Review

Hearthstone: Whispers of the Old Gods

A Splendid Shakeup Full Of Fantastic Flavor
by Daniel Tack on May 02, 2016 at 12:03 PM
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release:
Rating: Teen
Reviewed on: PC

Somewhere deep inside your deck, C'Thun sleeps. Turn after turn, you play crazed acolytes waiting for their dark lord to come destroy your opponent in a brutal display of the terrifying power of the Old Gods. Your opponent gets a preview of the unfortunate fate inching closer and closer every turn as C’Thun peeks out of the depths to throw down some smack talk. Will you make it to 10 mana crystals and unleash untold power, or will your dreams of insanity be crushed before the arrival of one of World of Warcraft’s legendary nightmares? Each game tells a different story as things play out, and they are stories that are worth telling and watching.

C’Thun is just one of the the Old Gods at your disposal in Hearthstone’s latest expansion. Players tinkering with minions who are designed to die can find a powerhouse in N’Zoth. If you’re looking to gamble, nothing beats dropping Yogg-Saron, who unleashes a barrage of random spells. While the coolest decks in this expansion revolve around the signature Old Gods, plenty of other competitive decks forego these ancient terrors.

Shamans are especially interesting in this regard, having class cards that give them access to the “evolution” mechanic, transforming creatures on the board into new threats. Mages have new ways to load up on random creatures and spells, and Hunters get powerful new cards that let them become huge threats later in the match. While the core concepts of Hearthstone don’t change here, the new cards make it an entirely different experience.

 

Unleashing one of the Old Gods at the perfect time is amazingly satisfying, with many matches turning into exciting races. Can more aggressive decks crush C’Thun decks before they rouse the deadly titan? Can the deathrattle rogue create a legion of deadly minions that rise from the grave at the opportune moment? Does the hunter simply roll over opponents with the Call of the Wild, plunking an entire zoo full of powerful pets on the table? These class-centric themes are prevalent in Whispers of the Old Gods, and while this sort of pigeonholes things into “dial-a-deck” templates, much exists to satisfy rigorous competitive players and those that just want to see how many insane spells they can get Yogg-Saron to blast off with.

Along with the expansion’s release (and almost just as important) is the introduction of standard and wild modes. Wild mode is where anything goes – use any card from any set, all the time. Standard is limited to the last two years of play and the core set, so as of Whispers of the Old Gods, players can no longer use cards from Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes. That means a lot of cards that are widely considered “auto-includes” (like Piloted Shredder and the notorious Dr. Boom) are out of the competitive metagame, leaving room for new decks to thrive.

These new additions not only keep the game fresh for grizzled veterans, but place new players on much more even ground with seasoned players. New players also have the advantage of acquiring a number of free bonus packs to help them get started, along with a free C’Thun card. They also don’t have to worry about acquiring many of the old staple cards if they’re delving into the standard format, as those cards are now defunct. Various other systems that have come online since the original launch like the weekly Tavern Brawl are helpful for getting new players additional essential card packs and providing an environment where they can complete daily quests without going up against the typical cookie-cutter ladder decks. Looking for a new deck but don’t want to hunt one down online? Blizzard’s “deck recipe” system has updated to include new archetypes for Whispers of the Old Gods, so you’re only a click away from a full deck you can tinker with until it suits your needs.

Whispers of the Old Gods succeeds on multiple levels, shaking up the competitive scene with a variety of new deck types to experiment with and combining flavor and mechanics to create interesting fun new cards. While many players today probably never had the chance to explore Ahn’Qiraj when the mere mention of the Twin Emperors would send guilds scurrying for cover, it’s wonderful to see some of WoW’s most dangerous raid bosses back in action in the Hearthstone world.

9.25
i
Game Informer's Review System
Concept Add 134 new cards that feature ancient and terrible powers slumbering in players’ decks
Graphics Seeing denizens of Ahn’Qiraj like the famous Twin Emperors get feature spots in Hearthstone is great
Sound This expansion absolutely kills it with the sound effects, with added nostalgia bonuses for old-school World of Warcraft players who can relive C’thuns callouts from the Ahn’Qiraj raid
Playability Easy-to-understand mechanics and abilities make getting into the expansion easy, but players can employ plenty of intricate strategies
Entertainment Oozing with rich tentacles and flavor, this expansion’s laser focus hits home
Replay High