If you're a fan of any digital trading card game (TCG) that doesn't have the name Magic: The Gathering in it, chances are strong you already know who Cryptozoic Entertainment is. If not, let me give you a brief rundown of their TCG franchises: World of Warcraft, Penny Arcade, Batman: Arkham City, Lord of the Rings, The Big Bang Theory, and more. An impressive list for sure, but even so, why the hell am I bothering to talk about a card game on Ten Ton Hammer? Because they're about to create one that plays as a full-fledged MMORPG.
Scheduled for release in September of this year, the team has extremely ambitious plans. Although ambitious plans is a term we hear thrown around a lot, the companys pedigree is nothing to lift your nose at. They've been creating successful TCGs for a few years now and, quite frankly, their idea sounds brilliant. If nothing else, the pure gall it took to tackle a project of this scope deserves some attention.
It's clear Cryptozoic is not jumping into this endeavor completely unprepared; they've done their homework and it shows in the few brief glimpses we've gotten so far. Oh, did I forget to mention that they also have Kevin Jordan on their staff? He just happens to have been one of the original designers of a little game you may have heard of called World of Warcraft. I think they have things pretty well under control and arent coming at this project half-cocked.
While HEX certainly isn't the first digital TCG to hit the market, it is definitely the first with an arm's length of features every MMORPG needs:
- Champion Character - Choice of 6 classes and 8 races
- Collectible Gear - Players will be able to attach gear to their
various troops (set bonuses will also be available)
- Dungeons - Complete with storylines, puzzles, and loot
- Guilds - Create guilds, share cards in the Guild Bank, and more
- Auction House - Sell, trade, and buy cards of all types
- Factions - Earn faction rewards including unique cards and gear
- Socketed Cards - Drop gems into socketable cards to alter
and improve abilities
Amazingly, the above list of features is not complete, yet it's a longer list than some triple-A MMORPGs have launched with. I'm most excited about having a champion and running dungeons. Champions and other cards will be able to gain levels and grow. Some cards can even transform multiple times during the course of a single match, gaining some incredibly over-powered-sounding abilities if an opponent were to allow them to complete their final form. Take The Transcended for example. When it reaches this form (the previous forms have other names for the card), it gains the following:
- "If you would draw a card, instead search your deck
for any card, put it into your hand."
- "When this troop attacks, gain 1 life for each card
in your hand."
- "You have no maximum hand size."
What?! There will no doubt be numerous ways to counter and deal with such threats, but the implications of just how many layers of gameplay will be made available are staggering when taking such cards into consideration.
I'm a big fan of Magic: The Gathering and still occasionally go to draft nights just to keep my skills sharp. I've also got more than a few friends who are more hardcore players than I am. One of those friends has even made it to the final rounds of the pro qualifiers a couple of times. All of us are excited about the game and the sealed tournaments that are already planned for HEX.
Just from the information we've been given so far, the variations of possible strategies is staggering and while thats the number one reason my friends and I are excited about HEX, its also the single chink I see in the armor of the forthcoming possible juggernaut. Experienced TCG players, especially those used to playing games with deep strategies and extreme deck ability variations, HEX will come as a welcome upgrade to their current play sessions. For newcomers to the genre, however, I'm concerned the level of intricacy involved with the vast variety of cards and how they interact may prove daunting if not downright frustrating. A clear and friendly tutorial system will be essential to ensure HEX doesnt scare off brand new players.
Looking at the information released so far, it's clear that Cryptozoic Entertainment's goal is incredibly audacious and fascinating at the same time. For years, gamers and game journalists alike have been claiming the market has become stagnant, that there's nothing new and everything is just being rehashed. Well, my friends, change is here in the form of something called a TCG/MMO. Will it be successful? It's far too soon to give a definitive answer, but it certainly has potential and definitely has my attention.