GamingReview: Hex: Shards of fate

Review: Hex: Shards of fate

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Back in the day I started out playing Pokémon when it was popular at my school. I feel old now. And sad. I quickly moved into the world of Magic The Gathering and enjoyed the more grown up art style and strategies. Lately my trading card game focus has moved firmly into the digital arena. The biggest thing holding me back from collecting immense amount of real cards is simply money. Trying to get the cards you want and buying blister pack after blister pack might as well be money spent in a casino where the reward isn’t a card. Hex strives to offer a total digital solution for your TCG needs.

Gameplay is similar in essence to Magic: The Gathering. Each player is directly in control of a hero who, outside of a few abilities, has no direct control over the battle. Depending on your deck build your main damage dealers might be creature cards, spells or even more devious techniques. Creature cards are again similar to MTG and Pokémon with each having a health and damage number along with any abilities that can sway the tide of battle if used correctly.

The cards themselves are beautifully designed and there’s some seriously good artwork on each and every one. There isn’t a card that feels rushed or generic at all. Despite all cards being digital only HEX doesn’t rely on fancy effects or 3D trickery to make them look good instead falling back to a great team of artists.

Many a time I was sat comfortably chipping away my opponents health with a good hand to back up my assault only to have a single late game card thrown in my face and ruin my hard work. Hex doesn’t ever really allow you to feel comfortable or complacent. You can never quite be sure who will win until the end with powerful cards always ensuing you have the chance to fight back. It goes a long way to stopping people getting frustrated and quitting half way through games because they’ve clearly lost because it’s extremely rare that anyone has ever clearly lost.

Strength in Numbers

The pacing of a game of Hex lies somewhere between Hearthstone and MTG. I rarely find myself stuck in a stalemate or find the game dragging on to the point of boredom. For me it’s the perfect balance of chess-like strategy and thinking with that little kick that keeps things moving. Playing in tournaments can become an extremely time consuming activity however. If a potential opponent has yet to finish a round you often find yourself waiting around unable to really do anything until they finish. Admittedly this is the nature of tournaments but it can still be tedious.

Hex also offers a fairly robust campaign for you to battle through. The structure of the campaign is nothing unusual as you work your way around a map completing different battles until you reach a boss and then move to the next area. There is careful deck building required for the tougher fights and for the ridiculously tough fights an enormous amount of luck. It’s a bit dull when luck is the main factor in your success but there are only a few examples of this with the vast majority of the campaign rewarding your strategy and planning.

Prophet of the Sun

It’s fair to say I fell in love with Hex even way back in the Beta stage. But there was a single giant problem that stopped me from playing. I searched online to find winning decks and the decks that could beat them, trotted myself of to the market and bought myself a few key cards. The rest I simply built up from my winnings or booster packs. But whenever I wanted to enter a tournament I would have to pay.

One of Hex’s coolest features is the draft tournaments where players draw from booster packs and then build a deck on the spot. Not only do you have to win a tournament but also be able to build a winning deck quickly and with limited resources. I pride myself on my deck building which, if I’m honest, is where I spend most of my time. But I didn’t much feel like buying the required booster packs each time I entered a tournament. Admittedly if you win the rewards are great and you get to keep the cards you draw but that isn’t the point. I wanted to play with the cards I already had.

If you’re going to be opening booster packs, do it in a draft tournament because there is no downside. But if you just want to play on a serious level there is no way to do it without paying with premium currency which equates to cold, hard cash. Once I got to this level the amount of money I would need to play regularly really stopped me in my tracks. Fair enough there is still the single player and PvE content. And I can have random matches which is almost entirely made up of people learning the game. It was a big block for me and it entirely stopped me playing Hex. I spent a lot of money to earn my deck. I spent an enormous amount of time building the deck and then wasn’t able to play with it unless I basically bought into a tournament. I don’t want to pay every time I play. And it isn’t a small amount of money either.

Present

Hex is an absolutely stunning TCG. It easily rivals the mighty MTG. The artwork is incredible, there are more cards on offer than you know what to do with. Deck building is satisfying. Content is ample with PvP, PvE and single player content. Even the interface and table design is effective without becoming cluttered or prioritising style over substance. The marketplace is a fair place too with players earning and spending premium currency creating a realistic market that rises and falls depending on the popularity and availability of the card.

The only thing I don’t agree with is paying to play on such a ludicrous level. There is little incentive to collect cards to build your dream deck when your reward is simply spending more money to use it. For really serious players this probably won’t be a problem but for me it killed Hex. Which is truly a shame. For those who can afford the best features Hex has to offer it is excellent. But a game shouldn’t exclude people with less money from its best features which is exactly what Hex does.

SUMMARY

+ Amazing artwork
+ Loads of content
+ Great deck building
+ Cool tournament systems
- Enormous pay wall

Hex is available now on PC.
phillvine
Phill has been the director of a small IT repair business since 2011 which he runs alongside studying for his degree in Information and Communication Technologies at the Open University. Video games are his real passion and they take up more of his time than he'd like to admit.

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