Hey there HEXers,
Ben Stoll here to talk to you about PvE and the brand new mode of play: campaign. We know that you’ve been anxiously awaiting this feature launch. Now that we’ve finally got the campaign into your hands, we wanted to give you a little guide to what you have in front of you. As you’ve already or will soon realize, there is a lot of stuff—some stuff that you knew was coming, some stuff you’ll be sad that you have to wait a little longer for, and some delightful new surprises.
A separate article by Cory Jones himself details what you can expect next. Tons more is on the way following launch, and much of it is finally far along enough in development that we’re able to give you a bit of the road map for the future.
One of the major feature additions that we added to campaign was the Adventure Zone. In the HEX Kickstarter, you were basically navigating a map with just nodes and dungeons, clicking them to enter. Though a lot of core gameplay was there, we felt like the experience just wasn’t quite immersive enough. You could still feel like a unique character battling foes and becoming stronger, but that sense of being a part of the world of HEX and exploring Entrath didn’t come through to players.
With Adventure Zones, towns and dungeons are now located on a full-fledged map of encounters that you explore one bit at a time, often making your own choices about which route to take or which corner to uncover first.
The Adventure Zone adds a ton of content. Depending on whether or not you conceptualize the multi-part encounters, faction only encounters, etc. as contributing to the count, you’re looking at between 35 and 45 unique one-off encounters to beat in addition to all of the dungeon fights.
On top of all the aforementioned one-off encounters, you’ll find NPCs to chat with, gates that require keys, and a couple of other special types of nodes on the Adventure Zone. One example is the Shroomkin Haus, which offers you the choice of one of three PvE cards, giving you a little moment of power in how you shape your collection.
The addition of the Adventure Zone opened up a lot of mechanical space that we wanted to access. By having “one-off” encounters, we can make funky or extremely difficult fights that we wouldn’t want to put into the dungeons (which are designed to offer a depth of earnable rewards and thus are highly replayable). It also lets us craft cute minor story beats that aren’t as grand in scope as a dungeon. For those players who are interested in the roleplaying aspects of PvE, you’ll enjoy a more fully alive world populated with all sorts of characters, choices, and the like.
Dungeons are a bit different than the one-off encounters on the Adventure Zone. A dungeon is a sequence of encounters (sometimes with multiple paths to be taken) that culminates in a challenging Boss Encounter. By default, your character will have 3 lives, meaning you can lose twice on a Dungeon Run with no penalty, but after the third strike you’ll fail the dungeon, be ejected, and miss out on the bulk of the rewards (which are given for completing the whole dungeon). Of course, you’ll still get to take home whatever you have earned up until that point, just like you do in the Frost Ring Arena.
There are five repeatable Dungeons in Adventure Zone 1, each with their own unique characteristics, two of which are faction-specific. You’ve already seen Fort Romor, the Underworld-only dungeon. In total, AZ 1 yields 36 dungeon fights. Note that these counts don’t include what is technically the first dungeon (Crayburn Castle, which serves as a sort of tutorial dungeon) or the race-specific fights that you encounter there, as this is the only dungeon that is not repeatable.
The first time you complete each Dungeon with a given character, you will get a major quest reward, but every time you complete a dungeon you will earn gold and a Dungeon Pack: a pack of cards that is specific to that dungeon.
As such, you have both the ability to pick and choose what rewards you aim for. For those players that are hoping for a deeply replayable experience, rest assured you will be paid off for repeat dungeon runs. I’ll cover Dungeon Packs more thoroughly in the Rewards section, but first I want to get to your character in HEX.
We are launching with the Warrior, Cleric, and Mage classes and all 8 playable races. Especially for those of you who were particularly excited about Ranger, Rogue, and Warlock, you have my personal apologies. I promise they are on the way. Though you might not have your first choice now, you will still be able to pair each race with each class, so 24 of 48 eventual combinations are represented at launch.
Not only does each race have its own racial traits to add important context to your class, each race also has a unique shard grid with its own unique progression. This shard grid limits the cards you can put into your deck by combining the vectors of rarity and shard. For example, a Level 2 shin’hare will be able to include Wild cards (up to 3 copies of any common, 2 copies of any uncommon, 1 copy of any rare, and 1 copy of any legendary) but won’t be able to include any Sapphire cards at all. As you level, these totals will increase until finally, at level 30, you will be able to tackle the max level content with a fully unlocked collection (up to 4 copies of any given card no matter its shard).
Trust me when I say that, having tested the crap out of the campaign with and without the implementation of this system, the shard grid makes it way more fun. The experience of leveling up and getting to improve your deck a little bit at a time is not only fun and new, it ensures that the experience of leveling your character is equally comprised of a steady progression of class talents and deck strength, rather than your deck being able to start out at “Level 30,” as it were. The level cap is currently 9, and you can see the coyotle’s shard grid at that level on the right.
