Hands-on with HEX: Shards of Fate PvE content, Chronicles of Entrath
This content update is massive
Hex - Chronicles of Entrath 1 is just around the corner, with a release time frame of this week. The release of Chronicles of Entrath 1 will bring a massive amount of new content to the battlefield. At a glance, it will open up a single player campaign mode. This release is just the tip of the iceberg for Hex in terms of free to play content. Hex Entertainment has an entire world of lore to explore, which they will be releasing in a sort of episodic time frame. The initial launch will allow you to create a new character and choose from 1 of 3 classes. More classes will be added in additional updates, and will allow you to up to level 10.
You will be able to select a Faction, Race and Class. Each combination will offer you a wide array of passive abilities, which can increase your starting health, the number of lives you have when you enter a dungeon, your starting deck, and a talent tree.
Ardent vs. Underworld, this selection will impact what starting race you can select and what storyline you get. Each faction does experience the same content, but from different perspectives and flavor. Each race has a slightly different starting tutorial that exemplifies the play style of the deck. There are also some unique interactions with the starting races, so you will want to run through the beginning of each race, especially for the Lore.
Ardent – Humans, Elves, Coyotle, Orcs
Underworld - Necrotic, Dwarves, Shin’hare, Vennen.
Each race has two racial traits that they start with, and one racial trait that they unlock at level 15.
Each race-class combination has a race-class-combo trait that they start with, as well as one that they unlock at level 30.
The race you select will indicate what starter deck you begin with. Accounts are provided with 10 character slots at launch, so you will be able to make at least one of each race and then some. Each race has its own 2 shard color combination used for the deck. At level 1 you are capped on the number of copies of each card you can have in the deck. This total increases as you level up.
3 Commons / 2 Uncommons / 1 Rare / 1 Legendary – the shards associated with your deck.
1 Common / 1 Uncommon / 1 Rare / 1 Legendary – for Artifacts
*The number indicates the max number of copies of a given card at each rarity
The class you choose will undoubtedly have the biggest impact on your overall gameplay experience. Your characters – starting health total, opening hand size, character abilities and talent trees are all linked to what class you choose.
Warrior – Is the best choice if you are new to the TCG experience, touting the highest starting health, and a straight forward battle power, being able to attack any minions and players. The overall flavor of the warrior is being more aggressive and quickly vanquishing your foes.
Cleric – Is the most balanced of the three starting classes, giving you access to the “Pray” starting power, which allows you to shuffle blessings into your deck. They are mostly about buffing your minions and healing yourself as the game progresses.
Mage – Arguably the most difficult of the 3 starting classes due to the lowest starting health total. However, the mages starting class power is slightly different. You will build up spell power that you can then use to cast various spells.
You are required to go through the initial story line of the race you selected before you are allowed to make any modifications to the deck. As with most starter pre-constructed decks, they are lacking in real power, however, as you make your way through the single player campaign, you will gain additional cards. You can also capture new cards, and earn them as rewards for quests and random loot drops.
You have to win five encounters to complete the initial area. You will then have the opportunity to make some modifications to the deck. If you are a veteran of the game and you looking for a bit of a challenge, then I recommend only using cards that have been acquired during the campaign in deck construction. A new feature added with the expansion is a “New” icon showing up on cards that have been newly acquired.
Exploring the map in Hex is straight forward. There are various points on the map that open as the game progresses, either by defeating encounters, completing a quest, or talking to NPCs. The nodes are color coded to give you an idea of where you are.
Yellow – Objective not complete
Blue – Area completed, repeatable encounter
Green – Area completed, non-repeatable encounter
Red – Impassible till completed
Grey – Yet to be explored
Flag – Either a new quest or objective
During exploration you can also find dungeons. Dungeons are a series of repeatable encounters that have a better loot table at the end, based on how well you did in the dungeon. You have a limited number of “lives”, i.e., failed attempts at encounters before failing out of the dungeon. Rewards include: New Cards, Equipment, Mercenaries, Card Sleeves, Gold and Adventure Packs. Adventure packs are a really cool because they are like opening a mini booster. They contain 5 random cards and occasionally equipment.
There are encounters hidden around the map that are not necessarily straight forward and will take some out of the box thinking to complete the challenge. The first such encounter has to do with piranha. You will fear them… oh yes. These encounters are not meant to be beaten with the starter decks, but after gaining a few levels and cards, you might be able to build a unique deck to take them down.
I would like to talk about the AI of Hex for a moment, because while I was at Hex Entertainment, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Chris Woods, Hex Entertainments lead AI designer. He has had the unique opportunity to create the AI for Hex from the ground up. The AI is an ever evolving beast that is now leaps and bounds ahead of what it was from the initial release of the game. When Chronicles of Entrath is released it will have gone under 3 times as many revisions in the last 3 months, which is the last time an update for the AI has gone live, then all revisions since Hex has starting Beta – about 2 years. Chris has finally had uninterrupted time to work solely on making the AI in Hex amazing.
When you are playing the single player campaign, pretty much every enemy you encounter will approach the match a little bit differently. If you are fighting a beast, then the AI will act beast like; it will make non-intelligent possibly even bloodthirsty choices. The humans will bluff. The Shin’hare will go out of their way to save a Shin’hare troop over a non-Shin’hare troop. Some Orcs just might hate necrotic, and if a necrotic troop is on the field it will go out of its way to kill it. It might not always look like the AI is making the best move possible, but it is making the best move possible for that particular AI.
The more players play the game, the more the AI engine learns. In the current game state if you play a Sapphire shard the AI will assume that there is an 82% chance that you have a Buccaneer in your deck, and the choices it makes will be based around that assumption. As more and more people play, the larger the AI’s knowledge of the Meta game will grow. This ultimately means that the game play is going to get more unique as more people play.
The most important question I asked while talking to Chris Woods was, “Will there be an option to turn off the AI’s racism or quirks, so the computer makes the best possible choices all the time, a super hard mode?” Chris responded with it being a feature they would like to add in the future, but it is not slated yet.
I am very excited for the official release of Chronicles of Entrath 1. Hex Entertainment has put a ton of energy into creating a unique game style and experience for their players. With the release of Chronicles of Entrath 1, Hex is completely re-vamping the new player tutorial and initial on-board experience. Now would be a great time to get your friends on board who might be leery of picking up the game, because Hex is on the verge of creating an entirely new game format.
P.S. This release also is a huge milestone in Hex. Upon release of Chronicles of Entrath 1, Hex will be dropping the Beta tag and will be in full Launch.