Hearthstone Story Modes Tier List

  • Wailor's Avatar Design Champion 540 531 Posts Joined 05/28/2019
    Posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Greetings, travelers.

    I've been recently playing the three latest installments of Hearthstone's Solo Adventures. While playing them, I found myself enjoying the story much more than I thought, since they usually tend to be pretty back-bones. So, I thought I could make a little ranking just for fun. Yeah, it's ranking, not a tier list. Sorry for the clickbait.

    As a quick disclaimer, I'll be just evaluating the storytelling, not the gameplay. Thus, Dungeon Run-likes and Dr. Boom's Puzzles are excluded, since they don't have much story going on (even if some of them have nice character moments). Also, this is obviously just my opinion. If you disagree, I encourage you to give your own opinion in a civil way or even make your own ranking.

    Finally, beware, because there will be plenty of spoilers for pretty much every Solo Adventure.

    So, let's begin.

    #10 - Knights of the Frozen Throne: Icecrown Citadel

    Let's get this out of the way. The Adventures which just try to recreate raids from World of Warcraft are all going to be at the bottom of the ranking. In terms of story, they tend to be a boss rush with a small twist in the end, if so.

    Out of all of them, I find Icecrown Citadel to be the most basic. Sure, most characters here are iconic, but they're not depicted in an interesting way.

    The best thing about this Adventure is the class challenge against The Lich King, but since that's a gameplay element, it doesn't count for this tier list.


    #9 - Blackrock Mountain

    In terms of pure storytelling, this is probably the most interesting out of all the WoW raid Adventures. I mean, it has the whole betrayal of Victor Nefarius and stuff happens not just at the end of the story.

    That said, it hasn't much else going for it. Sure, the Dark Iron Dwarves have a pretty entretaining personality, but that's about it.


    #8 - One Night in Karazhan

    This might be a bit controversial, since I remember most people hating the party theme of this adventure back in the day, but I really enjoyed it. Hearthstone has a flavor distinct from the rest of the Warcraft universe, and I think this expansion really helped to cement this identity.

    I'd highlight the Barnes wing, which was very cool and imaginative.


    #7 - Curse of Naxxramas

    Hearthstone's debut Adventure makes the top of the raid-inspired story modes. Yeah, it's true, the story is as basic as it gets, but there's one thing that elevates this Adventure.

    Yeah, it's obviously Kel'Thuzad.

    His Hearthstone personality is just so entretaining and sassy, I couldn't resist to put this on top. This is probably the first tonal departure Hearthstone had compared to the Warcraft universe, so, just like with Karazhan, you have to appreciate that.


    #6 - Descent of Dragons: Galakrond's Awakening

    I wouldn't be surprised if this was a fan favorite, but I honestly think there's too much going on here. As the conclusion of the experimental Year of the Dragon, this Adventure touches a lot of characters: the League of E.V.I.L., the League of Explorers, Karl and Lenny George, Kragg, Galakrond himself...

    Sure, the conclusion of several arcs here is very satisfying (Reno and Karl/George come to mind), but I think I would've enjoyed it much more if this whole thing was a bit more focused.

    In a way, this is like Hearthstone's Infinity War, a film which I don't personally enjoy as much as most people because of how many things it tries to focus on.


    #5 - Ashes of Outlands: Trial by Felfire

    In terms of pure storytelling, this is one of the strongest contenders in the whole ranking. Baduu leaving the group and later being brainwashed by the Rusted Legion was a very thrilling event. I also liked Aranna talking shit about her sister Elise, just to embrace her philosophy in the end. Sure, Illidan's final redemption was quite lame, but nobody is perfect.

    Besides that, I also loved the flavor of assembling a group of Outcasts who help each other to survive (kinda like Aranna's own League of Explorers), even if the personality of none of them was particularly interesting.

    So, why is this Adventure so low in the rank? Yeah, it's obviously the "talking in verse" gimmick. I guess they were trying to go for a shakesperean tragedy feel with this decision, but this whole thing is very optimistic for that. For a story which has its main characters' eyes replaced with demonic fireballs, it has a very feel-good and empathy-driven conclusion lol

    In my opinion, this decision would've made way more sense for the Demon Hunter Prologue, since Illidan's story is quite tragic. Speaking of which...


    #4 - Ashes of Outlands: Prologue

    Even if in a pretty basic way, I think Illidan's fall from grace is pretty well told here. As I said above, this story's chain of misunderstandings has a very Greek/shakespearean tragedy flavor to them, in the sense that all issues are caused its protagonists' fatal flaws. Illidan's pride and power-hunger are obviously a pretty important part, but I like that the story also blames Malfurion's self-righteousness. All in all, pretty cool stuff.


