in a deck with a lot of high-risk, high-reward cards and needs an emergency switch, but it wouldn’t work well alongside Jaraxxus because playing this first would replace the eredar lord and playing it second would likely leave you with a worse hero power.  The mana discount has a lot of potential, but the fact that you not only get random cards, but a random class on top of that, makes it highly unreliable.  It’s an experimental card and it probably won’t work, but I’d love to see it take me by surprise.

Herald_Volazj

On the surface, this card might look terrible.  “Why would I want to copy my minions if they’re just going to be tiny 1/1 version?” I hear you ask.  Well, there are plenty of minions that have their value tied to the their effects rather than their stat lines.  Ragneros, Sylvanas, Thaurissan, Ysera, Brann, and Malygos are just a few examples of cards that work remarkably well with Volazj.  It’s not limited to big legendaries either as any deathrattle minion will also benefit from duplication.  The only thing that’s tricky about Volazj is that you really need to set the board carefully to get a good effect out of him.  You don’t want to copy just one minion with him or you’re left with a worse Faceless Manipulator.  He’s a gimmicky card and probably won’t see much high-level play as a result, but those willing to take a risk on him won’t be disappointed with what he can do.

Let’s continue with Whispers of the Old Gods game cards…

Hallazeal_the_Ascended

Hallazeal is an interesting card,if nothing else.  It’s definitely something for control Shaman decks, which this expansion has been giving a serious push for.  I’ll certainly take it over the infuriating Aggro Shaman that has been infesting the ladder recently.  Hallazeal has a decent enough stat line to see play and can combo best with AoE spells like Lightning Storm to really pull you out of a tough spot.  He’s not going to act as a hard carry for any deck, but he can be a handy safety net to keep you alive.  The one big problem is that he’ll be most valuable against aggressive decks, and those will probably kill you faster than you can get him on the board and use his ability.

Y'Shaarj

It is said that Y’Shaarj was the strongest of all the Old Gods and remained one of the most dangerous and powerful beings in Azeroth even as a corpse.  Its card aptly captures the overwhelming power of Y’Shaarj with not only a massive stat line, but also the ability to bring more minions into battle.  You’re guaranteed at least one minion before your opponent will have a chance to shut it down with hard removal (which is less likely now that BGH is being nerfed), but the minion you get is going to be random and you’ll have to build a specific type of deck to get good mileage out of Y’Shaarj.  This is a Whispers of the Old Gods card made for control decks with lots of big minions available to have the best odds on getting a good pull.  Keep in mind that Battlecry effects won’t trigger and you’ll mostly want to avoid putting those in the same deck as Y’Shaarj.

Yogg-Saron

I take it back; THIS is the single weirdest card I’ve ever seen.  Yogg-Saron is a being of such cunning that it was able to take complete control over the prison built specifically to contain it with its sinister whispers alone.  It is the creator of the Emerald Nightmare and can twist mortal minds into madness with barely a motion.  The Yogg-Saron card is appropriately insane for such a beast with an effect that is beyond predictability.  While its stat line is terrible, it likely won’t matter as there’s a fair chance that every minion, including Yogg-Saron itself, and both heroes will all perish the moment it appears on the board.  The spells Yogg-Saron casts are not limited by mana nor class; any legal spells from across Hearthstone can be cast.

Yogg-Saron can throw a Pyroblast at your face, heal you back with Healing Wave, buff an enemy minion with Blessing of Kings, steal the buffed minion with Mind Control, destroy it with Assassinate, turn itself into a frog with Hex, clear the enemy board with Flamestrike, let zero dogs out with Unleash the Hounds right after, and then lose you the game outright with three more Pyroblasts to your face.  At least it won’t cast spells for your opponent, but it will randomly chose a target based on what is normally allowed for that spell (ex. casting Flamecannon would only ever hit an enemy minion and never a friendly one or either hero).  Also, while Yogg-Saron is using the effects of spells, they’re all considered his battlecry effect and don’t interact with minion effects like spell damage, but it can be doubled by Brann Bronzebeard.  There is no chance of Yogg-Saron seeing competitive-level play, but it is the ultimate card for closing out any joke deck.  It’s a card you can play 1000 times and still only see a fraction of what it’s capable of.

Forbidden_Ritual

Zoolock definitely looks to be making a comeback given the new board-swarming cards that are being released.  Warlock’s Forbidden spell, for example, lets you fill the board with as many minions as you need at any point in the game.  This is one of the best cards Zoolock could ever hope for as it can refill the board and help you bounce back after a mid to late-game board clear, Zoolock’s biggest weakness, but it’s also extremely flexible and can be dealt out whenever you need some more bodies.  Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to be seeing any less of Knife Juggler in the new meta.

Vilefin_Inquisitor

Along with Zoolock, Murloc Paladin is also looking to come back in vogue with some new murloc cards.  This one is chief among them, changing Paladin from being a really good class for murlocs to being the best class ever for murlocs.  Murloc decks depend on you having murlocs, to generating them at will with your hero power is best you could ever ask for.  If any card is going to end up being overpowered in WotOG, my money is on this one.

Journey_Below

Good news; the Discover mechanic is still alive and well post-League of Explorers.  Journey Below is a really good card for two reasons: For one, it gets you a Deathrattle card of your choice, which Priest’s Museum Curator has already proven to be a very useful ability.  Secondly, it’s a cheap card that you can just play whenever you want to, which makes it great fodder for setting up cards with Combo effects.  Definitely expect to see this pop up in quite a few Rogue decks.

Evolve

Shaman has been struggling as a class for the longest time with nothing but the recent aggro build to push it into the meta, but WotOG looks to change that with plenty of powerful new cards for the class.  Easily the most potent of the bunch is Evolve, a cheap spell that can have huge results.  Along with working well in control decks, it’s also the one new card that can work in aggro decks.  Honestly, it doesn’t make much of a difference what deck you put this in because simply casting it on at least two totems from your hero power can be enough to get you a good result.  There is a risk of getting Battlecry minions with terrible stat lines, but you’ll be making a net gain with Evolve over all.

Fandral_Staghelm

The Druid’s Choose One effects already make for some of the best cards in the game with just one of their possible choices, so Fandral Staghelm looks like a pretty potent card.  With a 4 mana 3/5 body, he’s definitely playable in just about any deck.  There are just a couple of important caveats to keep in mind with him.  First off, your opponent is never going to leave him be if they can help it.  Any minions they have on the board or spell damage in their hand is going straight for him.  While he can be played on curve in a pinch, it may be better to save for the late game so that you can guarantee a combo with a good Choose One card.  That could end up being too slow a strategy to work and he could really end up falling flat.  Secondly, two of the best Choose One cards are getting nerfed at the same time Fandral is coming out, so you should hold off on crafting him until he’s had a chance to prove himself in the meta.

Deathwing,_Dragonlord

If this new Deathwing card doesn’t get people playing dragon decks other than Priest, I don’t think any one card can.  It’s a big, stompy minion that your opponent will actually be afraid to use their hard-removal on because even more big, stompy minions will probably storm the board as a result.  This new Deathwing even makes the old Deathwing look appealing because nothing crushes souls like a 12/12 going down only for another 12/12 to immediately take its place with a couple 8/8’s tagging along for good measure.  It really answers the big set-back of high mana costs that previously held dragon decks back significantly.  However, Silence effects and transformation cards like Polymorph and Hex can shut him down entirely, so be sure to have those in mind as you make your plays.

