It's time to play! The Campaign has a number of options to choose from right from the start, with three classes (Cleric, Warrior, Mage) each with their own set of perks. Mages start with a lower total health but have a larger starting hand size. There's also eight races to choose from, divided into two factions, as well as male or female characters for six of those races (Dwarves and Vellen cannot be female, as dictated by their race lore).
Starting abilities are determined by a combination of your race and class; a Shin'Hare Cleric would have the same class abilities as a Coyotle Cleric, but each has their own unique race abilities, as well as race/class abilities. Players will have many different playstyles to choose from.
To guide new players (and to ensure veterans experiment with the new cards), decks are locked to only certain resource types to begin; these restrictions are similar to the PvP decks gifted to players at the start of their journey in HEX. It also restricts the number of copies of each card that can be in a deck; common are capped at 3, while rare and legendary are capped at just one copy of any card. Some cards have been banned from PvE and will remain PvP exclusive, while some cards earned in PvE will be banned from PvP; this allows new types of card design while retaining a balance in both sides of the game.
As players successfully complete matches and objectives, they earn experience, and at each level they earn a talent point. Talents vary between the three classes, so the Warrior class has abilities that largely build up their "Battle" ability, while the Cleric and Mage tree focus on their respective classes strengths. Talents are tied together and do require pre-requisites; however, there are multiple paths to each talent, so there is no one way to build a character, and no one right way to choose talents. During the initial campaign, players will be able to reach level 9; in future campaigns, they will be able to level further, unlocking additional tiers of talents, which will tie into lower tiers for talent pre-requisites.
I decided to choose to play as Coyotle, which largely focuses on green and white cards, with some blue thrown in as the character levels up. Their cards rely on a mechanic known as "Prophecy", which modifies cards that have not been drawn yet, adding abilities and additional stats to upcoming creatures. It meant what came out of my deck would be unpredictable and I would need to adjust my strategy according to what was drawn. Sometimes a big meaty creature would be buffed; other times a 1/1 would end up with lifedrain — not a terribly useful card.
The campaign has several static fights, like trying to swim through a river when a bridge is drawn and won’t be lowered, but others are based on the race chosen. As a Coyotle, I frequently ran into Shin'Hare, but if I was playing as an Orc or Vellen, the foes, stories, and decks of my opponents would be very different. This gives the campaign replayability for lore nerds (like me) who want to experience the story from multiple perspectives.
There's also a new way to collect cards within the campaign: players are quickly gifted an artifact that permits them to capture wild creatures. These are then added to their poor of potential cards they can build their deck from. This is in addition to card packs, equipment, and other perks earned by progressing through the story. Players can also challenge dungeons, which act differently than the rest of the main campaign's battles. On the main map, battles that are failed can simply be retried or skipped if optional. However, within a dungeon players have a limited number of lives, equating to battles they can fail. If a player loses all their lives, they will be removed from the dungeon and will have to challenge it from the start once again. However, dungeons are well worth the risk and planning, as each has 15 special pieces of loot, divided into six cards and nine pieces of equipment, including one legendary of each. These dungeons can be replayed for players to seek additional loot drops or try to hit the jackpot of either legendary.
After playing the campaign for nearly two hours, the only thing I wanted to do was play more of it, dive into more dungeons, raise my character's level and theorycraft with friends about the talent trees. As someone who shies away from competitive games and who seeks a narrative to follow, it's exciting to see a fully developed RPG within the MMOTCG.
RPGamer would like to thank Hex Entertainment for the opportunity to play HEX and the time with their team. Special shout out to Shawn Silverman, who is most excellent. You can also listen to more impressions of the PvE campaign for HEX on RPGCast 373, and stay tuned to our Twitch channel for future episodes of Paws Plays.