    #3 - Book of Heroes

    I'm kinda surprised it took them so long to make this Adventure, since it's a pretty obvious move. Still, getting to know the background of these heroes we know from some long ago was pretty cool.

    As someone whose main knowledge about the Warcraft universe comes from playing Warcraft III and reading the WoW Wiki, this story mode was pretty interesting. The stories told here had some familiarity, but I also discovered a lot of new information about Warcraft lore.

    To be honest, this game mode is not without flaws. Some stories were not particularly well fit for being told in this fashion, which led to jarring time skips (ahem, Uther) or crucial character development being dispached with a short line of dialog.

    Compared to something similar like the Demon Hunter Prologue, this is told in a more clumsy way, but, since this has more content, I decided to give it the upper hand.


    #2 - The League of Explorers

    We're the League! The Explorer's League! And we're a League of Explorers!

    What's not to love here? Mysterious settings, thrilling adventures, ancient artifacts and memorable characters. All four members of the League and Rafaam are awesome and iconic. Sure, the story is a bit formulaic and mcguffin-y, but it's pretty entretaining (it's also very fitting that it's plot is structured like the first Indiana Jones movie).

    This was the very first Hearthstone original story, which focused on (mostly) Hearthstone original characters. In a way, this is also the first expansion that feels like modern Hearthstone, so that alone makes it very important for the game as a whole.

    But most crucially, it still holds up to this day as one of Hearthstone's best Adventures, at least in terms of story and characters.


    #1 - Book of Mercenaries

    I know this game mode isn't finished by now, but my god! The Stormwind battle, with Tamsin and Cariel's chapters is easily the most endearing story Hearthstone has ever told. Their relationship is so well done not just for Hearthstone, but for Warcraft in general. Cornelius' characterization as a strict father, just to end up like he does, and the way Cariel reacts to it. Awesome stuff.

    I'll admit that I was pretty disapointed by the first two episodes (especially Rokara's), but the overarching story keeps ramping in a very well crafted way. Honestly, the final Alterac segment would need to flop incredibly hard for me to put this on second place.


    And this was my ranking. I'd like to know your opinions or even your own personal rankings.

    See you around :)

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  • dapperdog's Avatar Dragon Scholar 1600 3996 Posts Joined 07/29/2019
    Posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Based on my overall enjoyment, the gameplay, and how the story unfolds, here's my own list.

     

    Best in my opinion is Monster Hunt from witchwood, mostly because I think the final battle with Hagatha is engaging, with some nice touches. Its one of those few ones I play more than once, its just that good to me.

    Second best would be Rumble Run from Rastakhans. The storyline is as simple as it gets, but it works because its an underdog story, where you're fully in sync with the protagonist because you play as him, lose as him, and ultimately triumph as him. So the gameplay naturally ties along with the storyline, which I like.

    Third would be Dalaran Heist. This one is purely because I like the theme, I like the focus on the villains, and I like the music. As far as the story in Rise of Shadows is concerned, its pretty great. A group of misfits attempts to steal an entire city and succeeded despite all odds, in a cartoony, totally non-serious fashion. No pretense, just fun.

     

    Surprised to see Trial by felfire and Galakrond's awakening in anyone's list at all. I enjoyed these two the least.

    - TbFF has, in my opinion, poor characters, poor development and is tainted by an incredibly shitty ending. Rikkar, from rumble run, is a blank character of unknown origin (the very definition of a nobody) but it works because the story is about him rising to the top. Arrana on the other hand is the sister of a known character, with a defined character and arc (Far as I know, she starts wanting to escape from her sister's shadow) but by the end we're left scratching out heads as to what has actually been accomplished here. It doesn't help that the story keeps piling on the bs that she becomes completely unrelatable. She's basically Rey from starwars; a character which experiences hardship only in theory but not in action. Its like a 10 yr old's self-insert fanfiction ideal which is sympathetic to its creator but not to anyone else.

    Oh and the shitty ending? Illidan being beaten both in power and angst. By someone who literally became a demon hunter yesterday.

     

    - GA suffered because its the supposed payoff to the events in RoS and SoU. And the payoff had two endings, and a contrivance in the storyline where everything (from conquering dalaran, to whatever happened in Uldum) its all to revive Galakrond, who loses in both endings, which is quite absurd because both Rafaam and the league of explorers have absolutely no leverage (no convenient artifact, etc.) that would allow them to win, so the question is simply: Why? Can't Rafaam just destroy the world with or without Galakrond?

    The two endings bit is also there just for want of a better story, because I cannot for the life of me understand why can't they just have one linear story where we play as characters from both sides depending on who would ultimately win.

