Hearthstone is no stranger to branching well beyond its traditional roots, with its continually wacky Tavern Brawls, a battle royale mode, and various singleplayer quirks and challenges. So it’s no surprise that with games like Slay the Spire, Monster Train, Griftlands and other card-based roguelikes going ballistic, Hearthstone would give it a shot. So that’s what Hearthstone Mercenaries is.
Blizzard announced the new game mode to Hearthstone alongside the latest expansion, Forged in the Barrens. The mode is supposedly due out later this year, although Blizzard wasn’t prepared to show off any gameplay at the time of writing.
Here’s the rough basics of what we know. Due out “later in 2021”, the mode will have singleplayer and multiplayer offerings. It doesn’t explicitly say whether the mode is broken into singleplayer or multiplayer offerings, although it does note that there will be a “PvP mode”:
Players will face a new selection of randomly generated encounters every time they start a Mercenaries run, earning in-game achievements and rewards to bolster their team as they battle their way to the final boss. And in PvP mode, players will be able to pit their mercenary teams against all comers.
You’ll start by recruiting mercenaries, including characters like Ragnaros and Sylvannas Windrunner. Those characters will gain XP and eventually evolve into more powerful creatures. (It sounds a little like Legends of Runeterra, but with a more straightforward levelling mechanic rather than the unique circumstances that apply to each character.)
What sounds strange is how the actual combat works. Rather than straightforward Hearthstone gameplay, or what happens in Hearthstone Battlegrounds which functions more like an auto battler, Hearthstone Mercenaries has more of a tactical combat system.
After selecting the mercenaries you want to fight, each player will then lock in certain actions every turn. Your actions and the opponent’s actions (in PvP or PvE) then pan out simultaneously.
Or that’s what it sounds like, anyway. It’s a little unclear:
Mercenaries features a fast-paced combat system that rewards cunning and anticipation. Before each fight, players will select mercenaries from their team to participate in battle. Each turn, they’ll pick their team’s actions simultaneously with their opponents and watch the results of the fight play out.
I’m keen to see how Hearthstone Mercenaries actually pans out. It’s scheduled for release “later in 2021”.