As we enter the third year of the Valve-Blizzard-Riot war for all of the money, everywhere, ever, the latest offensive from the mega-juggernaut weather system has arrived. While the above picture is supposedly a marketing image, I choose to believe it's a photograph of Mike Morhaime offering up this morsel to those who'd broken the Hearthstone habit. Curse of Naxxramas is the first expansion to the free-to-play, difficult-to-quit card game and went live last night, with the first of five "wings" free to all who step foot in it before September.
Each wing is a set of single-player boss encounters, based around the superb raid dungeon of the same name from World of Warcraft. The only wing available at launch is the Arachnid Quarter, featuring three encounters with rather predictably eight-legged foes. It's free forever if you play before a yet-unconfirmed date in early September, but after that it'll follow the same pricing as the rest of the wings, which are due to arrive weekly:
In an announcement post delivered with their usual mix of humour and self-parody, Blizzard outlined the details yesterday. Beating each wing will unlock a series of neutral cards, available to every class, while also unlocking a "class challenge" mode that provides cards specific to each of the nine deck types. There's also a heroic mode, an harder version, that will reward a new card back and bragging rights if you manage to beat every single wing, though nothing individually. Reports (my friends) indicate (tell me) that it is "bastard hard."
You'll notice there's no gold reward for beating wings, so Naxxramas cannot fund itself. However given the 7 day wait period between releases, some quick math indicates that performing any stocked daily challenges and then new ones every 24 hours will likely give you enough for another wing come next week. According to the Hearthstone Wiki a couple of successful Arena runs should also stock you up. While it would be difficult (or at least incredibly grindy) to pay for the whole thing using in-game rewards only, cutting it down to the two or three wing price won't take much.
Just as well, really, since the bang-for-buck ratio is a bit low. Three Hearthstone matches, even extended ones against amusing AI opponents, isn't going to take much longer than 45 minutes for the newest players. You're really paying for the new cards with a very polished and interactive unlock interface. You can view the full list of what will be available here. Heroic modes seem to be the actually challenging play experience to go with it but the slow unlock progress and seeing people defeating every bit of it as early as last night make the full £18 feel wasteful. Then again, I've probably spent that on purely cosmetics for other games in my time, which is on the low end, so perhaps it's moot.
Have you yet ventured into the necropolis, readers? As exciting as the raid (the answer is no)?