     

    Book of Mercs is still a work in progress, but honestly if it ended in stormwind I might have just placed it on top over the rest. The Cariel-Tamsin storyline was not merely engaging, it was one of the few times I thought team5 manned up with some actual mature, consequential storylines for once instead of the goofy tones or childish storytelling. And then they ruined it for me by bringing back tamsin as a lich. But Im willing to put that aside if they end this whole story nicely and tie the Tamsin storyline down (which Im skeptical, but fine we'll see where they're going with this).

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  • Wailor's Avatar Design Champion 540 531 Posts Joined 05/28/2019
    Posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    I excluded Monster Hunter, Rastakhan and Dalaran Heist because I didn't remember them having a lot of story, which is mostly what I'm evaluating here.

    Besides that, I agree with you in most of what you said about TbFF and DoD. In fact, I put them at the bottom of the non-WoW raid Adventures (which I think are less interesting by the mere nature of them)

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  • AngryShuckie's Avatar 1635 1618 Posts Joined 06/03/2019
    Posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago
    Quote From dapperdog

    - TbFF has, in my opinion, poor characters, poor development and is tainted by an incredibly shitty ending. Rikkar, from rumble run, is a blank character of unknown origin (the very definition of a nobody) but it works because the story is about him rising to the top. Arrana on the other hand is the sister of a known character, with a defined character and arc (Far as I know, she starts wanting to escape from her sister's shadow) but by the end we're left scratching out heads as to what has actually been accomplished here. It doesn't help that the story keeps piling on the bs that she becomes completely unrelatable. She's basically Rey from starwars; a character which experiences hardship only in theory but not in action. Its like a 10 yr old's self-insert fanfiction ideal which is sympathetic to its creator but not to anyone else.

    Oh and the shitty ending? Illidan being beaten both in power and angst. By someone who literally became a demon hunter yesterday.

    Wasn't her story primarily about finding solid friends in her own way and as far away from her sister's influence as possible, and hence finding herself in the process? Beating Illidan through the power of friendship (yuck :P) obviously shouldn't happen, but as much as I hate the trope, at least it was different from the usual DH story (i.e. every DH except Aranna) of "the Legion did me wrong and I have the emotional range of an angry potato so I guess I'll join Illidan". Man I wish DH had an once of diversity; it's frustratingly narrow in every respect.

    --------------------------

    Otherwise, I broadly agree with the order OP used, though I would include most of the Dungeon Run-esque modes, even if you're only going to state there's not much story there for some of them. I would also personally promote Blackrock a bit though since I very much enjoyed the process of Nefarian and his dragon homies beginning to realise we weren't just there for Ragnaros.

    That reminds me, what on earth happened in the Mercenaries (game mode) story? In particular, why did Lady Prestor hire us to take out her brother? I understand why Valeera would want him removed, but Onyxia? Hmm. Maybe it was all just an alternative perspective on the exact same events as the Blackrock adventure? It would certainly explain why Nefarian was surprised when we started taking out dragons...

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  • dapperdog's Avatar Dragon Scholar 1600 3996 Posts Joined 07/29/2019
    Posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago
    Quote From AngryShuckie
    Quote From dapperdog

    - TbFF has, in my opinion, poor characters, poor development and is tainted by an incredibly shitty ending. Rikkar, from rumble run, is a blank character of unknown origin (the very definition of a nobody) but it works because the story is about him rising to the top. Arrana on the other hand is the sister of a known character, with a defined character and arc (Far as I know, she starts wanting to escape from her sister's shadow) but by the end we're left scratching out heads as to what has actually been accomplished here. It doesn't help that the story keeps piling on the bs that she becomes completely unrelatable. She's basically Rey from starwars; a character which experiences hardship only in theory but not in action. Its like a 10 yr old's self-insert fanfiction ideal which is sympathetic to its creator but not to anyone else.

    Oh and the shitty ending? Illidan being beaten both in power and angst. By someone who literally became a demon hunter yesterday.

    Wasn't her story primarily about finding solid friends in her own way and as far away from her sister's influence as possible, and hence finding herself in the process? Beating Illidan through the power of friendship (yuck :P) obviously shouldn't happen, but as much as I hate the trope, at least it was different from the usual DH story (i.e. every DH except Aranna) of "the Legion did me wrong and I have the emotional range of an angry potato so I guess I'll join Illidan". Man I wish DH had an once of diversity; it's frustratingly narrow in every respect.

    --------------------------

    Otherwise, I broadly agree with the order OP used, though I would include most of the Dungeon Run-esque modes, even if you're only going to state there's not much story there for some of them. I would also personally promote Blackrock a bit though since I very much enjoyed the process of Nefarian and his dragon homies beginning to realise we weren't just there for Ragnaros.

