Hex: Shards of Fate is a very ambitious and in many ways revolutionary Trading Card Game with RPG and MMO components that has been ‘live’ (as in no more wipes) for around 2 years. Although there continues to be a large influx of new players due to the recent PvE Campaign release as well as the Steam Launch, one might still be surprised as to why many gamers have still not heard of Hex being discussed in some of the big gaming circles. One of the reasons is the fact that this game has had next to no marketing and advertising since its hugely successful Kickstarter campaign (receiving $2.3m after only asking for $300k) as they have instead used all their resources on developing all promised features. The second reason is that while this game has tremendous depth and potential, there’s a bit of a learning curve in terms of understanding what the game is about and all the possibilities it holds.
This article will attempt to demystify the second point so that if you are taking a crack at this game, you have the right expectations and you stick with it beyond the first hurdle you encounter. If you give this game a real chance, it will continue to reward and fulfill you in more ways than one.
1) An Embarrassingly Rich F2P PvE Campaign
In this day and age, players expect to be able to try games and even play them fully for free. Let me tell you right out that you can do exactly that in the PvE side of Hex. While competitors like Hearthstone charge you for a small series of fights in their “Adventure Mode” and Magic: The Gathering has a separate “Duels” franchise which is totally separated from their core game, Hex: Shards of Fate offers a completely free to play mode with no strings attached.
You are given 200 free cards at the very beginning and as you play through the campaign, you are awarded rare and legendary PvE cards, equipment, and PvE booster packs that contain other goodies. In the end, you are able to own and build top tier PvE decks that can handle all the PvE challenges without spending a single dime.
Make no mistake, this PvE campaign mode is not some small afterthought where you play against mindless AI in some Mortal Kombat style climb-the-ladder mode (although The Frost Ring Arena, a side PvE mode, also provides this) – it is a full-fledged RPG where you create a character, pick its class and race (both of which have huge implications as to how you will tackle the content), encounter different opponents and dungeons across the world map, engage in discussions with NPCs and receive quests, level up by earning experience and Gold (the PVE/F2P currency), and get to spend talent points in a talent tree system that rivals some of the best you’ve seen in other RPGs.
Currently there are 8 Races and 3 Classes to choose from but more is coming. In fact, this absolutely free-to-play PvE Campaign mode is very MMO-esque in design in that there will constantly be expansion updates that unlock more parts of the world map, more quests, more classes, more dungeons, and more features to boot (some of which we’ll discuss later).
There’s already 7 years of story and content that’s been planned for the campaign so while the initial 10-20 hour playthrough of the first part will give you a good glimpse of what’s to come, don’t fret too much as MUCH more is coming (with the next PvE Campaign expansion, still totally free of course, is expected to be released sometime this summer). And besides there’s a ton of replayability since you’ll want to level up alts, grind PvE content to flesh out your collection and make money, and discover the intricacies of a highly strategic TCG within the comfort of your home at your own pace, while spending no money, and without the stress that comes with playing against a human opponent.
2) A Highly Skill-Intensive PvP eSport That Is Well-Balanced
Now let’s move on to the second half of the game, PvP, where you’ll be playing against other human opponents. There are a ton of different PvP playmodes available, ranging from a F2P casual match against a random opponent all the way to something like the $100,000 Invitational Tournament that has successfully concluded just over a month ago. Naturally with Hex Entertainment’s commitment to the Esports scene, the most powerful PvP cards are quite in-demand and can rise in price to significant levels. Therefore, there are some cards and decks that may be considerably out of the reach of a casual F2P player.
But let it be known that Koma, the $100k Invitational winner who walked away with $40,000 in cold hard cash, was actually a F2P player who climbed his way up, building his collection through PvE, selling those off and then ‘going infinite’ in PvP modes like Draft and Constructed earning Platinum (the real $ currency) and eventually building whatever deck he wanted. It takes knowledge, skill, and commitment but it can certainly be done.
The first Hex Invtiational took place in March of 2016 at the eSports Arena in California. Participants were flown from around the world to complete and there was a lot of incentives for fans to attend as well, including amazing cosplay.
To be perfectly clear, the PvP side of the game allows you to build decks with PvP cards only – there are no PvE cards or equipment allowed as those are designed and balanced specifically to be played against the AI, and would lead to frustrating situations when played against human opponents.
To compete in PvP, you’ll need to either buy PvP boosters ($2 from the store, less from the Auction House) to enter limited tournaments (where you crack open packs and build a deck from the cards contained within) or you’ll need to build a top-tier constructed deck which can range from $25 all the way to $350 in cost of acquiring those specific cards. If you do well in these tournaments you can receive prizes which not only offset the entry costs, but give you additional funds which can fuel more tournaments. This cycle signals the beginning of a concept called ‘going infinite’. Be aware though that you’ll only be able to achieve this after much practice learning about and mastering the game.
Drafting, one of the popular limited PvP formats, challenges you to build decks on the fly depending on what cards you open in packs that are passed around the table.
