I’ve always had an affinity towards card games. Whether it was Magic: The Gathering, Star Wars CCG, Pokemon, or even just regular Poker, I just couldn’t get enough of them as a child. Unfortunately, I just haven’t had the time or the money to keep up with the latest physical customizable card games, however, virtual CCGs have been all the rage lately. I’ve played my fair share of virtual titles, including Magic The Gathering: Online, Hearthstone, and Shadow Era, so when I was offered the chance to play some Hex with Cory Jones, president and CEO of Hex Entertainment, at E3 this year, I obviously jumped at the opportunity. Jones helped create the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, which inspired his idea to incorporate MMO designs into a TCG.
“Hex is the first real attempt to make a fully digital MMO meets TCG. I really wanted to see what a fully digital MMO and TCG would look like together. What we have is a fully featured TCG and we’re starting to roll in some of the MMO elements,” said Jones.
Hex started out as one man’s vision to merge TCG and MMO, but it’s gotten quite a bit of publicity since then. After being one of the most successful Kickstarter’s ever, Hex has moved onto the open beta phase and is about to release its third card set, Armies of Myth.
“About a year and a half in we ended up going to Kickstarter. We raised about $2.5 million; I think at the time we were at the top 5 Kickstarters ever. That was about 2 years ago. In the mean time we’ve been putting out content, eventually launched our alpha, we’re in a public beta now,” said Jones. “We’re actually a pretty big community at this point; it’s been growing, getting bigger and bigger. This is going to be the biggest digital TCG there is.”
Although I never played Hex before E3, I’m aware that it often takes a card game quite a while to build up enough cards for a wide variety of playable decks. Even the massively popular Hearthstone only has a few dominating decks in the meta because there really aren’t that many options out yet. This is likely why Hex has focused on building up enough cards to make a quality CCG before focusing on the MMO aspects, which have just begun. In addition to more cards, the expansion will feature chests and 3 new abilities: Shift, Prophecy and Allegiance. Chests will simply be another fun feature when opening card packs that grant small bonuses. Players will also be able to spin the Wheels of Fate, by using gold, in an attempt to obtain higher quality chests.
Shift is any interesting keyword that allows a player to move an ability from one card to another permanently for the cost of 1 resource. After the ability is moved the shift keyword falls off, but multiple powers can be stacked on the same troop. While Shift allows for an immediate impact on the battlefield, Prophecy grants +2/+2 to the next troop in the deck. This is intended for players interested in controlling longer matches and offers an excellent chance for a comeback. The Allegiance keyword is different altogether, and simply allows for actions based on controlling similar units on the board or in hand. This is just another way to make the gameplay more dynamic by allowing cards to have more interaction with each other.
MORE THAN JUST PVP
While most card games focus almost primarily on PvP, Hex intends to expand upon its PvE elements and create a visceral experience not seen in any other TCG. Currently, the newest addition is the Frost Ring Arena, which pits the player against various levels of NPC opponents, with 20 in total and 6 unique bosses. The farther the player progresses the better the rewards will be, but lose and the run comes to an end. This latest patch also introduced PvE only cards and equipment, which are intended to be powerful, wacky and fun ways to beat up on the NPCs but not impacting PvP balance. One of the key things that Hex emphasizes is that it can do what physical card games, or virtual card games with physical counterparts, can’t.
“By taking these digital-only opportunities we’ve done some pretty good stuff. We’ve got some socketed cards. Here we have the Phoenix Guard Aeronaut. He has flight, he’s a 3/2 for 5,” said Jones. “I put the rage gem in and now he has Rage 1, which means every time he attacks he has +1 to his attack permanently. This idea of socketed cards is one of those really cool digital-only features.”
One of the most dynamic parts about Hex is how the meta can constantly evolve due to things like sockets, equipment and champions. Sockets allow certain cards to be modified in a number of ways to increase their power or give them increased utility. Normally, this sounds like it would either be a gimmicky feature stuck in a PvE only version of the game or that it could be completely unbalanced. Jones claims that his team of game designers has worked hard to ensure proper balancing for both PvP and PvE when it comes to cards that can essential change their intended design.
“This is in PvP too. We spent the times to balance these gems and this feature. I have a dozen full-time trading card game designers that are hyper-experienced that worked on lots of other games. We balance every set around the gems as part of it, that way all of our PvP can feature this part of the game,” said Jones.
While Hex might still be a long way off its promised merger of compelling MMO content and TCG, it does show a lot of promise and is a fun game in general. Hopefully, we’ll see some of the more interesting features in the near future, such as raids, dungeons, and puzzles. The newest expansion is currently playable on the test server and should be officially dropping in the near future.Related: Card Game, Developer, E3, E3 2015, Hex, Interview, Open Beta