You will be given 200 cards for free upon character creation, and a subset of those cards forms your default starting deck in accordance with your shard grid. With the entire campaign feature release, we really tried to address the concerns of those players who have vocalized not being able to feel like they’re making progress in HEX without booster packs. You immediately have access to a large pool of cards, and after just four fights you’ll earn a powerful PvE rare that is specific to your race. That is the first of many PvE cards you can earn for free, as you’ll see in the Rewards section. For those of you who have the “Starter” decks that were available in the store, you’ll keep your decks and also add the 200 cards to your collection.
In total, there are 82 distinct class talents and racial traits to explore and 10 character slots available at launch, meaning you’ll be able to experiment with plenty of combinations should you so choose. Furthermore, while they aren’t here just yet, there will be some significant account-wide bonuses for having max level characters beyond your first, so you have a strong incentive to explore all the classes.
With over 100 new PvE Reward Cards (cards you can earn and put into your PvE decks) and nearly 200 brand new pieces of equipment, there will be plenty of loot for you to earn as you tackle the first Adventure Zone. There are any number of ways to earn rewards: you can earn cards from completing quests, from Shroomkin Hauses, for achieving a side-objective during an encounter, or from a Dungeon Pack (five unique packs for five unique dungeons) or an Adventure Zone 1 Pack (given out throughout the Adventure Zone).
Both packs will always contain five total reward items, which will consist of some combination of equipment, PvE cards, Stardust, and a subset of PvP commons. Dungeon packs for the most part share a common loot table. Add to that six unique PvE cards and 9 unique equipment specific to each respective dungeon’s pack, including one legendary card and one legendary equipment which drop at a very low rate. That means the Fort Romor Dungeon Pack has different unique cards than The Usurper Dungeon Pack, but they also pull from the shared pool of cards. Adventure Zone packs pull from a much larger, completely shared loot table.
To speak to the common PvP cards, we wanted to be able to offer access to some basic building block commons (especially for players that are just starting out), and we don’t want to have double up on those simple designs, because that would allow players to run what would functionally be 8x of a given effect (say, Kill) in their deck instead of 4. Because the vast majority of value in a PvP pack is relegated to the Rare/Legendary slot, we felt that offering a subset of the commons from our PvP sets to the campaign experience would not affect the value of players’ collections.
One of the things I am really proud of the R&D team is the amount of time spent on rewards in general. We spent a lot of time figuring out how much to give, how to give it, and on making fun and engaging designs that would pair well with the rest of the experience. We tried out a number of systems. Opening packs (you will get to open many throughout the campaign) is a core TCG experience and these packs created a fun little surprise. You won’t always be sure what event in the campaign is going to yield getting an Adventure Zone pack in your first time through, and that’s followed by the fun moment of busting open a pack of stuff and having a high range of possible outcomes.
We’ve really tried to prioritize making rolling new characters and replaying the content a great experience. When you always knew exactly what you were going to get it felt drier and more predictable, and this goes a long way to keeping it fresh and awesome.
The campaign introduces a few special tweaks to the core game engine to smooth out the experience:
So many of you have been waiting for so long for the campaign to launch, my biggest fear is that your biggest fear will be that it’s going to be another “forever” before another major update. Please rest assured that we have the major foundations in place, the rest will flow out much more quickly. The task of creating the first Adventure Zone or the first set of class talents is monumentally greater for our engineers than the second Adventure Zone or the second set of class talents because the bulk of the work there is in the back-end design of the system itself, not in the content.
To give a similar example for our Visual Department, consider that the visualization and UI design of the class talent system takes a great deal of time to perfect, but plugging in new class talent icons for future class talents is easy. Not to mention the immense amount of bug testing that had to be done with those new systems that will not have to be done again.
Although it meant taking more time, we’ve always strived to do what’s ultimately best for the player. On my end, one of the things that set the campaign back at different points was my decision to overhaul major systems such as the Might System (I believe you will be much happier with the deeper, more ambitious class talent system), or the integration of other systems we deemed critical to the best experience, such as the Adventure Zone. At this point, from R&D’s end, we are confidently ready to go with the next stages of things (which Cory will be talking about in his article), and so it’s just a matter of our teams coming together to continue building the world of Entrath.
Finally, without going into specifics that you might be able to guess at, there were a few other major unexpected bumps in the road to the campaign for us that are now thankfully in our past.
I’m sorry to have gone on about all that for so long, but I really can’t give enough examples of stuff that it was hard to build the foundation for but will be easy to continue, and how much of that stuff is now out of the way, and how good that is for the continued release cadence of the rest of PvE.
The other thing that you’re going to realize is that the rest of PvE coming out is not going to feel like a linear increase, it’s going to feel like an exponentially increasing experience. For example, consider that when new content comes out alongside a new way to experience all of the content, in a sense the existing amount of content will be multiplied instead of added to.
I know it sucks that there is stuff that you’ve been excited about that still isn’t here yet, but stick with us. What we have here at campaign launch is already by far the most robust PvE experience you can find in a digital TCG, and there will be plenty more PvE goodness on the way this year.
Thanks HEXers! This is the most excited I’ve been for a HEX year since 2013, and I hope you’ll be similarly excited.