Psych-o-Tron

HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLO.  HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I may change my tune once the expansion drops and I start to see some of these Whispers of the Old Gods cards in action, but I am very happy with WotOG right now.  While there are a few underwhelming cards included, the good ones are really good and open up a lot of new possibilities for the game going forward.  The best part is that there isn’t a single card that strikes me as being egregious in any way.  There’s nothing that looks inherently broken like Dr. Boom and there’s nothing that actively outmodes old cards like Evil Heckler.  Maybe Vilefin will end up on the overpowered side when put into practice or maybe one of the Old Gods will prove be even crazy than it looks on the surface, but this is looking to be the best Hearthstone expansion to date at the moment.  If you’ve fallen off the game or haven’t started yet, now is looking like the best time to jump in.

Whispers of the Old Gods releases on April 26th.  What are your thoughts on the new expansion?  What are your favorite and least favorite new cards?  Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about Whispers of the Old Gods game.

Hearthstone: Whispers of the Old Gods Preview #1

Another Hearthstone expansion is around the corner and, fortunately for me, Blizzard didn’t immediately reveal the entire set when they announced it.  That means it’s time for another look into the future for the popular digital card game and all the eldritch horrors lurking within it.  Hearthstone’s next expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, will introduce 134 new cards to the game centered around four of the most ancient evils that plague the world of Azeroth.

C’Thun, Yogg-Saron, Y’Shaarj, and N’Zoth are beings of such horrific power that even the fiercest villains that you’ve faced in your journeys through Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain are trifling in comparison.  Ragnaros and his fellow elemental lords were created by the Old Gods essentially to serve as action figures in their games of war, and the black dragon Deathwing that single-handedly caused the Cataclysm is like their adorable puppy.  Even killing an Old God does almost nothing to quell its power, as Y’Shaarj has been raining mayhem across Pandaria for millenia using its final breath alone.  Trying to kill the Old Gods is already an extremely bad idea on its own as many of Azeroth’s races, including dwarves and gnomes, are the result of the Curse of Flesh that the Old Gods cast when the world was young and breaking the curse would result in Azeroth’s destruction.  Needless to say, the Old Gods are not to be toyed with and depicting them in our silly card game of robot clowns and grumpy poultry has probably doomed us all.  Well, might as well have fun while we’re still alive and not sprouting tentacles everywhere!

WOTOGCthun

Our first card is the first of the Old Gods that World of Warcraft players came face-to-face with.  The all-seeing C’Thun loves being the center of attention and has plenty of cultists to give it just that.  On its own, C’Thun is actually a really bad card with a weak stat-line and an underwhelming effect.  Fortunately, it has plenty of worshipers that help make it significantly more potent.  Cards like Beckoner of Evil and Twilight Elder will buff the power of your C’Thun, even if its sitting somewhere in your deck.  C’Thun definitely looks like a card designed for combo decks where the cultists control the early game and C’Thun comes in for the grand finale.

While collecting all those cards sounds like a hassle, there’s good news.  Opening your first card pack from the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion will instantly award you C’Thun and two copies of Beckoner of Evil on top of the usual five cards.  The best part is that all of the cultist cards revealed so far have great stat lines and can easily hold the board while your waiting to play C’Thun.  For example…

WOTOGChosen

Here’s a good example of what C’Thun’s worshippers are capable of.  Even without her ability to buff C’Thun, a 4/2 with divine shield for 4 mana is very strong.  Considering that Piloting Shredder is being rotated out of standard mode, C’Thun’s Chosen could be a suitable substitute and is playable even in a deck without C’Thun.  The fact that C’Thun’s servants are serviceable without him is great news for Arena as drafting C’Thun in that mode is already going to be next to impossible and will only become more unlikely over time.  Giving them good stats not only makes C’Thun decks more viable, but it also prevents Arena from being flooding with garbage over this one expansion.

WOTOGHogger

The Old Gods are well known for their corrupting influence, and many familiar cards are going to have twisted reimaginings introduced.  One example is the bane of every new Alliance player, the gnoll gangleader Hogger, being mutated into the monstrosity pictured above.  The corrupted Hogger certainly has better stats than the vanilla version that we’ve had since Classic, but his effect is now much less reliable.  However, the Doom of Elwynn could serve as a counter to C’Thun.  Not only could he tank a large chunk of C’Thun explosive entrance on his own, the additional gnolls he summons would also absorb a lot of the damage.  That said, I can’t help but feel that the Grim Patron card already does that job and does it better.  Maybe a new Patron Warrior deck will find space for Hogger, but he’s currently one of the least promising new cards.  For the record, these corrupted cards are going to be their own thing and won’t replace the existing ones.  You can run both the corrupted Hogger and the original one in the same deck.

WOTOGShaping

One new set of cards that WotOG will introduce is the Forbidden Spells line.  All nine classes will receive one Forbidden Spell, and each will have their level of power based around the amount of mana you currently have available.  While they all cost zero mana on the surface, they actually spend all of your remaining mana crystals and will have a greater effect with the more mana you spend on it.  I see a lot of potential in these cards already as they’re highly flexible and you can get exactly the amount of mileage you need out of them.  Only three have been revealed thusfar, but I already expect that several of the Forbidden Spells will become mainstays in a lot of future decks.  Paladins will get a healing spell and mages will be able to deal spell damage to a minion, but the one that’s captured my attention the most is Forbidden Shaping for priest.

Granted, there is a lot of randomness involved in what you’ll get out of the card and there’s a good chance that you’ll get stuck with a weak battlecry minion like Faceless Manipulator after spending most of your mana.  However, I feel like the amount of flexibility that it gives your deck may just be worth taking that risk.  No matter what point in the game you draw it, it guarantees you a minion that you can play on curve.  You can even play it for zero mana for a Wisp if you’re especially desperate to just get another body on the board.  It’s certainly something I could recommend in an Arena draft, though even I’m not sure what kind of constructed deck it could actively benefit.  On a final note, I’m very curious to see what Druids are getting as their use of mana has always been crazy.

WOTOGNZoth

N’Zoth is the most mysterious and possibly the most powerful of all of the Old Gods.  Little is known for certain about this reclusive horror, but there are countless rumors of its influences.  One example is that the corruption of Deathwing is believed to be its doing.  N’Zoth has yet to actually appear in World of Warcraft and it seems that Hearthstone has received the honor of revealing its true form to the world.  That, or this is simply Innkeeper Stonebrew’s personal interpretation of the creature (or Tysmurph’s interpretation since he actually did the art for the card, but I’m roleplaying here) and the real N’Zoth remains to be seen.

While N’Zoth’s stat line is fairly poor, its effect easily makes up for it.  As Curse of Naxxramas has shown, deathrattle minions are some of the most powerful in the game and filling your board with them is insanely good.  N’Zoth definitely looks like it will be one of the new high-level legendaries and can benefit almost any deck.  The fact that it doesn’t die to Big Game Hunter is also a bonus.  There are just a few things to keep in mind to get the most out of it.  For one, it can only summon minions that natively have deathrattle, so cards like Unearthed Raptor and Explorer’s Hat won’t interact with with it.  Second, while I don’t know exactly how the card is designed, I assume that it will prioritize minions based on the order they died.  That means that your stronger deathrattle minions like Sylvanas won’t be summoned because you played too many smaller ones like Loot Hoarder early on.  Still, a board full of deathrattle minions is nothing to sneeze at.  The last thing to keep in mind is that aggro decks exist and will shut this down hard.

That will be enough to cover for now, but there are still plenty more exciting cards left to look over.  Next time, we’ll look at a card for warlocks who are sick of being warlocks, new legendaries for shaman and priest, and more.

Firewatch Review

Igniting fires within the hearts Of many…

Quite recently, the more sentimentally valuable games have taken the gaming world by storm, games that require you to delve deep into the downhearted story of another. These video games require less button mashing and instead tend to test your widespread span of emotion, usually leaving a lingering melancholy feeling within you forever more. Campo Santo’s recent release of such a game, Firewatch is sitting well up there with some of the most poignant games to date on behalf of it’s breathtaking setting, genius writing and extraordinary voice acting.

