|A topdecked Wish turns the game on its ear!|
In recent months, most of my posts about Hearthstone (that aren't game highlights, of course) have been complaints and criticisms. Today, I'm here to give credit where it's due. Dungeon Run - the new solo content introduced in Kobolds & Catacombs - is damn good!
I've been playing it whenever I can find the time, trying to complete a full run with each class. While I'm only about halfway done, I've played most heroes several times now and I'm still seeing new bosses. I'm not really surprised by the number of bosses (as that was announced in advance), but I am impressed with the quality of the experience.
The matches feel a lot more polished than even most of the adventure content we've seen over the last few years. That's saying something when you consider there's easily twice as many encounters as the largest adventures, and there's a deckbuilding mechanic in between battles!
When the announcement went out about Dungeon Runs, it was lauded as a roguelike variant for Hearthstone. In all, I think they captured the roguelike experience perfectly. I know some people are complaining about the randomness of it all, from card choices to the variety of boss mechanics, but that's exactly how it should work.
As a huge fan of roguelike dungeon crawlers, I know that each run will be different and nothing is guaranteed. For example, you may have to navigate an entire dungeon in the dark because the game never presented you with a lamp. Your entire playstyle can change instantly by stepping on a polymorph trap or finding some super-powered item.
This is represented in Dungeon Runs by your card choices in between fights. Treasures can skew your entire deckbuilding plan, and cards like Wand of Wonder and Wish can drastically change the state of a game immediately.
The roguelike feel is also accurately portrayed in the increasing complexity of turns as you get deeper in the dungeon. I have about 12-15 hours invested in Dungeon Runs already, and the majority of that time was spent analyzing every turn of the latter boss fights.
In roguelikes, most of the early game is typically automatic once you're used to that particular game's rules. You're killing lowbie monsters, but barely surviving because you too are a lowbie. Likewise, the loot, traps and other features are mostly unremarkable, but provide just enough to build you up and prepare you for more interesting and dangerous content. In the later stages, you must tread carefully and purposefully, as maximizing the effectiveness of each turn is crucial to survival.
Again, this is reflected in Dungeon Runs perfectly. You can usually take the early bosses by just going face, and you're forced to hurry because you'll be out of cards in only a few turns. After a few fights, you now have a deck large enough to support high-cost cards and the time to play them. Get to the latter bosses, and turns get so complex that you can (and should) take considerable time before acting.
By the way, props to Blizzard for not instituting a time limit on turns in this format. Giving players time to consider their options makes it so turns can be very complex and allows for strategies that would normally be discarded. For example, there was a battle where I and a spectating friend spent 15 minutes discussing the pros and cons of where to attack with a 1/1 Imp (and yes, it made a difference). Later that run (on the last boss Xol), we similarly went over the possibility of playing an early Bloodreaver Gul'dan (who was discounted to 0-mana thanks to Wand of Wonder) only to make use of its hero power. As odd and counter-intuitive as it sounds, that strategy turned out to be game-winning in that specific situation. I never thought I'd see each turn of Hearthstone look like a "Magic: the Puzzling" compilation, but lo and behold, it's here!
As for how Kobolds & Catacombs impacts constructed or arena play, I have no clue... and at the moment, I really don't care. I'm too busy happily enjoying Dungeon Runs, and I have to say that Blizzard absolutely nailed the roguelike experience!