Hearthstone: Curse of Naxxramas Review – Your Curiosity Will Be the Death of You

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For players who have experience with Naxxramas in World of Warcraft, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft‘s Curse of Naxxramas expansion is a treat. Its structure is the same as the dungeon: the same bosses, five wing layout, and theme. From the perspective of a World of Warcraft fan, it’s pure fan service, but there’s more to it than that.

Blizzard have managed to retain the personality and core mechanics of each Naxxramas boss, which is quite the feat when you consider this is a CCG instead of a 3D MMORPG. While Maexxna bombards you with spiders and poison, beating Sapphiron requires careful placement of cards to avoid fatal frost AoE. Each boss even has its own hero power. Some of these create very unique battles, such as Thaddius who alternates the health and attack of your minions each turn.

The Curse of Naxxramas solo adventure has a total of 15 bosses, from Anub’Rekhan to Kel’Thuzad. The difficulty is well-tuned, presenting a manageable difficulty for each boss. If you find yourself defeated, you’ll want to prepare a deck built specifically to target the foe’s weakness, and each certainly has one. Finding ways to counter the strengths of the different bosses is your greatest weapon, and given how many different mechanics are present, you’ll have plenty of strategy to devise.

Preparation is particularly important in Heroic mode where each boss is altered in several different ways to be more powerful. Unlocked upon completion of each wing, only the most serious Hearthstone players have a chance at overcoming its difficulty, and that high level of challenge is met with equal reward: an exclusive Curse of Naxxramas card back for any deck you play, which will show your online opponents that you aren’t to be trifled with.

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As you complete each wing you’ll additionally unlock class challenges. As much as facing the bosses with decks of your own is a memorable affair, being handed a pre-made deck for a class and facing these new bosses is even better, because not only do you have to adapt to your enemy, but your own deck.

The presentation of Curse of Naxxramas meets Blizzard’s remarkably high standards, with polish being a main priority. Each boss has its own dialog, which in many cases is humorous in the best way possible, making references to the Warcraft universe. Exclusive abilities are presented in a way that are nostalgic of battles in their World of Warcraft counterpart. The same can be said of the new battlefield. Put simply, it fits perfectly into Hearthstone‘s pretty and intuitive foundation.

Deliberate in execution, Curse of Naxxramas‘ single-player offerings are great, although limited. If you don’t find yourself interested in braving the Heroic difficulty, you can reasonably expect to complete all bosses and class challenges within about three hours. At $24.99, that may make you think twice. But remember, at its core Hearthstone is an online multiplayer game.

While the solo adventure is the most heavily advertised part of the Curse of Naxxramas experience, in a way it only serves as an introduction. The 30 new collectible cards have had profound implications in online play, where players have begun incorporating the new cards into their arsenal. Ranging from common to legendary, the new cards fill a wide spectrum of roles. You can unlock a good chunk of them merely by playing the solo adventure, and even test them out with the pre-made decks of the Class Challenges. You’ll quickly learn that there are situations where many of these cards can thrive, low mana cost or not.

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These cards have become an important part of Hearthstone‘s metagame, so from that perspective if you don’t buy it, you may be at a disadvantage. Considering the game is 100% free to play, it isn’t unreasonable at all to ask $24.99 for all the content (incremental purchases are possible, too). However, it does fragment the community to some degree, at least from a strategic level.

Curse of Naxxramas adds enough to mix things up for Hearthstone’s competitive element, requiring players to adapt to new card attributes themed after Naxxramas’ legendary necropolis. For active players, this is exactly what will keep them playing. For those who were hoping for a lengthy solo campaign to engage in, what’s here is great, but limited in content. If future expansions build upon what Curse of Naxxramas has executed in a way similar to World of Warcraft‘s dungeon and raid evolution over the years, this is a game that will remain one of the most popular online titles of the future.

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Jonathan Leack is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @jleack.


Copy provided by publisher. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and Curse of Naxxramas are available on PC, Windows 8 Touch, and iPad. iPhone and Android releases are coming soon.