Mercenaries: My First Impressions

  • Theodrinus's Avatar Hero of Warcraft 850 260 Posts Joined 12/05/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago

    I just finished watching the Mercenaries stream and I wanted to share my thoughts about it in general and create some discussion.

    First off, the mode in itself is Hearthstone's greatest departure from its core experience. So much that at times I thought this could be a completely standalone game, only with a layer of Hearthstone paint. If we didn't have that, not much resemblance would remain of the main game. This is concerning for Blizz, because the mode could alienate the core HS players because it's so weird and different, but fail to attract new, outside audiences because it's part of an established game where they would be far behind long-time players.

    What struck me about the art style was that it's... not very pretty. It looks basic, barren at times. The main mode doesn't have amazing spectacles either, but every deck has at least 15 different artworks. The board evolves throughout the game, with minions being summoned and destroyed. However, in Mercenaries, it's just 6 GIFs in a 3x2 table? It's very static. Yes, there are fancy entrance and ability animations but many of those are recycled and there are lots of empty, boring grayish/brownish space on the board.

    In terms of gameplay, it doesn't look too bad, there are many factors in play like positioning, speed, schools, the Tank/Melee/Caster R/P/S triangle, etc. You must choose 3 out of 6 mercs at the start of a game, that's 20 combinations if I'm correct, there's room for variance and adaptability. The deckbuilding aspect, however, looks pretty simplistic: "I type Murloc into the searchbar and choose 6 of them". We'll see how tribe/spell school focused the "decks" are going to be, but with ultimately only having to choose 6 mercs + 6 equipment, the experimentation and flex spots of the traditional 30 card deckbuilding are missing. Also, the thing that will ultimately greatly simplify your choices is that there's a big power difference between mercs with different levels, which leads me to the next point, and the elephant in the room:

    Monetization. For me, the way progression is handed is a major turnoff. Frankly, it's insulting. Hearthstone is already a very expensive game, in terms of your money and your time, which is your gold (or both). Either you play Standard, where half of your collection is deleted every April, or you play Wild, where there are thousands of collectible cards. Not even €130 worth of preorders give you all cards in an expansion. Battlegrounds is €20 or gold every 4 months for the ability to choose a better hero, and both Arena and Duels require payment to enter. And when they show us 3 PREORDERS, 2x €50 and 1x €30, that was just upsetting. How much are they expecting us to pay? How many whales do they want to milk? It's just all so overblown compared to normal, offline, singleplayer games (that cost 90 at most with DLC for a complete, balanced experience).

    It just doesn't feel pleasant that non-whales will have to play those time-consuming, computer-generated and therefore soulless "campaign maps" to just have one roll at the slot machine. Oops, didn't get the mercenary that's in the meta? Well, play more and more for more rolls until you become so disillusioned with the grinding that you buy our packs. Any semblance of a decent progression is shattered when a whale can just buy packs until they have all mercs at max level. They said they wanted "asymmetrical PvP matches", but we all know what that means: buy packs until your numbers are higher so "the balance" tips in your favor.

    Overall, I am disappointed. I don't want to completely disregard the mode, but this is not what I expected. This was never Slay the Spire, this is only a numbers game. Buy packs to win.

    What are your thoughts? 

    Put your faith in the Light!

    10
  • linkblade91's Avatar Global Moderator Lissandra 1435 1555 Posts Joined 02/09/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago

    *shrugs* I'm still excited. The economics of the game can be figured out, probably via enough people bitching about it. That doesn't mean much if the core game is terrible, and I think it looks fun. Say what you want about the gacha mechanics and monetization, but it ultimately still is Slay the Spire maps + Pokemon-esque collecting and leveling. That's what I wanted out of it. I'm also happy to see that the PvP is not a mandatory part of the game: I could endlessly grind PvE maps if I wanted to do that, playing PvP only for the occasional daily win-rewards or whatever.

