Blizzard’s vastly successful strategy card game – boasting over 50 million registered players – goes disco for its latest adventure, a groovy mix of Warcraft in-jokes, so-bad-they’re-good puns and carpet-burning dance moves.
The fourth story-based expansion, after 2014’s Naxxramas, 2015’s Blackrock Mountain and The League Of Explorers, Karazhan serves up 13 bosses and 45 new cards with such cocktail-chinking elan that you’ll find yourself actually laughing out loud. No, really. Perhaps it’s the ever-brilliant voicework or the sheer bonkersness of having a ’70s-themed party in a magical tower as your setting – whatever the reason, it’s a lot of fun, and often very funny.
This Saturday Night Feverish sense of humour marks the welcome return of Blizzard’s comedic side, after Whispers Of The Old Gods (2016’s previous cards-only expansion) leaned heavily on Lovecraftian lore – all tentacles and purple ooze – and left the lols by the wayside. The trouble is, while Karazhan is a good laugh, it’s also far too easy.
As an adventure, it’s a blast to play, albeit one you could finish in literally One Night.
Hearthstone must increase its playerbase to survive, and the ease of this adventure feels like the result of a board meeting that double underlined in bold script that it couldn’t be too tricky, lest newcomers be scared off. Sensible business, perhaps, but if you’re a veteran looking for a real challenge, even the ‘harder’ Heroic mode is just a bit of a nuisance, not a genuine test.
That said, the stand-out battle – the chess encounter – is well worth championing, a rare moment of difficulty that’s sorely welcome. In Heroic mode, meanwhile, it becomes a table-flipping headscratcher that forces players to actually, really think, and perhaps even take up real chess in frustration, which can only be a good thing.
And though its accompanying cards haven’t solved Hearthstone’s problems in its other modes – arena balance, the weak state of the Priest class, Shaman’s dominance in Ranked play – as an adventure, it’s one of the best, up there with the similarly silly League Of Explorers: a blast to play, albeit one you could finish in literally One Night.