In this stunning first-person adventure, the player takes on the role of Henry (voice by Rich Sommer) who Firewatch swiftly allows us to establish after a chucklesome/ grief-stricken opening sequence, is a man intent on escaping some hardship back home. As soon as Henry begins his hike to his lookout tower in Shoshone National Forest, the powerfully atmospheric setting of the game takes it’s hold on you, completely engulfing your senses almost making you yourself feel in need of a deep breath of the pure and natural forest air. Campo Santo’s attention to detail in regards to rustling of leaves on luscious trees and bushes, the chatter of birds and other wildlife and even the sloshing of streams and lakes all merge to make the setting of Firewatch effectively encapsulating and immersive. Furthermore, Firewatch is a visual masterpiece. It’s almost ”cartoony” graphics capture the vibrancy of the rich forest setting. Each and every way you look in Firewatch is gracefully pleasant on the eyes and it makes exploring Shoshone National Forest all the better.

 

firewatch 5

 

On The ‘Ol Dog And Bone

Upon arriving at his station at Two Forks Lookout, Henry begins his first and profoundly most important human interaction within the game with superior and fellow lookout, Delilah (voiced by Cissy Jones). The pair of perfectly cast characters communicate via radio in which the pair bounce of each other with their dry sense of humour and sarcasm. What’s more is Firewatch offers the player several ways in which Henry can respond to Delilah. You can either choose to respond as a miserable middle-aged man, counter-pry Delilah’s constant prying or simply sit on the fence. Although limited and unable have a direct impact on the story of the game, these dialogue options are still fun and enhance the immersive factors of Firewatch. As the pair talk more you start to unveil parts of Delilahs character. Upon initially coming in contact with her she is evidently quite dry, hiding behind bad jokes, making it clear she has her walls built up pretty high (you find out the reasoning as to why this is as you play). Throughout the proceedings of Firewatch, Henry gradually allows Delilah to unload some of the emotion she is packing and in doing so you realise that the pair are undoubtedly similar and their blossoming relationship is portrayed so well that it feels real. You can speak to Delilah at almost any point throughout the game, whether you are admiring a view of a magnificent vista you’d like to share with her or simply to report on something you’ve found. Delilah will always have something to say and due to her brilliance as a character I found myself trying to engage her at every opportunity.

Anyway, after Delilah introduces herself among poor jokes and failed attempts to get to know Henry a little, our protagonist calls it a night and Day 1 of Firewatch concludes, essentially signalling the completing of the first chapter in a sense.

 

firewatch 3

 

What Lurks In The Forest 

Henry’s first assignment as Firewatch is to deal with a couple of teen pyromaniacs, illegally setting off fireworks by the lake. This is where the story truly gets rolling. Upon scolding these drunken teens you are left to believe that is the end of it however, weeks later the girls are reported missing. At this point the game takes a sinister turn. Brilliant scripting then proceeds to make the atmosphere increasingly scary and tense, it is like the moment your stomach drops in a good film or book when the twist becomes evident. From then on exploring the National Forest becomes dark, almost evil and instead of lolloping around, taking in every ounce of the serene woodlands beauty, you’ll find yourself exploring rigidly and with caution, inadvertently turning your head at every bush that rustles or branch that snaps beneath your feet. The forest seemed to have consequently turned into an eerie and frightening place. At one point I found myself breaking a sweat as I made a break for my lookout tower to escape a rustling bush at nighttime, like seriously, it was that scary. Sudden bursts of haunting orchestrated music (composed by Chris Remo) bump up the intensity, suddenly the lighthearted first person adventure you thought you were playing, turns into a dark thriller game, yet the urge to play on remains.

 

Firewatch_20160302142612

 

Wilderness Explorer

Firewatch not only gives you the perfect setting to explore but it also gives you so much to do within it. There are tons of supply caches Henry can loot, full of letters and notes from prior lookouts. These offer a another level of insight into the game and some offer the chance to get to grips with the story a bit better. This being the case I personally hunted down these puppies in order to try and build a timeline of events of what happened with particular characters mentioned. Simply exploring the terrain as a whole is generally quite fun, grappling down dangerous rockfalls and navigating through the vast forest areas. Firewatch and it’s level of immersion makes hiking the woodland feel relatively realistic and ultimately that much more enjoyable. I also found that searching the towers of previous lookouts and remains of old campsites really quite interesting. Furthermore and most importantly, you can even adopt yourself a pet turtle (little Turt Reynolds was my best company throughout the game). Firewatch is a short game but it does well to compensate by giving you plenty to do within those few hours of play time.

 

firewatch 4

 

Final Verdict 

Firewatch was nothing short of a completely phenomenal game. It took the narrative of a great novel or film, combined it with a unbelievably fascinating setting and sprinkled more than enough monumental characters and in doing so has made one of the most poignant games I have played to date. The way the story swiftly turns on it’s head from being bubbly and fun to intense and daunting enhanced every reason I was intrigued in the game initially. Firewatch has the respectable power to appeal to the younger generation primarily interested in the more aesthetically pleasing side to the game but also to appeal to adults who understand and can potentially relate to the real life problems that are occurring throughout the game. Although Firewatch was only a few hours long, I unquestionably enjoyed every second indulging in this completely beautiful game.

EndCiv Preview: Rebuilding Humanity After the Apocalypse

Since I’m a huge fan of everything post-apocalyptic, I immediately accepted the offer to play a very early alpha stage of EndCiv, a survival/rebuilding post-apocalyptic game created by indie German studio Crowbox. You can’t say no to the opportunity of keeping alive a couple of survivors after an unknown catastrophic event, in a world where resources are mostly scrap metal and plastic bottles, dogs are flooding the lands and threaten to go crazy any moment and toilets are replaced by a hole dug in the ground, just meters away from your camp. And sometimes, even the hole is missing!

So I gladly started my EndCiv adventure, thinking about repopulating Earth (which was going to be difficult since I only had 2 male survivors), planning the design of my future base… I was confident. Just several minutes later, both my people were dead, after just a few days in the wild, killed by the lack of drinking water. And I hadn’t even managed to build them a bed!

endciv preview 02

For the next try, I was ready: I built a few barrels to gather rain waiter, I built some crates for storage (because those scary dogs eat your cans of food if you don’t store them properly!) and I even managed to welcome two more survivors to my upcoming bustling city in the wastelands – or whatever you wish to call those barren lands. I even started building a shack but my guys were really unlucky: there was no rain for several days and eventually they all died because, well… there was no water! Oh, that drove me crazy!

endciv preview 03
You will eventually build your base up and even get energy via solar panels! Eventually…

EndCiv is ruthless. EndCiv is not a game to take lightly and definitely not one to play it nice with you just to keep you happy. No, EndCiv is a real challenge and it throws the survival at you instantly. And that’s exactly what I loved about it – the fact that it makes you work for every achievement. No, you won’t have three houses built after a few minutes of playtime, nor you will already have a mini-farm up and running. Do you have enough resources to build a barrel? Now that will make you happy! Do you have enough to build a bed? Now that will make you even happier. Nothing’s easy and it’s exactly this what makes you enjoy every moment of play time.

