Expansion Review – Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas

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At long last, the game mode that Hearthstone fans have all been waiting for – Curse of Naxxramas is finally here! Hearthstone has taken the gaming world by storm, bridging the gap for everyday gamers to engage in competitive card gaming and pave the way for a more casual CCG option. Until Hearthstone launched, the majority of competitive card games were viewed, from the outside, as being complex and difficult, with wave after wave of convoluted game mechanics, meta-rules and procedures that, for many, created a barrier to learning the game properly. Titles like Magic: The Gathering and Duel of Champions have done extremely well, but over the course of Hearthstones launch week, it quickly stomped over its competition, creating an eSports following, fansites, deckbuilder apps and all sorts; it truly solved the CCG problem.

One thing, however, was missing. Most competitive card games teach players the general rules through a story mode, or a campaign, that lets you ease yourself in and enjoy the game, with the pleasant distraction of a plot, to break the game into more digestible chunks. Despite Hearthstone’s ease of access, you really didnt have much choice when it came to how you player the game – play the computer, or play the community, in exactly the same manner. Or, at best, play “Arena”, which has a few minor differences, plus the added thrill of pseudo-gambling, but it really wasn’t a far cry from the standard game mode. That’s where Curse of Naxxramas came in, promising to give the World of Warcraft themed game some lore unto its own, a plot and some substance, for players to get stuck into.

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After playing the trial for most of its launch day, I was disappointed, and have remained underwhelmed by it ever since. Naxxramas, admittedly comes with a bunch of new stuff and the new cards are a refreshing addition to the game, but was the campaign itself all that it had been played up to be? Not a chance. Other CCG videogames take you on vast adventures across maps; creating rivalries, telling stories and giving hour after hour of enjoyment, as you lead your card-wielding protagonist through a labyrinth of tests.

Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas, by comparison, was a straight line. You are introduced to very few new characters, a couple of slightly tweaked mechanics and literally no plot at all, besides a cursory speech bubble at the start and end of each battle. Within a day I had grown bored and, even with all of the new cards and combos to experiment with, got the feeling that the other pay-to-play chapters of the game would be left to gather dust for some time.

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On the plus side, there are a couple of nice features, such as the “home advantage” given to your opponents and the challengin Heroic mode, which will teach you a thing or two about deck building along the way, as you regroup, in search of its coveted, new card-back. The new content is nice, especially since it’s free, but the $6.99 expansions are less than attractive right now and, from a competitive perspective, the time in the Naxxramas Necropolis feels like it could have been better spent in the Arena or in Ranked.

The second wing of the Curse of Naxxramas expansion goes Live tomorrow, and you can still get the first part for free, but, be sure to try it before sinking money on the sequels.