The Hearthstone team announced some massive changes to their card game, revamping their Battlegrounds experience and previewing the highly anticipated Mercenaries Mode.
Hearthstone released Patch 21.2, the latest update to the game, significantly changing its auto-battler, Hearthstone Battlegrounds, and has begun to preview Mercenaries. Players will note some changes to the menu, with Battlegrounds and Mercenaries featuring on the main menu. At the same time, Solo Adventures has been pushed back into the Modes setting, implying Blizzard's decision to no longer prioritize the mode.
Battlegrounds have not changed significantly on a mechanical level. However, the game is rotating out many of its regular minions for new ones. The decisions in question have not removed any of the specific minion types in the game. However, they are introducing new methods of play for specific minion types. For example, the Mech minion type is now more reliant on Divine Shields, while Beasts have more Deathrattles.
The revamp has introduced a Battlegrounds-specific keyword; Avenge. Whenever a certain number of minions die in a battleground, the card's effect will activate. This keyword can trigger several times in a match and seems to be used across various minion types.
However, the more notable update has been Blizzard's unveiling of Mercenaries Mode. Originally teased during the BlizzConline event earlier this year, Mercenaries have been a critical theme of 2021's Hearthstone story, with an assortment of characters traveling the Barrens and Stormwind to pursue various goals. Now they're going to be incorporated into a new PvE mode.
Mercenaries Mode will focus on players controlling parties of "mercenaries," who will fight together to combat a variety of randomly generated threats in pursuit of a Bounty or final boss. Fighting through these bounties will allow players to level up and strengthen these mercs. These mercs will be older characters from Warcraft, including Sylvanas and Tyrande, alongside newer characters, like Xyrella and Tamsin Roame from Hearthstone.
Each character will come with their own set of abilities and equipment and will be categorized as either Caster, Fighters, or Protectors, creating a complex in-game system for players to try and fight through an assortment of threats. Players will have to determine their preferred abilities, organize their actions per their speed. As players level up, they can manage their collection, build cards, buy packs and do an assortment of tasks.
While details about the game have been released, actual gameplay footage was not available, making it hard to get a complete feel for how the game will look. The game appears comparable to Slay the Spire or Griftlands, two independent card-based roguelite games that have gained popularity in recent years.
Mercenaries will draw on a separate collection of cards and abilities, some of which can be pre-purchased today. Hearthstone now offers players a chance to pre-purchase several packs, including ones featuring Sylvanas Windrunner, The Lich King, and Diablo; the first non-Azerothian character introduced into Hearthstone to date.
Hearthstone Mercenaries will release on October 12. Hearthstone's next update comes amid allegations levied at Activision Blizzard by a California agency that the company descriminated against female employees at the company, particularly people of color. The complaint also alleges the company allowed a "frat boy culture" to flourish at the company, and has since alleged that the company shredded documents pertinent to the investigation, a claim Activision Blizzard says is "not true." Since then multiple high profile employees such as former Blizzard president J. Allen Brack have left the company while workers have staged a walkout to protest the allegations as well as Activision Blizzard's initial response to them.