I am someone who wrote Hearthstone off a while ago. It was hard not to try and stick with it. The game has incredible production values and a core of really great talent working on the game continuously to keep it feeling fresh and fun (full disclosure: I have a friend who actively works on Hearthstone). I can appreciate all of that from a distance, but when it came to actually playing the game, I would always bounce off of it.
It took me a while to realize, but the thing that always stuck in my craw about Hearthstone is how disingenuous it often feels. No matter how approachable it looks or fair toward free players it seems, the game is a hardcore collectible card game (CCG). The more that time went on, the easier it was for me to recognize this. From the separation of cards into the two buckets of Standard and Wild formats to single-player expansions like Rastakhan’s Rumble, the game was preoccupied with keeping multiplayer extremely competitive and single-player content extremely challenging. None of these updates spoke to me, a player that felt like occasionally dipping a toe into the game once every couple weeks.
To be fair, Blizzard has very few reasons to prioritize folks like me over their huge pool of dedicated players. I totally get that. But with each passing day, Hearthstone had started feeling less and less relevant to anyone who wasn’t already all the way bought in. That is, until now.
Just last week, a new expansion to Hearthstone released, and it has already done a lot to tear down the walls that had been built up between the curious interlopers and the insular devotees. The Dalaran Heist is a the game’s largest add-on to date, and it’s got its claws in me pretty deeply.
This is mostly thanks to the fact that this content both feels, and actually is, approachable. This is mostly because: The first chapter is free for all players, it follows a familiar deck-building roguelite structure, and–most importantly–each fight feels winnable, even if you’re returning to the game after years of inactivity.
As of right now, it’s hard to know absolutely everything The Dalaran Heist has to offer, as it’s following a five chapter structure that unlocks over time. That said, what we do know is that it's got new hero characters for each class in the game, sets of completely unique boss fights, and whole lot of new cards to mess around with. I'm also partial to the fight structure, which allows you to bolt on some pretty bonkers sets of cards to a basic starting deck and have it snowball to a preposterously powerful proportions.
I'm sure there are players out there who wish there was more Dalaran Heist to play right now, but for me, I'm actually pretty glad there's a slow roll-out of content. This helps make the whole thing even more accessible. The first two chapters that are now available already feel like quite a bit for a new or lapsed player to wrap their mind around. The new heroes, unlockable starting decks, bevy of customization options, and fights with new and unique rules (known as “twists”) are already present in the currently available chapters, which is more than enough for me to grapple with as I re-familiarize myself with the game generally.
Perhaps my tune will change as more of The Dalaran Heist comes out. But, for now, I’m happy to keep playing Hearthstone. It finally feels like a game that I can meaningfully engage with on my own, casual terms.