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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Why Hearthstone’s new Mercenaries mode is like mac ‘n’ cheese


There are 51 Mercenaries to collect at launch, all of which can be upgraded with golden (and sometimes diamond) portraits.  (Image credit: Blizzard)

It’s tempting to view Mercenaries as the answer to a question posed by Blizzard’s accounting department: How can we replicate the runaway success of Battlegrounds, but, y’know, make real money rather than rely on easily ignored cosmetics? Tempting, but cynical. Having spent five days with Hearthstone’s newest mode, which launched today, I can say this is one of the most substantial additions the game has received. There’s plenty to play here, regardless of how much time or money you want to spend. The point of Mercenaries isn’t to replace Standard or Battlegrounds. Mercenaries’ job is to meaningfully expand the menu on offer once you log in.

The rollout of the mode, at least in terms of presentation, has been rocky. Until recently, players were barely sure what it even was. A strange discussion at BlizzConline in February with no gameplay footage was followed by a leaked survey a few months later. Then radio silence until September’s disastrous showcase. The timing also couldn’t have been worse, as Activision Blizzard had been sued the month before for serious allegations of pervasive workplace discrimination and harrassment. The fallout from the lawsuit rightly necessitated dialing back all game comms, including the planned buildup for Mercs, which went from desert to deluge over the course of an hour-long stream. Despite the info overload, players were still left wondering where the gameplay was.

The little speech bubbles show the current queue order that abilities will play out in. (Image credit: Blizzard)

Protection racket 



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