    It was a whirlwind of information thrown at us today, but overall I am interested in the product and ready to throw down money if I end up enjoying it. IIRC Battlegrounds had a similar "what the fuck is this shit" reaction to it from the general populace, and look how that turned out.

    If you have the time, you should totally check out our weekly Hearthstone card design competitions! :D

    4
  • Alfi's Avatar Devoted Academic 1535 1127 Posts Joined 05/29/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago

    They currently showed 15 red mercenaries, so most likely they will start with 3*15 = 45 mercenaries, adding more later. 

    Also, they will most likely introduce the fourth color of rare mercenaries, which will not take or deal double damage from any color (see in Rad)

    Also, for a run you receive ~150 mercenary coins (see video).

    I guess creating a mercenary will cost 100 coins, full upgrade is 50+100+150 coins per one ability (shown in video), so to completely get an upgraded mercenary you need 1000 coins of that specific mercenary.

    You do the mathematics.

     

    -=alfi=-

    0
  • linkblade91's Avatar Global Moderator Lissandra 1435 1555 Posts Joined 02/09/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago
    Quote From Alfi

    They currently showed 15 red mercenaries, so most likely they will start with 3*15 = 45 mercenaries, adding more later.

    The game is planned to launch with 50+ Mercenaries. I imagine the breakdown is still roughly even, like you suggested.

    If you have the time, you should totally check out our weekly Hearthstone card design competitions! :D

    1
  • h0lysatan's Avatar Academy Sleuth 760 551 Posts Joined 12/03/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago

    The new game mode feels rushed. I still prefer if they put their whole resources to build tournament mode, or custom mode, or even a fix for social side from the platform, where it's easier to communicate and interact with each other, instead of making this mode where no one asks before.

    It's like they're doing the things they like, but never the things we want or need. (regarding the modes)

    EDIT. And why the aggressive pay 2 win? I certainly don't want to buy packs if they have nothing to do with constructed? And having to pay gold for something that should've been free from start? Personally, I don't get it. BG is good step in making profit via cosmetics. But this is too much.

    Knowledge is Power

    -4
  • SLima's Avatar The Undying 545 409 Posts Joined 08/17/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago

    They are certainly taking a big risk in aggressively monetizing the mode right away. Battlegrounds had the negative reactions but what propelled it towards success wasn't just the fact that it was fun to play: it was completely free. That allowed people to jump in immediately and experiment with the heroes, minions and mechanics of the game mode.

    Duels definitely left a bad taste in people's mouth initially because of the requirement of having a certain number of legendaries to unlock treasures. I don't know if people still care about that. The monetization was already there but it was a bit more subtle, i'd say.

    This new mode, however, is monetized very aggressively and has its own set of cards that must be bought with real money or in game currency. This limits experimentation a lot and that could have a significant impact on its chances of success. I'm not particularly interested in grinding (or paying) another game mode so i'll probably just ignore this one. I already have Slay the Spire, anyway.

    "True mastery takes dedication."

    1
  • dapperdog's Avatar Dragon Scholar 1375 2854 Posts Joined 07/29/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago

    Gameplay is very pokemon-esque. You have 3 mercs, your opponent has the same amount of mercs, you choose attacks and then all the attacks comes out turn after turn, determined by a single stat, which in this case is the number on the tech chosen. And like pokemon, you collect mercs to be utilized as you see fit, which with its own set of stats.

    First impression is fine I guess. It isn't flashy; the graphics is predictably (since its likely built on the hearthstone engine) very close to hearthstone's. The game board or field looks very empty, not helped by the fact that the merc icons are very small, which unfortunately makes it look like six ants fighting on a blank piece of paper. I don't understand why they didn't just fill the field with knick-knacks that react with each attack, to both increase the impact of each attacks and having every end game look like a nuclear holocaust. That would look cool, if nothing else.