Of course, I played an early Alpha stage and “early Alpha” means that there’s not really a ton of content in the game and you base your impression mostly on potential and the very few little things that you’re getting. In this build, there are just a few things that you can actually build or do, controlling your survivors seems a bit difficult and un-intuitive, while the difficulty level is a bit too much. I understand that water is vital, but there’s really no point in even trying if I only have two bottles of water for two survivors and absolutely no means to collect extra (yup, during one playthrough I did scavenge all the resources on a huge area, trying to survive until the next rain and still didn’t manage to do it, even though I did find a few extra bottles…)

endciv preview 04
The guys are slow when it comes to building stuff, but things have to be done
endciv preview 05
You’ll feel like Matt Damon on Mars, only being able to grow Potatoes at the moment…

But the atmosphere is great so far in the game and all those dogs (which, for now, seem to always be peaceful) are extremely scary and I was waiting for the moment when they went rabid. It never happened and I don’t really know if it will ever happen in this build, but certainly things will get better in the future. So will crafting and all those other amazing things that can be done to turn this game into an epic success… and I am sure it will happen.

endciv preview 06
Nature’s calling… but at least he’s got more options than just a hole in the dirt!

EndCiv is now on Steam Greenlight and will most likely get greenlit very soon and then we’ll have the early access stage released to the public and I anticipate this one to be a huge success. But at the moment, with the current state of the game, there’s not a ton that you can do. Hopefully the devs will be injecting some extra content very soon and give us more crafting options, more items to play with and more fun times in the post-apocalypse. Right now, EndCiv is just the skeleton and it needs a lot of meat on those bones to remain memorable and to keep us playing for weeks. The good thing is that the skeleton itself is pretty much amazing and it shows a lot of promise and, judging from the start that the game has made, it will be pretty awesome.

Does that sound like a fair deal? Well... you can't be too picky!
Does that sound like a fair deal? Well… you can’t be too picky!

It’s really awesome as it is right now in it’s early Alpha, even though I can’t keep my survivors alive for long enough to get to the later stages of the game (apparently, other survivors will come and make your life even more miserable and you’ll have the chance to fight them!) But I plan to keep on playing and keep an eye for the game’s release on Steam. I certainly gave it my vote on Steam Greenlight and you should do the same. Just trust me on this – EndCiv’s going to be EPIC!

Rogue State Review

So, you think that building a democracy – or being the ultimate jerk / dictator the world has ever seen is a breeze? Hahaha (that’s my evil laughter here). You know nothing! Not when your own brother is trying to sabotage you and install his behind on your chair and send you to meet your maker. And you can’t even assassinate the poor soul, because the people love him and you need the people to rule. Not to mention money, resources, great relations with your neighbors, the US, the EU, the fundamentalists, the liberals, the capitalists and those pesky journalists who have the guts to remember that you promised modernization of the education system – and remember that exactly when you have no money left to do it.

This is Rogue State. This is fun!

If my first paragraph made absolutely no sense, let me try to clear things out: you start the game as the revolutionary leader and new president of a fictional middle eastern country and it’s up for you to rebuild the great nation of Basenji, gain the love and trust of the people, build up the relationships with your neighbors through democracy and keep your brother, Farouk, from throwing you off your chair and install himself as president. Rebuild infrastructure, intelligence agencies, adopt and change policies and do everything you can to keep on playing. Because in the “democracy” you’re building, you will eventually fail. Eventually!

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This political simulation game with a big dose of humor (one of the neighbor states, for example, is ruled by a chicken!) proves to be extremely complex and offers so much depth that every new playthrough will feel like a brand new experience – and you’ll love to see that you’re getting better and better.

A turn based game with each turn offering you the chance to perform four actions, Rogue State surprises and amazes even though at first it might seem a bit too difficult and random. Your main role in the game is to find the perfect balance in the policies you adopt (and there’s quite a few of them) to try to keep your people happy. You have liberals and fundamentalists, capitalists and patriots as the four distinct categories in the countries: and you must keep them all happy otherwise they’ll start rioting and eventually overthrow you. This is done by adopting the right policies, but also by building special infrastructures for your great nation. Also, special events are triggered every time you end your turn and the way you decide to handle them will have different effects on your people, neighbors and nation’s partners. The fun part? You can’t really know what the effects will be until you’ve made your choice. And that’s fun!

On numerous occasions, I found myself comparing the game with Democracy 3 and it does have common points. However, I found Democracy way too random and boring, while Rogue State delivers better quality, seems to make more sense and adds a few visual elements that make everything a bit more enjoyable (even though the graphics are far from perfect). But there’s something about this game that really makes you care about it, challenges you, pushes you to try again to do better: things that make sense and events that can sometimes help, not just try to destroy you over and over again. It’s a lot of randomness here as well, but there are also so many beautiful cause-effect connections that increase the complexity, your strategic approach and offer so many gameplay options that you will never feel bored.

For example, raising the taxes quickly will have a major effect on the mood of all your groups, but the drop in morale will get lower and lower each turn – which makes sense, as more people will accept the new situation. The same goes with dropping the tax rates: people will get really happy for a short while, but then there will be no extra bonus from that, because it will feel normal. Will you raise the wages? The Capitalists won’t like that, but other people will. Will you ban religion in schools? Fundamentalists will hate you, but liberals will love you. Every thing you do in the game will have an effect (and the beautiful thing is that some only have an effect several turns after your actions) and your main goal is to find the perfect balance. You can’t keep everybody happy, you must align yourself with one or two particular groups, but you can’t ignore any of them if you want to be the ruler.

And as a ruler, you have a lot more options on hand: you can and should rebuild the nation by spending money on infrastructure. Each building comes with extra boosts and bonuses, and a good strategy here is required too. Your ministers will have requirements from you every now and then, and you should make them happen if you want to keep your relations in good standing. Your neighbors are always around and you can trade with them or even build a military and attack them. Hell, you can even go completely mad and start a nuclear war if that’s what you want to do!

Then, there’s the humor: sometimes crude, sometimes nuanced and barely visible. We have a country that’s being ruled by a chicken who can’t be understood, there’s the US to whom you don’t have direct access, but can be impressed if you have oil (and they bring you no “freedom” for it) and you have the newspaper that never runs out of puns and jokes. It’s brilliant!

rogue state review 05

Rogue State does have its limitations: it’s an indie game with a lower budget and there are some things that get boring after a while, the most frustrating being the constant need to adjust policies based on the groups of people in your nation. The graphics won’t blow your mind either, but this game still manages to deliver so much fun in its small package that it’s almost unbelievable. And I certainly found it more fun than Democracy which has more polish, but not as much appeal and power of attraction.

So if you’re up for these kinds of games, head over to Steam and get yourself a copy of Rogue Nation. You’ll find out just how fun it is to constantly fail as a leader!

Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture Review

In the 5-6 hours it took me to unravel the mysteries within Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, I found myself experiencing an abundance of feelings. Confusion, wonder, despair and pity all overwhelmed me as despite it’s seemingly simple premise, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture’s story turned out to be deceivingly intricate.

Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is set in an abandoned, post-apocalyptic rendition of fictional Yaughton Valley in Shropshire (England). The player must explore the valley, interacting with phones and radios in the area in order to uncover the nitty-gritty details of the apocalyptic event. Alongside the various means of telecommunications the player may interact with for guidance and information, there are also fascinating orbs of light that accompany and loosely lead the player throughout the game. Occasionally, these orbs trigger various visions of once residents of the valley. Although some visions are initiated naturally, others must be activated. This is done by tilting the controller in order to tune the frequency of the orb, in a sense. When done correctly, surroundings will darken as if night has fallen and the the recollection of past events will play out. Using a combination of the past events visualized and the information from radios and phones, the player must piece together a timeline of events, in order to try to unveil the primary cause of the disappearance of an entire valley.

