I backed Hex, the “MMO” TCG on Kickstarter for the princely sum of $250 – far above and beyond what I have ever spent on a game in one lump sum. The main reason I pillaged my credit card so deeply was for the MMO aspect. I’m a social gamer, I love MMOs, I love chatting to people, I love working together, and I love card games. This was a unique premise that promised to satisfy in so many ways, but ultimately could not deliver (yet?) on any of the MMO aspects. I still feel a flare of anger and disappointment when I think of how the game was originally marketted, but the existing features are making it more palatable by the month.
The game is currently, as of Jan 2017, a single player PvE, or multiplayer PvP game and that’s what this will be reviewing.
Whenever I talk about how excited I am now for a game in the future and I want to back it on Kickstarter, my husband stares at me and whispers ominously, “Remember Hex?” and thus one $250 gaming folly shapes my future purchases (and my marriage!). I really should have told him it was $25, he probably wouldn’t have noticed… but ah well, the fact that the game has managed to claw it’s way back from disapointment into a recommendation says a lot for it. Don’t spend $250 on this game, but do check it out for free and buy a few packs if you like it. I’ve recently got him playing it and he loves it!!
The whole MtG thing… aka Gameplay
I spent a great deal of my teenage years fixated on Magic, but it never really transitioned into the digital world successfully for me. If you’ve played any Magic the Gathering, a lot of the mechanics of Hex: Shards of Fate will seem eerily familiar to you. So much in fact that Hasbro originally sued Cryptozoic over the closeness of many elements. This was settled in 2015, so is not an issue for the game moving forward.
This is a digital trading card game that has the depth of the Mariana Trench. Don’t go into it thinking it’s Hearthstone. It has the most depth and complexity out of any TCG I’ve played. Honestly? More than Magic – because it was designed for a digital interface and can do things that a physical card game never could. It can combo upon combo, it can affect your crypt (graveyard) and your deck, it can shuffle efficiently and it can search through decks for cards. Something you did 50 turns ago can suddenly pop up and affect everything, or a game can be over in 5 turns. This digital world gives it the ability to offer things that Magic simply never could, and with a development studio with decades of physical card game experience behind them, they have transitioned to the digital with an astounding amount of imagination. With Hearthstone dominating the deck building genre in recent years, many games of this type of followed in it’s simplicity, but Hex is not one of them. Hex is a game for people who want to see mechanics and deck building pushed to their absolute limits.
Of course, even the most complicated game can stagnate and get boring – but Hex so far has offered an ever-increasing library of cards, with early sets being planned to rotate out of competition, so you won’t be punished so hard for coming to it later than other. So far, from what I’ve experienced, the newer sets manage to offer diversity and interesting abilities that make for a massive potential of deck building. There is a definite meta for constructed play, but if you like drafting (or PvE, or casual PvP with friends), then there is a decent selection of options to choose from. I’m keeping open minded about the future and longevity of the game, much of which will balance on the community as well as the developers.
PvE and Freebies – Money vs Time
The PvE campaign is available free, as well as PvP 1v1 duels versus friends. The PvE campaign, which is still in development but at this point features two acts, represents a solid 40 hours+ of playtime on my first playthrough, and if you want to experience it again and again as multiple different classes and races, the playtime is certainly hundreds of hours. During this time you earn character and account experience, cards, gold (PvE currency), and even some chances to PvP for free (in the form of account levelling rewards as tournament tickets). The amount of content you can access for free is actually astounding, if you enjoy PvE vs the AI. If you want to jump straight into PvP, you will need to invest into the game – but not a massive amount, as there are Evolving draft tournaments priced very cheaply and ready for newer players to jump into. Competitive constructed on the other hand, well – let’s just say that’s definitely not beginner friendly and from the look of the top decks there, can be very, very expensive.
In addition to the campaign, an arena offers unlimited battles vs the AI with gold and PvE rewards. Again, this content adds to your account level, which can give PvP rewards too. The arena is a challenge, and collecting enough cards as a free player to make farming the arena efficient will take some time, so there is a massive time-sink in playing for free – some people may find this grindy / boring, but I’m quite enjoying it.
Once you’ve earned your PvE cards and gold, you can trade gold for platinum with other players, and you can sell cards for gold or platinum on the AH. Platinum can then be used as tournament entry fees, or to buy PvP packs. So, it is 100% possible with an ungodly amount of time, to technically get full PvP decks and enter big ticket tournaments by playing the free content.
Like any trading card game; you can massively speed up your time sink by paying money, either to buy cards on the auction house, to buy packs to open, to enter tournaments, or to buy special bundles available on steam (which offer the best value for money as starter packs).
I have played almost every card game that’s around, I spent a decade of my life playing physical Magic the Gathering, I have sunk thousands of hours into Hearthstone, but also a massive array of other online TcG deck-building variants, such as all of the MtG games on Steam, Spellstone, Runescape Legends, Elder Scrolls Legends, Hand of Fate, Ascension, Faeria, Infinity Wars, Solforce, Gwent and the list goes on… without a doubt in my mind, Hex: Shards of Fate currently offers both the best PvE experience, and the best Free to Play Experience.
So What’s Missing?
A lot is missing from the Kickstarter, as already touched on, the entire MMO / co-op / social aspect. Guilds, Crafting and Raids are all still a complete blank to the community. There are some features that do exist that need serious innovation, such as browsing your card collection, the auction house, and the chat system. These are all usable, but not user-friendly. The core mechanics though, the cards, the game boards, the PvE base and the tournament play are all solid, and I can only live in hope that the rest is still to come. The game has players; but not enough players to feel truly alive to me at this point, and the community doesn’t feel as if it interacts well – a side effect of the terrible chat system and the lack of guilds or other social features, but this may be my bias showing, as I really did want this game to involve a heavy social experience.
TL:DR Thanks for Sticking with Me!
Despite my initial disappointment at the lack of features I wanted from the kickstarter, I have come to believe in this development studio and the potential of Hex. If my most wanted features never make it; this is still a very solid, well crafted game. Perhaps even 6 months ago my review would have been a thumbs down – but the increased PvE content has really bolstered my confidence in the game. I would not recommend spending $250 on this game like I did, but with some of the most in depth PvE and Free to Play content available in the genre, you need to check it out if you enjoy any aspect of deck building / trading card games.