    Im still confused slightly about how the gameplay progresses outside of battle. Looks to me like there's some sort of 'develop your village' kind of gameplay which will require coins, which is earned through gameplay (presumably). You will likely get a basic set of stuff to start with, and if you grind your arse off on this game, you'll receive the familiar end of month chest which will give you more stuff. Outside of that, its all via gameplay...or off your credit card.

    Speaking of monetization, which the video skillfully avoids talking about at length. There's three bundles up on offer currently, each costing a great deal of real life cash. Im assuming that this is a pack of mercs to be used immediately on purchase so anyone who swipes his or her credit card gets an early advantage in battle on top of a likely exclusive merc. So all in all, the money will roll out from exclusive mercs, and likely coin purchases. (just a side note: I like how the diablo on offer showcases the classic d2 character, and then the website showcases the d3 character instead.)

     

    Until the game comes out, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. The monetization is annoying but not unexpected, and since its a largely single player game I'm willing to overlook the very, very expensive (50 bucks, and thats one of three pre-orders) offering and say that if the gameplay is good and there's no overt pay-to-win bs with the exclusive mercs then blizz can market those stuff for all I care. Im not spending a cent until Im 100% sure the game is legit fun because if the showcase is anything to go by, it doesn't look all that impressive.

    2
  • anchorm4n's Avatar The Cake Is A Lie 1590 1669 Posts Joined 03/13/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago

    Probably stupid question since I didn't watch the reveal but here goes: Is there no economy overlap to traditional HS at all? Like buying Merc coins with HS gold or using HS dust to craft Mercs? That would help a lot with the accessability imho.

    I notice I am confused. Something I believe isn't true. How do I know what I think I know?
    Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres, hpmor.com

    0
  • Alfi's Avatar Devoted Academic 1535 1127 Posts Joined 05/29/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago
    Quote From anchorm4n

    Probably stupid question since I didn't watch the reveal but here goes: Is there no economy overlap to traditional HS at all? Like buying Merc coins with HS gold or using HS dust to craft Mercs? That would help a lot with the accessability imho.

    That would help if you have agumdance pf gold you do not know what to do with it. Most players use this gold to buy packs

    -=alfi=-

    0
  • anchorm4n's Avatar The Cake Is A Lie 1590 1669 Posts Joined 03/13/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago

    Gold can be used in Mercenaries, confirmed via twitter: Link

    I notice I am confused. Something I believe isn't true. How do I know what I think I know?
    Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres, hpmor.com

    0
  • AngryShuckie's Avatar 1185 1251 Posts Joined 06/03/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 5 days ago
    Quote From dapperdog

    Gameplay is very pokemon-esque. You have 3 mercs, your opponent has the same amount of mercs, you choose attacks and then all the attacks comes out turn after turn, determined by a single stat, which in this case is the number on the tech chosen. And like pokemon, you collect mercs to be utilized as you see fit, which with its own set of stats.

    First impression is fine I guess. It isn't flashy; the graphics is predictably (since its likely built on the hearthstone engine) very close to hearthstone's. The game board or field looks very empty, not helped by the fact that the merc icons are very small, which unfortunately makes it look like six ants fighting on a blank piece of paper. I don't understand why they didn't just fill the field with knick-knacks that react with each attack, to both increase the impact of each attacks and having every end game look like a nuclear holocaust. That would look cool, if nothing else.

    Im still confused slightly about how the gameplay progresses outside of battle. Looks to me like there's some sort of 'develop your village' kind of gameplay which will require coins, which is earned through gameplay (presumably). You will likely get a basic set of stuff to start with, and if you grind your arse off on this game, you'll receive the familiar end of month chest which will give you more stuff. Outside of that, its all via gameplay...or off your credit card.