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Unsettling Setting

Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture’s setting is a key aspect to maintaining interest and intensity throughout a evidently slow-paced playthrough. The peaceful and tranquil setting can become almost uncomfortable at times in contrast with the dark and sinister plot of the game. I mean, come on, the 1980’s village setting is eerie enough in itself, let alone with no trace of life anywhere. The setting is equally brilliant for toying with the players ideas of what could have happened. Everything seems untouched, cigarettes sit in ashtrays as if left mid smoke, picnics left prepped upon hilltops, there is no real trail of destruction. This consequently will truly lead the player into questioning the reasoning behind the apocalyptic occurrence.

Finally, there is the matter of how aesthetically pleasing the setting is generally speaking, With lack of human existence, Yaughton Valley appears so pure and naturally rich. Accompanied by an outstanding and extremely haunting soundtrack by composer Jessica Curry, the ambiance of the setting is almost melancholy despite it’s apparent beauty.  The setting as a whole is so well developed by Chinese Room and just adds an important level of depth and emotion to Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture.

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Getting In On The Gossip

Throughout playing Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, the player will encounter apparitions of light – as mentioned prior, in the form of a select few former residents of the valley. These characters include a parishioner at war with himself, a couple – both of which being scientists, an owner of a holiday camp on the valley outskirts, a farmer and also a pushy mother that is renowned for almost watching over the Valley residents. Not only will the player indulge in these stories for their significance in ultimately piecing together what happened, but also for investigating how each story intertwines with the next, gradually developing a more vivid idea of the timeline of events leading up the apocalypse and the many personal questions looming over the residents. The fun in this is derived from the lack of structure to the assortment of information provided. The structure must be the players own. I’d have a notebook ready if I were you.

The characters within Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture are well developed and casted and in being so are easy to revel in. As mentioned briefly before, the complex and riveting stories of the characters within the game are vitally important due to the generally slow-paced style in which the game plays out. There is no combat or particularly fast movement within the gameplay. However, the intensity of the story compensates wonderfully. As you rush between visions and feeds of information, it becomes easy to forget the whole ideal of finding answers as you almost become lost in the soap opera unfolding between the characters you meet.

Towards the end of the game, the player will feel inclined to a great feeling of satisfaction. Their theories on what could have happened are revealed to be correct or not alongside the many loose ends of the stories throughout are tied. They can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Emotionally Ensnared 

Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is a game orientated around making the player ‘feel’. To say it accomplishes just that is an understatement. To compare a game that had me feeling how this game made me feel, I could only use Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us. This is mainly because it is the only game that has left me feeling so empty upon it concluding. Despite Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture’s finale, as I watched the credits roll to the hymnal music, I felt uncertain despite having all my questions answered, feeling the only way I could fill the void the game had left within me would be by playing a second time.

Alongside the ending there is the span of emotions the residents’ stories and radio installments will make the player feel. As they come to terms with the relationships between the characters, they will be overcome with feelings ranging from pity to anger to happiness. It is all really overwhelming to be quite honest.

Overall, throughout the player’s journey through Yaughton Valley, it is apparent there is a prominent feeling of fear as the player will no doubt question how they play and proceed throughout the game as if they were living the events occurring within the game for themselves.

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All In All  

Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture does well to exhibit that a game does not require intense, hands-on combat, a dangerous and unpredictable setting or even ‘living’ characters in order to be a wonderfully emotional and memorable game. Developers masterfully ensure players have guidance if required via the orbs of light, but can also explore the post-apocalyptic setting to their own leisure if they wish. With its primary focus being enlightenment of the unknown, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is quite a frightening and uncomfortable game. The setting, Yaughton Valley in which most residents live in each others pockets, aware of one another’s business is perfect for making the game more believable and all the more creepy in being so.

Despite the profound sense of emptiness I felt upon finishing this game, I would still recommend it to anyone that loves a game with the ability to not only test you mentally, but to also truly make you feel.

The Grand Tournament Cards Preview #3: New Legendaries; Ranked Rewards

The Grand Tournament is coming to Hearthstone soon, and all of the cards have been revealed.  To finish out our preview of the expansion, we’ll be looking at all of the new class legendaries and one neutral legendary that demonstrates one of the new mechanics coming to the game.

We also have news of new rewards being added to the game for playing in ranked mode.  Starting this month, every player to rank higher than 20 will receive a chest of prizes.  These chests will contain the monthly card back as awarded for reaching rank 20 in previous seasons as well as golden cards and dust.  The higher you climb the ladder, the better your chest will be.  Your chest will also be based on the highest rank you reached within the month rather than your current rank when the month ends, so you have no reason to stop playing on ladder and trying to climb as high as you can.  The best chest is earned by reaching rank 5, but you’ll still have a shot at hitting rank legend and earning points towards a spot at the Hearthstone World Championship.

This is great change to the game as Hearthstone has had a serious issue with players using powerful decks at rank 20 and casual mode in order to grind gold against inexperienced players.  Before, the only incentive to climb the ladder was the exclusive card back, which was easy to obtain, or points for the Championship at rank legend that only so many have the time to reach for.  Anything inbetween ranks 20 and legend was just a matter of grinding gold, and bullying unsuspecting players produced gold much faster.  With incentive to climb latter, Hearthstone should become more welcoming to new players and experimentation with more quirky decks.  With that out of the way, let’s get into some of the newest legendary cards.

SkeletonKnight

Let’s start things off with a look at the new jousting mechanic.  Jousting effects pull a random minion from each deck and compare there mana costs.  If yours has the higher cost, you’ll win the joust and trigger a special effect.  With The Skeleton Knight, you’ll joust when he dies and get a chance to bring him back to your hand to play again.  Jousting is mainly being added to discourage aggressive decks with low-cost minions by rewarding decks that have more late-game minions.  The major issue with jousting is that you have to consider how good the card is even if you lose the joust.  While there are plenty of good joust cards, Skeleton Knight is one of the worst as top-heavy minions are very easy to trade up on.  Even if you are able to play the Skeleton Knight a few times before he goes down for good, he’ll rarely give your opponent much trouble in knocking him back.

Fizzlebang

Wilfred Fizzlebang, the gnome warlock famous for unintentionally summoning the fearsome Jaraxxus, looks like a potent card, but there’s also a lot holding him back.  On the one hand, making any card cost zero mana is extremely useful and can lead to incredible plays.  However, there is no chance of Wilfred being left alive for more than one turn.  By turn 6, your opponent is not going to have much trouble clearing a 4/4 no matter what class s/he is playing as.  As such, it’s best to think of him as an 8 mana minion that draws you a card and reduces its cost.  That can still be incredibly strong, but also keep in mind that you won’t know what you’re discounting until after you’ve discounted it.  You’ll cheer for a free Jaraxxus or Malganis, but something will probably get broken if you just knock one mana off of Mortal Coil.

Aviana

Again, we have an issue of an incredibly strong effect being attached to a weak body.  If most decks can deal with a 4/4 by turn 6, you can bet that a 5/5 at turn 9 won’t last.  However, Aviana does have the advantage of being a Druid card and the Druid class is infamous for manipulating the mana curve.  Combined with an Innervate or two, Aviana can give you an unfathomably scary board in the blink of an eye.  Even without Innervate, you can still play her on turn 10 with any minion that can help protect her, like Kel’Thuzad or Ancient of War.  Keep her alive for even one turn and your board presence is going to be indomitable.  If there’s one thing Aviana is likely to excel at, it’s making Ramp Druid even more fearsome than it already is.

Anubarak

Like I said with Skeleton Knight, top-heavy minions are generally bad because they’re easy to shut down.  Anub’arak, however, looks to be the exception to that rule.  Along with a guarantee of returning to your hand, he also leaves a Nerubian behind to maintain board-presence.  His only weakness is silence, which shuts down his cycle of aggression entirely.  Anub’arak will work best in decks filled with cards that can bait out silence effects early and leave the path open for him to clinch the game.  It’s an interesting idea, but how viable he actually is will have to be seen.

