As has been trailed for some time, Blizzard is making a major revamp to the way player progression and rewards work in Hearthstone, which also means (deep breath) it's getting a seasonal reward track that can be upgraded to unlock more items using the Tavern Pass. Perhaps because it wants to wait to gauge the reaction around the change, Blizzard has not announced the new price of the Tavern Pass in actual money or in-game gold.
The update, which is the biggest change to progression in Hearthstone since the game launched, is due live on 12 November and comprises four main elements:
- 1) Seasonal reward track that can be upgraded by purchasing the Tavern Pass
- 2) New quest system which also includes weeklies
- 3) Achievements that track in-game accomplishments
- 4) Updated profile page that houses player stats
Seasonal rewards are going to be the hot button topic here, but until we know how much the Tavern Pass costs it's going to be (deliberately) hard to assess value. The key point of discussion, though, is bound to be between what can be earned for free on the Reward Track versus what you need the pass for. What we do know is that during the announcement stream Blizzard was insistent that the aim is to reward players with more in-game gold and cosmetics than they're currently able to earn.
Here's how it works: Each expansion will bring a new reward track that will comprise 50 levels to unlock. After you've completed all 50 you'll be able pick one of 10 new hero skins, and thereafter each level you complete will provide 150 gold. Rewards lower down the track include card packs, individual cards (including epics and legendaries), Tavern Tickets and gold.
Purchasing the Tavern Pass (at any point during the season) grants a golden Silas Darkmoon legendary card, all previous rewards up to your current point on the track, and gives an XP boost that scales up to +20% depending on where you are on the track. Other goodies locked to the Tavern Pass include upgradeable hero skins for the Warrior, Mage and Shaman classes. These can be improved through three tiers of visual fanciness.
Each season will also have new collectible versions of the Coin card, which require you to collect 135 cards (i.e. all of them) from the current expansion. However, before we freak out, Blizzard is also introducing mini-sets, which will arrive after the main expansion—and these will count towards the total. Meaning you won't need to own every legendary after all.
Still, the FOMO is potentially real, and I suspect there could be some blowback around this element even though the Coins are purely cosmetic.
Aside: the mini-set idea is one of the things I'm most excited about from today's infolanche. As we're seeing right now, however good the main set is, the meta inevitably gets stale in the final months of an expansion. Injecting a smaller chunk of cards to freshen things up should help, though balancing the power of these to ensure they see play but don't break the game will be tricky.
The new quest system is also tied to the reward track—quests will now grant you XP rather than gold, though as noted gold is one of the rewards on the track. Daily quests are sticking around but being joined by three weeklies, one of which can be re-rolled each day.
Onto Achievements next, which have long been lacking from Hearthstone and work much as you'd expect. There are various flavours to hunt for, ranging from collection-based stuff (like 'own three Hunter cards from the new expansion') that seem pretty boring, to more interesting things like 'resurrect six minions using the new N'Zoth card from the Madness of Darkmoon Faire set'. Achievements will extend across all Hearthstones modes, meaning yes, there will be stuff for the new Duels mode (announced today) and Battlegrounds too. The example given here was 'control the mini-amalgam without playing as The Curator', which I've done and is indeed a delight.
Finally we have the new Player Profile page, which will host lifetime stats for your account, including current rank, number of wins per class, Battlegrounds and Duels ratings and so on. Hearthstone has historically done an appalling job of collecting this info, so the change here is welcome if long overdue.
Overall, it's going to take some serious number crunching before the community can say for certain whether the new system is more rewarding in terms of net gold and arcane dust accrued. What I will say is that the opportunity to feel rewarded for playing the game has been underleveraged in the past. I wanted more incentive to log-in and actually play the game, which the track provides.
But as we've also seen plenty of times in other games, this stuff can be the thin end of the wedge when it comes to fleecing players that are already paying a lot just to keep up with the meta. No doubt I'll have more to say about that as these systems come online next month.