    Speaking of monetization, which the video skillfully avoids talking about at length. There's three bundles up on offer currently, each costing a great deal of real life cash. Im assuming that this is a pack of mercs to be used immediately on purchase so anyone who swipes his or her credit card gets an early advantage in battle on top of a likely exclusive merc. So all in all, the money will roll out from exclusive mercs, and likely coin purchases. (just a side note: I like how the diablo on offer showcases the classic d2 character, and then the website showcases the d3 character instead.)

     

    Until the game comes out, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. The monetization is annoying but not unexpected, and since its a largely single player game I'm willing to overlook the very, very expensive (50 bucks, and thats one of three pre-orders) offering and say that if the gameplay is good and there's no overt pay-to-win bs with the exclusive mercs then blizz can market those stuff for all I care. Im not spending a cent until Im 100% sure the game is legit fun because if the showcase is anything to go by, it doesn't look all that impressive.

    I've never so much as finished one of Raid: Shadow Legends' adverts, let alone played it, but I assume it is actually an enjoyable game at its core, just surrounded by the horrid monetisation strategies of modern games. Comparing to Pokemon instead (the triple battles of 5th gen in particular) does a lot of good for distancing gameplay from monetisation. As someone who enjoys the early stages of Pokemon games much more than the post-game/competitive stuff, I expect I will do quite well at treating Mercs as a F2P game without worrying about whether Blizz is just trying to empty my wallet.

    I'm also still a bit unclear about some of the gameplay aspects, but I guess that's not too surprising given how much information there was to convey within half an hour. I'm sure we'll pick it up pretty quickly once we can play the tutorial.

    Fortunately the pre-order mercs (Diablo, Arthas and Sylvanas) are all obtainable in-game normally, and are not exclusives. That's good, because I'm sure there's a lot of players who'd want Arthas and/or Sylvanas but, like us, are unwilling to part with cash before they can even try the game.

    2
  • Maurice's Avatar Eldritch Horror 555 188 Posts Joined 07/12/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 4 days ago

    GACHAstone Heroes of Moneycraft

    I see you!

    -6
  • JackJimson's Avatar 590 576 Posts Joined 11/19/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 3 days ago

    Just sharing an article by RHat.

    https://www.pcgamer.com/blizzard-mercenaries-announcement/

    Good read.

    2
  • aposteljoe's Avatar COMMENT_COUNT_350_HS 685 397 Posts Joined 06/18/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 3 days ago
    Quote From JackJimson

    Just sharing an article by RHat.

    https://www.pcgamer.com/blizzard-mercenaries-announcement/

    Good read.

    Thank you. Very good article indeed

    1
  • FortyDust's Avatar Mankrik's Wife 825 1309 Posts Joined 05/29/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 2 days ago

    On one hand, I had no trouble absorbing the information in the reveal video, and I think it's weird that everyone has been acting so confused.

    On the other hand, people obviously are confused, so Blizzard clearly failed to create the reveal experience they were hoping for.

    The worst part about a bad reveal is that confused fans quickly become angry fans. The parts they misunderstand get blown way out of proportion, and the tiniest negative preconception seems to become absolute fact, even if little or no confirmation appeared in the reveal. Sometimes a bad reveal can definitively contradict people's preconceptions, and they will still swear up and down that their fears were confirmed.

    In this case, the whole "pay to win" outcry has been particularly strange to me. They clearly state -- both in the video and on the dev blog -- that PvP matchmaking will not match you against a vastly stronger opponent. Slightly stronger (or weaker)? Maybe, occasionally, but only to prevent long queue times -- similar to the way Hearthstone might occasionally match you with someone one rank higher or lower on ladder. I'd love to hear anyone's ideas on how it could realistically be better than that.

    And make no mistake, that small possibility of a small power differential would not disappear if they removed all monetization from the game. You would still occasionally encounter a free player who has been grinding longer than you. There's no way around it.