Eadric

Depending on where the game is at when you play him, Eadric the Pure is either one of the best cards or one of the worst.  Reducing the attack of all enemy minions to 1 can take the teeth out of even the fiercest opposition.  However, if you’re already far enough behind, that may still be enough damage to finish you off.  If the aggressive meta game that Hearthstone is currently experiencing continues, than Eadric’s presence will be moot.  However, in a slower, more control focused meta, he can easily become an auto-include for any Paladin deck.  His worth simply comes down to what your opponent is playing rather than building your own deck around him.

Rhonin

Having a handful of Arcane Missiles doesn’t sound great, but that’s only because Arcane Missiles is a weak card when played once.  Stack three of them together, and you suddenly have a better version of Avenging Wrath for half the cost.  Plus, having it across three cards means that you can keep one or two in reserve for later.  Also, teaming up Rhonin and Antonidas is pretty good when it comes to straight-up winning the game.  Really, the only downside to Rhonin is that your opponent will have a good shot at silencing him and denying his effect entirely.

Paletress

Once again, stat lines are very important.  Compared to Fizzlebang and Aviana, Paletress is the least reliable of them all because of the great amount of randomness involved in her.  While summoning a free legendary sounds incredible, keep in mind that there are plenty of weak legendaries to go with the great ones.  Yeah, it would be great to suddenly have Ysera or Tirion or Deathwing on the board, but you could also end up with Nat Pagle or Stalagg or either of the new Hunter legendaries (we’ll get to them).  Plus, you’re only going to get one good shot at bringing a good one to the board as your opponent isn’t going to let you roll the dice for long.

Varian

Warrior may have struck gold with the best new class legendary.  High King Varian Wrynn does take a lot of commitment with a cost of 10 mana, but he can easily seal the game in your favor.  Even in the worst case scenario, you get a 7/7 and draw three spells and/or weapons for your next turn.  Best case scenario puts three more massive minions onto the board and win you the game.  Imagine summoning Deathwing, Kel’thuzad, and Grommash all after putting Varian on the board.  Even getting your smallest minions is still an incredible effect.  The only downsides is that Varian does poorly in high-speed games and summoning minions with valuable battlecries can be suboptimal, but he is a monster in long games with a focus on controlling the board.  I was hoping to see more good Arena cards for Warrior, and I can’t think of a more beastly way to win an Arena match than with the warrior king of the Alliance.

Mistcaller

This guy has a lot of excitement behind him, but let’s really think about how viable he is.  In the long game, Mistcaller is incredible as he applies a permanent buff to all of your minions… That is, all of your minions that aren’t on the board already.  With a 4/4 stat line at 6 mana, he does little to effect the current state of the board.  While he is a big investment for the future of the game, he also gives your opponent an opening to seize the board now and make those buffs a moot point.  Having all those buffs sitting in your deck might sound like overkill, but it could all easily end up as unused resources.  He’ll likely be a strong card, but he’s not going to seal games in your favor as many are predicting.

AcidmawDreadscale

That’s right, Hunter is actually getting two separate legendaries with The Grand Tournament instead of just one.  This would be incredibly exciting news for Hunter players if the legendaries weren’t so underwhelming.  Acidmaw has the single worst stat line in Hearthstone history and a Magma Rager has a better chance of surviving a turn then he does.  The fact that his effect can also be used against you does not make him any more appealing.  Yes, he provides a board-clear when combined with Unleash the Hounds or his buddy Dreadscale, but you more or less have a worst Twisting Nether and when’s the last time you saw a Warlock run that.  Dreadscale, meanwhile, is basically half a Baron Geddon, and that can actually be pretty useful in Control Hunter decks that need to shut down early aggression.  Still, these are easily the least exciting class legendaries for this expansion.

If you want to see all of the new cards coming to Hearthstone, you can see them here.  There’s plenty of other incredible new cards to see that may make bold new decks possible.  Dragons with taunt, discard synergy for Warlock, good Arena cards for Warrior, and much more are coming when The Grand Tournament releases on August 24th.  Let us know what cards you’re most excited to play with in the comments below.

The Grand Tournament Cards Preview #2: Shaman and Hunter Cards

The new cards for The Grand Tournament expansion coming to Hearthstone are rolling out quick, so let’s waste no time in taking an in-depth look at ten more cards, including some of the new Shaman and Hunter cards being added to the game.

TuskarrTotem

One of the goals of TGT appears to be making totem decks a thing, as we have four new Shaman cards that all revolve around totem minions.  First, we Tuskarr Totemic, which finally brings the lovable tuskarr people to Hearthstone.  Totemic summons a random totem from any of the totem minions that exist in the game, be they from Shaman’s hero power or collectible cards.  At worst, he’s a 3/2 and a 1/1 totem for 3 mana, which is better than having Razorfen Hunter at least.  Getting a free Stoneclaw or Wrath of Air Totem is pretty good, while getting a Mana Tide or Flametongue Totem is great.  However, the best one you can get is…

TotemGolem

When Dark Cultist was added with Curse of Naxxramas, it blew everyone’s minds for being the first 3/4 for 3 mana minion in the game.  Then Spider Tank brought that same stat line to every class.  Now, Shaman is ready to make people weep by dropping that on turn two.  Yes, Totem Golem will overload you for 1 mana, but the level of board presence you’ll have at that point makes that a moot point.  The reason 3/4 minions are so strong is because most 3 drops have 3/3 stat lines and most early damage spells deal a maximum of 3 damage, so a 3/4 is incredibly hard to clear early on without falling behind.  To make this card even nastier, people will now have a reason to run Totemic Might as that can result in a 3/6 on turn two.  Keeping your totems alive is going be more important  now, anyway, because you’ll need them for…

DraeneiTotemcarver

The obvious point of comparison for Draenei Totemcarver is the Frostwolf Warlord.  In the worst case scenario of having to play on an empty board, Totemcarver is better as you have to dedicate less mana to a 4/4.  The downside is that she’ll only grow based on how many totems you have, so it’s more likely that she’ll end up as a 4/4.  Even with all of the totem synergy cards being added, I can’t help but feel skeptical that they’ll ever be prevalent enough to attract players to this card.  Still, even a single totem will make this worth more than the mana you’re putting into it, and it’s not like Shaman has a hard time coming up with them.

ThunderBluffValiant

Being a 3/6 for 5, Thunder Bluff Valiant has decent stats, but it’s his inspire effect that makes him incredibly strong.  The biggest weakness of most totems is that they have no attack power and have to act more as utility tools rather than minions in their own right.  Your opponent will have a decent chance at shutting him down, but he can quickly seal the game in your favor should he last.  It’s worth noting that he’ll buff the totem that spawn with your hero power as well as any you already have on the field, so you’re bound to get something good from him every time.  The buffs also attach directly to the totems, so you won’t lost them once Valiant falls.  Even if you’re not running a totem-focused deck, this is still a card that can serve you well.

LockNLoad

Ever since Starving Buzzard was nerfed to oblivion, Hunter has been lacking a reliable draw engine and its options have been limited as a result.  However, Hunter is still one of, if not the, strongest class in the current meta game and handing out a generally good draw engine would only make it more powerful.  Lock and Load hopes to hit that sweet spot of enabling new Hunter strategies without playing even more into the high aggression playstyle.  It’s a curious spell as it actually does nothing on its own; you have to combo it with at least one other spell to have any kind of effect.  If you save up a lot of spells for a late-game combo, you can easily come out of it with a fresh hand still intact.  However, think about the kind of deck you’d have to run to make that kind of strategy viable.  Plus, you never know what you’ll get out of Lock and Load.  It may be a spell that you can easily extend your combo with like Arcane Shot, or you end up with Houndmaster or King of Beasts for a deck that has only a few beasts.  Not only will you need a supply of cheap spells to chain with, you’ll also want to tailor your deck to work with every Hunter card to some degree.  It’s a very niche card and it’s hard to imagine where exactly it will find its place.

