HEX: Shards of Fate Closed Beta Review
TBD Overall Score
Promises a lot of different features and a more strategic and complex style of gameplay
Its complexity might be its downfall for many players not willing to beat the learning curve
We recently got the chance to try out the new card trading game HEX: Shards of Fate from well-known TCG creators Cryptozoic Entertainment (publishing the game as Hex Entertainment) the newest addition to an ever-growing list of trading card games that has recently gone into closed beta. While back we did a comparison between Hex and Blizzard’s Hearthstone comparing the casual nature of Hearthstone to the more complex mechanics of HEX. Having played Hearthstone we now got to check out the other side of the coin.
First though to say that the game is a very early closed beta, there are still a number of features missing, the noticeable lack of sound effects (albeit there is music) and some lacklustre AI. Froze this brings up a common topic of the different expectations people have with betas given that so many now use beta for making the final tweaks on a game so the game is launched without issue (ie. Hearthstone). This game was far from release ready, most obvious being that there was no in game tutorials but players are given access to a quick start PDF guide that they can download, and it really is needed.
Having played a few TCGs release had a benchmark to compare HEX against and whilst many of the core elements are staples to the genre and our familiarity with them made it easy to play there were still some unique features to gameplay that weren’t overly obvious or, at least at this stage, intuitive. The primary cause for this confusion was the “chain” feature and the different phases of a battle that players went through. Essentially what happens is when a player plays a card they then pass the turn to their opponent before the card goes into play who then has the chance to try to counter attack it by adding their own card to “the chain” and passing the turn back, this phase continues until neither player has anything else extra to add to the chain. What this means is that players have the chance to debuff enemy cards (among other things) that are about to be put into play before they are put down on a table.
Our problem is that with only a starter deck we didn’t really get the chance to experience this chain system as our available cards didn’t really offer anything of use, so our battles constantly seemed like we were “ending phases” when nothing really seem to have happened and it got a little confusing. Without a more in-depth tutorial some of the systems weren’t overly obvious at first glance such as how to use our heroes special attack/move and the card management system seemed a little all over the place.
The game promises some extremely interesting features, many of which we couldn’t sample at this stage and it would take quite a few levels to really see the game comes into its own, we had balances of such things as hero gear where as traditional with a TCG each player will have a hero type character that the other player is trying to destroy it by reducing their hit points; each hero card has MMORPG type gear slots that players can equip items into. We also had a card that had a socketed option that presumably we could attach gear to (though obviously we have no gear at this stage) and each card showed a symbol for the double back feature where players can check the back of their card for extra info and options and then flip it again for a third “double back” page that gives the cards individual stats, though the icon is greyed out at this time.
Graphically the game looked great, with nice card artwork and some fancy special effects during battle the game for the most part looked good, however some seemingly placeholder images and text still remained and card text sometimes loots a little bit off and not quite as polished as we would have expected at this stage.
In our original article of HEX vs Hearthstone think it’s fair to say we were infinitely more excited about Hex, shying away from the casual nature of Hearthstone. However after the playtest of Hex it is clear that a casual more accessible game isn’t always necessarily a bad thing and can still be equally as fun as something with a little more complexity, though we will save our final judgement for when Hex is finished and released as to see whether casual can really triumph over complex.