    The other weird complaint is, "How dare they steal my precious gold?!" The obvious answer is: If Hearthstone cards are more important to you than building a town in Mercenaries, don't build the town. There's no reason to be mad about it. Free players have to make these decisions all the time. You aren't required to play Mercenaries at all. But if you choose to play, there's nothing wrong with asking you to pay a bit of gold. It's pretty unrealistic to expect this humongous new game mode to be given to you for free. If a little gold is all you have to fork over to get your town up and running, that's actually quite generous on Blizzard's part. Free games are not a human right.

    4
  • FortyDust's Avatar Mankrik's Wife 825 1309 Posts Joined 05/29/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 2 days ago
    Quote From dapperdog
    Im assuming that this is a pack of mercs to be used immediately on purchase so anyone who swipes his or her credit card gets an early advantage in battle on top of a likely exclusive merc. So all in all, the money will roll out from exclusive mercs, and likely coin purchases.

    There is no need to (incorrectly) assume anything. They flat-out stated that the pre-order mercs are NOT exclusive. You can earn them in-game in exactly the same way as any other merc.

    You use coins from packs to get an early advantage in PvE, yes, but not in PvP, so I'm not sure why you would care about that. (Your own skill is the ONLY advantage you have in PvP.)

    You are probably correct that they expect most of their profit to come from pack purchases, as that's the only thing you can buy directly with cash. But no matter how many packs you buy, the only way to level up a merc is by playing the game. Coins can improve abilities and equipment, but they cannot buy levels for your mercs.

    3
  • meisterz39's Avatar 815 1001 Posts Joined 06/03/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 1 day ago
    Quote From FortyDust

    In this case, the whole "pay to win" outcry has been particularly strange to me. They clearly state -- both in the video and on the dev blog -- that PvP matchmaking will not match you against a vastly stronger opponent. Slightly stronger (or weaker)? Maybe, occasionally, but only to prevent long queue times -- similar to the way Hearthstone might occasionally match you with someone one rank higher or lower on ladder. I'd love to hear anyone's ideas on how it could realistically be better than that.

    And make no mistake, that small possibility of a small power differential would not disappear if they removed all monetization from the game. You would still occasionally encounter a free player who has been grinding longer than you. There's no way around it.

    The other weird complaint is, "How dare they steal my precious gold?!" The obvious answer is: If Hearthstone cards are more important to you than building a town in Mercenaries, don't build the town. There's no reason to be mad about it. Free players have to make these decisions all the time. You aren't required to play Mercenaries at all. But if you choose to play, there's nothing wrong with asking you to pay a bit of gold. It's pretty unrealistic to expect this humongous new game mode to be given to you for free. If a little gold is all you have to fork over to get your town up and running, that's actually quite generous on Blizzard's part. Free games are not a human right.

    I agree that there's nothing really wrong with them asking players to pay a bit for a product they like, but I think one of the big things is the the question of how much it will cost to have fun with the format. For example, you can spend money or gold to get the Battlegrounds Perks and various cosmetics, but even if you don't do that you'll still be able to play Battlegrounds as a full game mode (albeit with fewer heroes to choose from, and without emotes). It's not that hard to have fun with it despite paying nothing.

    The reveal blogpost about this makes clear that "when you first enter the Village, [the Workshop] will be your only [building]." The reveal video seemed to state that all buildings and building upgrades would cost gold, so I think there's some legitimate open questions about what the costs are associated with just getting a basic village up and running so you can actually play the full game mode. Maybe it will turn out that all Level 0 buildings are free or just part of a quest-style progression. Or maybe they'll all end up costing gold, thus alienating any F2P player who might enjoy the mode but sees it as a risk of a crucial resource for other modes they already play.

    2
  • FortyDust's Avatar Mankrik's Wife 825 1309 Posts Joined 05/29/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 1 day ago
    Quote From meisterz39

    Or maybe they'll all end up costing gold, thus alienating any F2P player who might enjoy the mode but sees it as a risk of a crucial resource for other modes they already play.