BallOfSpiders

For as intimidating as throwing a cluster of live spiders at your enemies sounds, Ball of Spiders isn’t making a strong first impression on people.  The effect is useful enough as Webspinner has proven itself to be a very useful minion that keeps you supplied on beasts.  Getting three of these out of a single card should be a great deal.  The problem is that the mana cost is far greater than the board presence you’ll get out of it.  Yes, you’ll get more cards out of it, but you’ll still need to pay the individual mana costs of each of those cards and you may have seriously fallen behind on tempo by that point.  Honestly, it looks like this is being added more as a counterpoint to Lock and Load than something intended to be played on its own.

RealKingsDefender

This one needs some correction as this card was shown on a previous article, but it turns out it wasn’t a proper representation of the card.  That version was based on a mistranslation that claimed that King’s Defender could gain durability for every minion with taunt you control while equipping it.  As it turns out, it can only gain a maximum of one extra durability if you have any taunt minions.  It’s certainly a letdown, but it still has potential in certain situations.  While it won’t be pulling Warrior out of its current rut with Arena, a weapon that can potentially trade three for one is still a pretty good deal.  Taunt is something that appears in almost every deck, but having it out early enough and surviving to then play this on curve is another story.  It does work really well with Annoy-o-Tron, but having both of them is something you can only really count on in constructed where there’s really no reason to use this went you’ve already got Fiery War Axe at your disposal.

GarrisonCommander

The ability to reuse your hero power several times a single turn was too good of an effect to reserve for Mages alone given the introduction of inspire effects, so it’s good to see that Garrison Commander is bringing it to every class.  Granted, his effect is a lot more limited than the Coldarra Drake, but that’s just the kind of concession you have to make with neutral cards.  While you typically want a 3/2 on turn 2 that can trade up on most 3 drops, a 2/3 is still a fair stat line that can give you enough longevity from this card for it to make a significant impact.  This is definitely worth picking up for almost any deck.

ClockworkKnight

On the one hand, there aren’t many good 5 drops in the game and Clockwork Knight looks like a great option for mech decks.  On the other hand, the good 5 drops we do already have are extremely good.  Azure Drake, Sludge Belcher, Antique Healbot, and Loatheb all make for stiff competition for turn 5.  However, none of are perfect fits for mech decks and Clockwork Knight can still find his place in the meta game.  It’s just a matter of seeing if people are willing to give up the utility of those cards for a deck that fully dedicates itself to mech synergy.

JusticarTrueheart

Unless Blizzard has something really crazy hiding up their sleeves, this is looking to be the best new legendary to come out of TGT.  While her stat line is incredibly weak, her ability to permanently upgrade your hero power easily makes up for it.  For reference, here is how she’ll effect each hero power:

TrueheartPowers

Note that she won’t be able to upgrade your hero power a second time, and she won’t effect special hero powers like those given by Jaraxxus or Majordomo Executus.  Only starting hero powers can be changed by her.  Still, essentially doubling the effect of your power is incredibly potent and there couldn’t be a better time for this effect to be introduced.  Warlock may be the one to gain the most as easy card draw is an incredibly power effect.  Shaman will also benefit greatly as its greatest weakness is the randomness of its hero power.  Getting the totem you need on command is going to be extremely powerful.  Mage, Paladin, and Warrior only need their powers doubled for this to be useful, and Priest can follow up with Auchenai Soulpriest to become a living nuke.  However, the last three classes may not get enough out of it.  Druids only use their hero power as a last resort and doubling it isn’t going to change much.  Hunter already has a perfect storm of aggression and Trueheart would, ironically, only slow that down.  Finally, Rogue is getting it the worst with a single, underwhelming attack point to the daggers.  Given the fact that Rogue already has spells like Deadly Poison and alternate weapons like Assassin’s Blade, investing a 6 drop to improve the standard dagger just seems redundant.  Still, the potency that Trueheart has for so many decks makes her the first must-have legendary of the next expansion.  Unless something even better is revealed, this should be the first TGT card that you craft.

The Grand Tournament Cards Preview: Hero Power Interactions; Mage Cards

The next big expansion for Hearthstone, The Grand Tournament, is on the way, and the biggest new twist being new interactions with hero powers.  This includes the new Inspire keyword that triggers an effect whenever you activate your hero power while that minion is on the board.  Sadly, all the theory-crafting that we would see planeswalker-like cards or mounts enter the game was proven wrong.  Still, we’ve got plenty of fascinating new cards that interact with hero powers, including some of the newest mage cards.

LowlySquire

The Lowly Squire offers a look into the basics of how the new Inspire ability will work.  Every time you use your hero power while he’s on the board, he’ll gain an attack point.  He’s a decent one-drop on par with Undertaker and Cogmaster.  While his effect isn’t as expedient as Cogmaster’s is in a mech deck, his potential growth can outweigh the Undertaker as you’ll always have access to a buff for him.  The difference is that hero powers can only be used so much at a time, so his growth is bound to be slow.  He’ll probably become a popular pick in Arena drafts given his versatility across all classes and decks.  For constructed play, he’ll fit in best with Face Hunter as that works best with aggressive plays and regular use of the hero power.

MaidenOfTheLake

This card definitely has a lot of potential, although we’ll need to see more Inspire cards to know just how much.  Cutting the cost of your hero power in half can open up a number of new plays to you, and the amount of health gives her a good chance of lasting for a few turns.  Combined with the right Inspire cards, there are plenty of possible deck builds that can be made with her.  It’s worth noting that the effects of multiple maidens won’t stack, so you won’t be able to cast your hero power for free under any circumstances.  Still, this is a card worth keeping your eyes on.

FrostGiant

This card looks insane at first, but think about the kind of game you’d have to play to discount this.  For the first ten turns, you’d have to use your hero power almost every turn to get an advantageous cost for him.  Hero powers are usually used when there are no better options sitting in your hand, so it will take a long time to get this guy’s price down.  Maybe the introduction of Inspire effects will make power-spamming a viable strategy, but I have my doubts that it will become that prevalent.  Even then, the popularity of Big Game Hunter makes it likely he’ll just be knocked down in a flash.  He’s also unlikely to take a place in Handlock decks as they already have all the muscle they need.  Warrior might have the best shot at making this card work given its penchant for longer games and heavy-use of its hero power.  However, this is bound to become a monster in Arena as decks don’t need to be built around it to get its cost down to zero and it can have a massive presence when your opponent least expects it.

KodoRider

For 8 mana, you can get two 3/5 minions and use your hero power for free off of one card.  It’s actually not that big of a deal on its own, but combo-focused decks that rely on having a lot of bodies on the board will certainly benefit from her.  Plus, if she sticks around, you can easily call in even more.  If you see your opponent bring one of these down, you’d better knock her out ASAP or you’re going to have a lot of angry rhinos beating on your face.  It’s worth noting that, while the rider herself isn’t a beast, all of kodos she summons are.  Also, the War Kodos won’t have the same effect attached to them as the rider, so this won’t grow out of control like we’ve seen with the Grim Patrons.  She can be useful in Arena, but she will be very situational given her high mana cost.  Still, most other epics are useless in Arena, so a situationally good card is better than getting stuck with Hungry Crab or Junkbot.