    That reminds me, what on earth happened in the Mercenaries (game mode) story? In particular, why did Lady Prestor hire us to take out her brother? I understand why Valeera would want him removed, but Onyxia? Hmm. Maybe it was all just an alternative perspective on the exact same events as the Blackrock adventure? It would certainly explain why Nefarian was surprised when we started taking out dragons...

    If the story was about Arrana finding herself, I can think of plenty of other things, other than going into outland and being a dhunter. I mean, the very reason why she's in outland to begin with is suspect, and the fact that illidan took her in despite her having little to no motivation to defeat the legion is also another plothole. There is a reason why most dhunters are angsty and always on about the legion - most of them have tragic backgrounds relating to demons. Arrana might as well have slipped on a banana skin dropped by a littering imp. That forms a better motivation than what we're stuck with.

    Also, Im no lore specialist, but Im pretty sure fighting one another until you dropped your eyes and sprout horns isn't how one becomes a demon hunter.

     

    As for mercs, well beats me. Far as I know the entire story is about helping kazakus and prestor with the naaru shards. As to why we have to go through so many bounties to do that? Not a freaking clue. Does it even have a story? I mean, we're basically beating up boss after boss, but with no dialogue anywhere to go through. Feels a lot like the early megaman games where bosses are beaten because the final boss wouldn't show up otherwise.

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  • AngryShuckie's Avatar 1635 1618 Posts Joined 06/03/2019
    Posted 6 months, 1 week ago
    Quote From dapperdog
    Quote From AngryShuckie
    Quote From dapperdog
    ...

    ...

    If the story was about Arrana finding herself, I can think of plenty of other things, other than going into outland and being a dhunter. I mean, the very reason why she's in outland to begin with is suspect, and the fact that illidan took her in despite her having little to no motivation to defeat the legion is also another plothole. There is a reason why most dhunters are angsty and always on about the legion - most of them have tragic backgrounds relating to demons. Arrana might as well have slipped on a banana skin dropped by a littering imp. That forms a better motivation than what we're stuck with.

    Also, Im no lore specialist, but Im pretty sure fighting one another until you dropped your eyes and sprout horns isn't how one becomes a demon hunter.

     

    As for mercs, well beats me. Far as I know the entire story is about helping kazakus and prestor with the naaru shards. As to why we have to go through so many bounties to do that? Not a freaking clue. Does it even have a story? I mean, we're basically beating up boss after boss, but with no dialogue anywhere to go through. Feels a lot like the early megaman games where bosses are beaten because the final boss wouldn't show up otherwise.

    IIRC Aranna wasn't in Outland to become a DH; she just wanted to get as far away from her sister as possible and finding the Illidari was somewhat accidental. So I guess they were going for not knowing where you'll end up in life, but eventually you'll find your calling?

    Lore-wise, the most important (and dangerous) part of becoming a DH is absorbing a demon's soul and controlling it. That has a pretty high mortality rate, and Aranna's story brushed it all under the rug. I suppose they were trying to make it a more friendly, and whimsical telling to fit HS's usual setting, hence all the rhyming. Interestingly, the best place I know to see how tough that process should be doesn't come from a DH at all, but from Valeera who got lumped with a powerful dreadlord's soul as a teenager. She wasn't trying to control it like DHs do, just suppress it, but I assume the tough part is largely the same: keeping control of yourself. The comics go to great lengths to show how much she had to do to handle it, and if Aranna's story was striking a less whimsical tone I'd expect her to have to do the same at bare minimum. On the bright side, Valeera's success came largely through the aid of friends, especially Broll and Aegwynn, which is something I expect to be largely absent in the brutal canonical Illidari training. So maybe Aranna's friends really did make it easier for each other?

     

    Re Mercs: I think a lot of the bounties were just Valeera running a mercenary company and helping the world out. At least that accounts for a lot of the stuff in the Barrens, Felwood and Winterspring. Once you get to Blackrock it feels like you'd probably want to do it all in one go a la the BRM adventure. That's just somewhere where game mechanics and the (limited) story-telling are in conflict with each other.

    While I'm here having brought Valeera up twice, I was surprised she was treated as a Horde character in Mercs. Since I was expecting her to be faction-neutral (because she very explicitly IS), it only helps her as she gets some buffs in bounties she otherwise wouldn't, but it did strike me as a questionable choice flavour-wise. Her neutrality is the whole reason she is able to get on with people from both factions in WoW, and by extension why it made sense she would be running the show in Mercs. Oh well.

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