    I probably sound like a broken record, but there's really no reason for Blizzard to care about the feelings of free players who are going to pitch a fit over a little bit of gold. If they refuse to spend gold, that's a sign they will never, ever spend cash. Blizzard has nothing to gain from keeping that kind of non-customer happy.

    Free-to-pay games aren't free because of a company's generosity. They are free in the hope that free players will eventually spend money. Gating content behind a small gold expenditure is actually a pretty smart way to weed out the ones who will never pay a dime.

    2
  • meisterz39's Avatar 815 1001 Posts Joined 06/03/2019
    Posted 2 weeks, 1 day ago
    Quote From FortyDust
    Quote From meisterz39

    Or maybe they'll all end up costing gold, thus alienating any F2P player who might enjoy the mode but sees it as a risk of a crucial resource for other modes they already play.

    I probably sound like a broken record, but there's really no reason for Blizzard to care about the feelings of free players who are going to pitch a fit over a little bit of gold. If they refuse to spend gold, that's a sign they will never, ever spend cash. Blizzard has nothing to gain from keeping that kind of non-customer happy.

    Free-to-pay games aren't free because of a company's generosity. They are free in the hope that free players will eventually spend money. Gating content behind a small gold expenditure is actually a pretty smart way to weed out the ones who will never pay a dime.

    What you're saying about Free-to-Play games is entirely correct, but the idea that weeding out players that won't pay a dime is a good idea is ridiculous. Blizzard has no idea why any individual player is F2P. Maybe they're F2P because they like to spend on cosmetics in game but weren't offered any (that's clearly true for some players, as Blizzard introduced Diamond cards and tons of new hero portraits). Maybe they're F2P because their financial situation is difficult right now, but in a few months they'll get a new job or promotion and have a little spending money to put into a game. Maybe they've just bored with traditional Hearthstone and looking for a new game mode that they'll love enough to spend money on.

    Regardless of reason, the way F2P works is to cast a wide net and convert players into customers. They will have less success if they intentionally weed players out before they've even had a chance to try the game. That's why the question of cost to reach some "base fun play" state is important.

    1
  • FortyDust's Avatar Mankrik's Wife 825 1309 Posts Joined 05/29/2019
    Posted 2 weeks ago
    Quote From meisterz39

    What you're saying about Free-to-Play games is entirely correct, but the idea that weeding out players that won't pay a dime is a good idea is ridiculous. Blizzard has no idea why any individual player is F2P. Maybe they're F2P because they like to spend on cosmetics in game but weren't offered any (that's clearly true for some players, as Blizzard introduced Diamond cards and tons of new hero portraits). Maybe they're F2P because their financial situation is difficult right now, but in a few months they'll get a new job or promotion and have a little spending money to put into a game. Maybe they've just bored with traditional Hearthstone and looking for a new game mode that they'll love enough to spend money on.

    Regardless of reason, the way F2P works is to cast a wide net and convert players into customers. They will have less success if they intentionally weed players out before they've even had a chance to try the game. That's why the question of cost to reach some "base fun play" state is important.

    I think you believe the gold cost will be far more punishing than it actually will be. I honestly don't see any of the people in your examples balking at the cost of building a village. The people who refuse to try Mercenaries because of the gold cost are hard-line free players who hold on to their gold with a death grip because they cannot or will not ever spend money on Hearthstone.

    The assumption that Mercenaries will be totally unplayable without spending gold is ridiculous. A brand new player with no gold reserves at all has to be able to jump in and play without grinding gold in some other mode. There's no way Blizzard would make the mistake of excluding fresh blood like that. So it stands to reason that Mercenaries itself will give you a way to earn enough gold to get further into Mercenaries. F2P people who are dedicated to Hearthstone may choose to buy Hearthstone packs with that gold, and I'm sure many will, but I think most people won't mind using it on the village.

    That's the beauty of having a shared resource. You can reinvest the gold in Mercenaries if you like it, or you get a nice "thanks for trying it out" parting gift if you choose to use the gold elsewhere.

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