Saraad

Now the hero power interactions are really getting crazy.  I hope Nefarian enjoyed his stay, because Saraad shows much more promise.  Playing him on curve can be risky as there’s a good chance your opponent will be able to shut him down immediately.  Also keep in mind that you can get any collectible spell from any class in the game.  There’s a fair chance of getting a useless spell, like Deadly Poison as a Mage.  At the same time, you could get ahold of one of the most powerful spells in the game for little effort.  It’s not a legendary that’s going to set the meta game on fire, by any means, but it’s worth playing around with just to see what you can get.

ColdarraDrake

This brings us to some of the new Mage cards, and we’ve got an insanely good one to start us off.  Coldarra Drake is worth playing just for being a 6/6 dragon at 6 mana, but the unlimited use of your hero power opens up a lot of possibilities.  Admittedly, you’ll often be better off playing cards from your hand, but it’s a very handy option that can keep you well ahead of your opponent.  Let’s not forget about the Maiden of the Lake who makes for an incredibly potent tag-team with this drake.  However, I think they still need one more friend to really shine, like…

FallenHero

Let’s do the math: Two Fallen Heroes + Coldarra Drake + Maiden of the Lake + full mana pool = dropping the sun on your opponent’s head.  Alright, that’s not a very realistic scenario, but putting any of these three minions together will make your hero power extremely powerful.  The 3/2 for 2 stat line is also irresistible.  This is absolutely going to be a card worth tracking down.

Effigy

Finally, we have a new secret card and looks incredibly powerful.  After losing a minion, you instantly get a new one on the board of the same mana cost.  It could be any minion in the game, including ones exclusive to other classes, so long as they match the cost of the target.  The obvious comparison is that it’s a Recombobulator as a secret.  It definitely has potential, but there are two major downsides to it.  Being a secret, it can only trigger on your opponent’s turn and this means they’ll get to decide which minion triggers it.  Having any kind of body on the board is better than none, but you can easily get stuck with the worst possible result.  Second, there are plenty of minions that have their mana costs tied to battlecry effects that won’t factor into being summoned by Effigy.  Getting a Novice Engineer, Defender of Argus, or Faceless Manipulator off of Effigy is certainly going to be a let-down.  This kind of backfire is the same reason why Recombobulator sees little action, despite being a very strong card.  If you want to maximize its effect, you’ll want to save it for the late-game when your board only has high-cost minions that will most likely get you something great.

These are just the start of the 132 new cards being added to Hearthstone with The Grand Tournament.  We’ll be looking at more new cards very soon, including new Shaman and Hunter cards, so keep your eyes on VgamerZ.  Until then, remember to never drink and joust and don’t forget to tip your squire (I’m sorry I’m not sorry).

Loose Impressions: The Masterplan

Masterplan

Picture this: You and your crew are driving through the wet and dreary streets of an unknown city in some rust bucket of a van. So are you thinking, what is the masterplan? On your last heist you picked up an advertisement for a minimart bragging that their prices were so low, you’d end up leaving with more money than you came with. And that’s exactly what you plan to do.

A bead of sweat rolls down your face as you pull up to the minimart because you heard the owner’s got an extensive security system and is packing heat. The quelling sound of the rain hitting the pavement does little to calm your nerves.

As you enter the convenience store your partner notices a secluded door in the back of the building that leads to the camera system. You see that the clerk monitors the cameras from the register, so you wait until the clerk leaves for the bathroom to run through the door, past the camera, and to the switch to turn off the cameras. So guys, we are going to reveal the masterplan.

At the same time your partner follows the clerk into the bathroom and holds him up. The clerk is too scared to notice that your partner is only packing a toy gun. On your way to the bathroom you run by the register, grab some cash, the clerk’s shotgun, and then you knock the clerk out. When he lands on the bathroom tile a key falls out of his pocket, which leads to another back room and a safe. Your partner breaks the safe with a safebuster, and the two of you make a mad dash back to the van to make a clean getaway.

This, my friends, is The Masterplan.

So, What’s the Masterplan?

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The organic excitement bred in the heist I described above is from one of the earlier missions in the game, but you actually start off breaking out of jail in one of the wonkiest tutorials I’ve experienced to date (mobile games aside).

You’re lead up to the tutorial with a little backstory about your character, Joey Green, who was an honest working man until the Nixon era did him in. Left unemployed, Joey is left to selling drugs because it’s the only way to make a living. After finding some initial success, Nixon fabricated a war on drugs and Joey ends up gunned down in cold blood by some crooked cops. Fortunately, Joey survives and wakes up in said jail cell where the game begins to teach the mechanics in the clumsiest way possible.

In the cell you learn the basics on how to control your character, but even more interesting, you’ll learn how your character can control others with intimidation. In the tutorial you’ll find a plastic gun with no ammo in a cake (a possible Portal reference) and you use this gun to force the only cop on duty into getting the key, unlocking your cell, and letting you escape.

The power of intimidation is one of the game’s most inspired mechanics and plays an integral role in every heist you’ll pull. Whether it’s using it just to lead your victim to their secluded death or forcing them to commit atrocities for you, there is no denying its effectiveness.

Oddly enough, it’s a mechanic that is incredibly flexible. Players can choose to just knock out bystanders, kill them, or simply manipulate them. Taking any of these paths will dramatically change the way a heist is pulled off, and can make seemingly easy heists become much more difficult.

Pulling off a perfect heist requires a lot of careful planning, however. You’ll usually have multiple objectives you need to hit and there are plenty of things to go wrong. Civilians are perhaps the most annoying variable in the game. They just come and go as they please and if they see anything suspicious then they run off to go call the cops.

Security guards and security cameras are other obstacles in your way, though they can be easy to deal with for the most part. Both have field of view cones, but you can be spotted by a security camera and be totally fine if no one is there watching it. And even if there is someone then you’ll have a few seconds to get out of the cone before they become suspicious and check things out. Security guards on their own will ignore you until they find you somewhere you aren’t supposed to be or they catch you doing something illegal.

 

Difficult by Design

the masterplan review 03

To be frank, most of the game’s difficulty lies in its level design. Dealing with guards and security cameras are simple until the level is arranged in a way that you’re forced to deal with them in uncomfortable or high pressure scenarios.

Most of the people in each level have their own patterns of behavior which creates opportunities to pull off fun things. Knocking people out while they’re on the can is always a favorite of mine. But the game can be a bit frustrating when there is a maze of masterplan corridors and each door seems to be locked by a different color key. So, while I mostly enjoy each heist’s layout, I also find myself wanting to turn the game off when it seems like I’m going to have to painstakingly crawl my way through a dungeon of locked doors and security cameras.

 

Wrapping Up

 

To be honest, I thought this game was going to be a lot like Monaco, but I’m pleasantly surprised to report that it plays more like SWAT 4 or Door Kickers. So you know about our masterplan? The art design will undoubtedly be hit or miss for a lot of players. I personally thought the characters looked like blown up sprites from GTA II, and the art style really kind of fits the game’s overall presentation. Everything is a little bit cheeky and fun — even when the game’s not. The not fun parts are far and few between, though.

Everything about the game feels really organic. New heists are unlocked by finding memos of interesting places littered about the world, guns are unlocked by finding suppliers, and you can hire fresh blood by choosing from a pool of potential candidates. Even the heists feel like the NPCs have their own routines and you’re just there to mess it all up.

I did find some of the controls to be clunky. For instance, picking up items on the ground requires a right click which is the same button to open your character’s inventory screen. So when your character is standing on top of items you’re trying to pick up then it always prioritizes the inventory action over the pick up action. Fortunately, these are minor issues at best.

The Masterplan retails for $19.99 on Steam, and while I haven’t played through the game fully yet, I absolutely love what’s here. Players that like methodical games where you have to manage multiple team members to solve what is essentially a glorified puzzle will really like the game. For those of you still on the fence, wait for a sale.