Hearthstone: League of Explorers Review: BRB. Dodging A Collapsing Temple.

Hearthstone’s solo adventures are always a pleasant change of pace. Instead of beating up on other people, we’re beating up on imaginary bosses. These bosses are generally thematically linked through some crumbs of story that get doled out as each wing of the adventure unlocks.

In the case of League of Explorers, the story’s wrapped around a kind of Indiana Jones-like concept, where you help both prominent Warcraft lore figures and newcomers alike to banish a thief named Rafaam from the current dig you’re on.

It’s simple and fun – for the most part. It also introduces new adventure mechanics, new cards with thematic ideas and my very favourite Murloc – something I thought I’d never say – in the form of Sir Finley Mrrgglton.

So, as Peter Molyneux might ask…what’s inside the box?

You will meet many fun and interesting characters throughout League of Explorers.  I hope the Hearthstone team come back to some of these folks.
A new adventure awaits!

New Adventure Twists

The adventure runs pretty much like any Hearthstone expansion like this before it: look at a boss power on the adventure status screen, build a deck and beat that boss with the deck. If at first you don’t succeed, well…it’s probably time to tweak your deck a little.

League of Explorers, however, isn’t content to do just this. Instead, it offers up a pair of rather interesting scenarios where there is no real boss. Merely an objective that needs to be escaped in a certain number of turns. For example: you might be tasked with getting out of a temple that’s falling apart all around you. No boss. Just a timer – ticking away the turns, your deck [sometimes] and your life total. It’s a pleasant change of pace.

Card Themes

There are three general themes in this new adventure – one which is very small [and only shows up on one card, but it’s arguably the most interesting card in the set] and two larger concepts that carry across the whole adventure.

My favourite murloc.  God, that feels so awkward to type.  :)
Sir Finley. Gentleman Extraordinaire.

The first major theme is murlocs. And to be fair, it’s a little surprising that Blizzard has not run with this particular idea at all before now, because murlocs are easily one of the most iconic “tribes” in the game. Here, the cards range from the hilarious [but lackluster] “Murloc Tinyfin” [a 1/1 for 0 mana crystals] all the way to the crazy, like Anyfin Can Happen which brings back seven already-slain murlocs.

Given the variance here and the slim pickings in this particular theme, it’s also a little underwhelming. But what’s there does bolster the murloc deck quite nicely and is a reasonable place to start if you’re interested in building the murloc deck at all.

The second major theme is the clunky-sounding “shuffle into deck.” With this, we are starting to see cards that either do something, then shuffle something else into your deck or that scoop cards from the board and shuffle them away. One of my very favourite cards from this theme is Entomb, which allows you to take your opponent’s best minion and shuffle it into your deck for later use.

I like this idea, but it’s still mired in problematic Hearthstone design. There’s still no way to search through your deck for cards, making shuffle-into-deck a hit and miss affair.

The final new theme is fantastic and definitely a “build-around-me” concept. But, alas, there’s only one card here, making it functionally dead in the water. This third new style of card is a “replace” card. Once you play it, it replaces something else already in your hand or deck with something better [or maybe worse.]

The only problem, as I say, is that there is only one card like this and that’s the amazing Golden Monkey.

If this works and you still have cards in your deck, the next few turns are probably going to be totally nuts.
I have no caption.

The way the golden monkey works is: you play a card called Elise Starseeker. Elise then shuffles a card called “Map To the Golden Monkey” into your deck. Should you find and play it, that – in turn – shuffles the “Golden Monkey” into your deck. Should you find and play that, it in turn makes all your cards into Legendary Heroes. Which can be either fantastic [Doctor Boom!] or really rather droll [Tinkmaster Overspark. RIP Tinkmaster. You used to be amazing.]

Naturally, since there’s no deck search in Hearthstone, the only way to get this chain to work is through a lot of draw-a-card effects and you’d better hope that your Golden Monkey isn’t sitting at the bottom of your deck.

It’s clunky, but when it works, it can be fun.

Boss Battles

Most of these are standard and easy enough to deal with on normal mode. There isn’t much to write home about here. The finale, though…well, that’s another story entirely. I won’t spoil too much, but suffice it to say that at one point Blizzard takes away your carefully crafted and honed deck and gives you a true clunker of a deck instead. This particular boss battle – and you’ll know it when you encounter it – is brutally difficult because of the dreck the designers saddle you with.

Other Miscellaneous Items

As always, the sound direction and art style is great – there’s a new League-themed board, nifty card backs to win and generally high production values on display – a true trait of Blizzard’s in general. Apart from that one mis-step with the ridiculous boss battle, I can find no serious fault with League of Explorers, but it does run one very particular risk:

We’ve had a couple of adventures at this point already – and certainly, we’ve settled into a sort of groove with these things. Blizzard really does need to work hard to make the next bit of solo content feel special and unique or it will seem tired and rather paint-by-numbers.

Conclusion

Do I think you should get into it? If you’re heavily invested in Hearthstone and playing it often, then yes. There are some interesting cards to be had, the adventure is fun and the Temple-run style duels are worth checking out all by themselves.

If you’re not? For a non-Hearthstone player, I think the price is pretty steep. There are however, two of the best teaching aids in this particular adventure [that demonstrate the idea of card and board advantage to great effect] and that makes it somewhat worth the buy if you’re new to the game.

I did a complete run of League of Explorers here


Some image elements courtesy of Pixabay

Some image elements courtesy of the Hearthstone: League of Explorers Press Kit