Not content with having Battlegrounds mode to compete with autobattlers, it seems like Hearthstone is coming for the roguelike deckbuilder genre with its next mode, Hearthstone Mercenaries. Announced today during BlizzConline, Mercenaries will be about building a team of mercs—some familiar faces like Sylvanas Windrunner, King Krush, and Ragnaros the Firelord, while others are new to the mode—then pitting them against a set of randomly generated challenges on the way to a final boss.
Each battle rewards you with loot and experience, and your mercs will eventually evolve to become more powerful. Kind of like Pokémon, or those mobile games that advertise how cool you'll look when you level up. If you play well, they'll be strong enough to defeat the boss—or other players' teams in PvP mode.
Mercenaries' combat system involves choosing which of your characters to send out and then picking actions for them each turn, while your opponent does the same. Then those actions play out simultaneously, and if other games with simultaneous turn-based combat are anything to go by, that's when I'll get to realize how bad I am at predicting someone else's moves.
PC Gamer spoke to game director Ben Lee earlier this week, who told us this about the Mercenaries mode: "The big difference between our take and other roguelikes is that the progression is permanent. So, say you're taking King Krush and Rexxar through a level, they gain experience and they get to keep that. They have skills and abilities, and you can get item drops that enhance your abilities as you go. You keep all of that stuff.
"You're going through this progression of levels with bosses until you get to the end game when you hit the maximum level. The game then becomes a little bit different. [At that point ] it's not really about level progression, it's more about skill, meta counters, and so on.
Hearthstone Mercenaries is scheduled for a release some time in 2021.