Hearthstone Mercenaries looks like auto-chess with cards

Blizzard showed off Hearthstone’s new Mercenaries mode today, along with the reveal that Diablo’s Lord of Terror is being added as a new card for Mercenaries. Hearthstone Mercenaries launches on October 12, and there’s lots to go over, including how the new mode mixes RPG gameplay with a new take on card combat, so let’s dive in.

In Mercenaries, you start off in a village where you can manage everything from your card collection, collect rewards, and select bounties to chase after. The village will let players upgrade buildings as they earn more experience, allowing players to earn more rewards down the line.

From the village, you’ll select a bounty to go after, where you’ll fight through at least a couple of procedurally generated battles before reaching the bounty target.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Rather than building a deck of creatures to summon, you’ll select up to six mercenary characters to manage. These characters can be damage-dealing fighters, spell-slinging casters, or tank-like protectors. Every mercenary then has three slots for abilities and three slots for equipment, which you unlock as your mercenary gains more experience and completes achievements or task board quests.

As you progress towards defeating your bounty, you’ll move along through encounters, with the occasional chance to heal or find point-of-interest nodes that can add in new characters, rule changes, or boons or debuffs.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Okay, but how do we actually fight with just six characters? Three mercenaries from your bench get put out onto the field while the other three sit back. Once you’ve placed your mercenaries in position, they’re stuck there for their entire time on the field, but replacement mercenaries can be put anywhere when summoned.

In the command phase, you’ll select a mercenary and one of their abilities, each of which has a speed number determining turn order. This makes combat a mix of trying to anticipate your enemy’s abilities, not unlike a game of auto-chess minus the chess, and maybe a bit more roguelike. You can read Blizzard’s official gameplay details here for a full description. For completing the prologue, players get eight mercenaries, which makes a full team.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

If all that sounds like a lot to take in for what amounts to a new mode, you’re not alone. A number of Hearthstone fans felt lost on how the mode works. Blizzard’s presenters were definitely focused on showing off Mercenaries characters along with their abilities and equipment, but at the expense of explaining how the core gameplay works, hence the several blogs going into more detail.

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Some players also expressed concern that Blizzard has introduced another card collecting system featuring its own “Mercenary Coins” currency which pays for Mercenaries packs. An associate writer for Hearthstone has confirmed that players can use Hearthstone’s in-game gold currency to buy Mercenaries packs as well, which has some players concerned that wealthier opponents might have a pay-to-win advantage.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Also very exciting (and easier to grasp) is the addition of a character from outside Warcraft lore to play as. Blizzard announced that Diablo’s Lord of Terror will be available in Mercenaries mode in either a pre-purchase bundle or from in-game Mercenaries packs and the crafting system. The Lord of Terror is joined by the Lich King and Sylvanas as their own Mercenaries cards, both of which come with their own pre-purchase bundle or through in-game packs and crafting.

Finally, any player who starts a new bounty after the introductory missions will receive Hearthstone’s Sarge the mouse as a mount in World of Warcraft. I haven’t seen a rat that big since Dark Souls.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Remember to follow our Hearthstone coverage for more down the road.

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