Even though for most people the PvP side of the game will take some small initial investment, it is not only highly enjoyable and really well-balanced (the meta is constantly shifting) but since this is a TRADING card game, you’ll be able to trade those cards you’ve earned/bought and basically try the other decks without any further investment. This ties in nicely to the next part: understanding the Hex TCG economy.
3) A Vibrant TCG Economy With Cards Worth Real Money
As inferred to before, there are two currencies in Hex: Gold and Platinum. Gold is earned freely in the PvE side of the game and can be acquired at a rate of 5,000-10,000 Gold per hour in the Frost Ring Arena (the PvE mode that has you dueling 15-20 AI opponents) if you have a deck well-optimized to handle it. Platinum on the other hand is only created when someone actually buys it through the official store and translates to 100 platinum = $1.
These two currencies may at first seem totally separated as you cannot trade one for the other directly on the Auction House. However, there’s actually quite a bit of direct trading that goes on between the players (through the in-game Mail system). Also, you may indirectly convert one into the other on the Auction House by buying goods with one currency and selling them for the other currency. The current rate between the two is somewhere around 120 gold equaling 1 platinum. As you can see, you can in the end earn Platinum in this game by playing the F2P PvE modes and trading. Mastering the use of the Auction House by knowing what and when to buy/sell is a skill that can prove very profitable. One could even realistically build a full collection just by flipping stuff on the Auction House (although do keep in mind the 5% AH fee).
One point that takes things to the next level, and one of the main advantages of this being a TCG while many other games in the genre like Hearthstone, Faeria, Spellweaver, Duelyst are CCGs, is that you can sell or trade your cards for real money. So all that stuff you’re building in your collection (yes, even those PvE items you’ve earned for free by playing the AI) have real-world monetary value. There are people paying real bucks for these cards and we have a constantly updated Buy List here on our site, allowing players to easily and safely cash out.
Any investment you put into the game can be redeemed upon in the future and may even appreciate should the game grow as it is expected to. Think about all the money you spend in these other CCGs going essentially into a blackhole and compare it to the TCG model, and you’ll soon understand why many players have stopped playing these other games all together after having discovered Hex.
4) Amazing Gameplay Depth Built For the Digital Medium
Ok so we’ve talked a lot about the things built around the game but how’s the core gameplay itself? You’ll be happy to know that Hex takes all that’s best from something like Magic: The Gathering with its 2 decades of experience, and blends it, in many ways, into an improved version largely thanks to its great use of the digital medium. Maybe you’ve already experienced some of this in Hearthstone, which similarly does cool stuff you couldn’t do in a paper card game. Hex not only birthed this concept before HS came about but they have also taken it much further. For example, there’s currently a whole archetype that involves you randomly stuffing your opponent’s deck with Spiderling Eggs which upon your opponent drawing them hatch and enter your control in the form of a Spiderling troop.
Some of the unique cards available in Hex that are only possible thanks to the game’s use of the digital medium.
There’s also many more ways to customizing your deck in Hex which expands the permutations of what you can do exponentially. For each deck you build, you’ll have a choice of over 40 champions to choose from which have special powers you can activate during a game. There’s also cards with sockets for which you have 20 gems to choose from that fundamentally change how these cards work and how they contribute to your strategy. In the PvE side of the game, each card has 1-3 equipment which improve the card and hence make you re-evaluate every card and deck in the game. While the game is easy to get into thanks to its informative tutorial and a PvE mode that slowly ramps in difficulty, mastering it is something everyone is striving for on a daily basis. If you’re bored of the mindless sequences and almost scripted ways in which things play out in your other games, you’ll find delving deep into this game to be a rewarding experience as no two matches ever plays the same.
An example of how PvE equipment pieces can breathe new life into existing cards.
5) A Passionate & Relentless Company Dedicated To Making This Game Successful
While it should by now be clear that this is very much a AAA game, the developer behind it is a humble and passionate indie studio that is always open to community feedback. Their development speed has at times drawn critique due to the sheer amount of promises they made in their Kickstarter campaign, but they have never cut any corners or scrapped plans in order to make the task more manageable for themselves.
The ethos of the company starts with the CEO and founder of the company, Cory Jones, who gave birth to this dream game of his (and many others considering the $2.6 million in pledges) through this must-watch video and who will stop at nothing short of making it come true. The team built around the game is composed of equally passionate developers and designers, some of which are at the top of their respective fields. There’s an unyielding commitment to reinvest everything they make back into the game and make Hex a game that millions of people will be playing for decades. It was a bold vision back then, but the right infrastructure has now been laid out and we have started to see the heights it is on its way to reach.
The original Kickstarter video that started it all featuring no other than Hex CEO Cory Jones.
6) One of the Best Communities in Gaming
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the Kickstarter foundations and a company that is oozing passion, the community around this game is one you’re unlikely to find in many other places. This community has endured delays, a lawsuit with Magic: The Gathering which was successfully settled, and at times even doubts of whether implementing a magical project of this scope would even be possible. But it has stayed strong throughout and with each update continues to gain confidence that all their faith was properly placed.
There are community members that go above and beyond contributing to the game’s success and once per year get rewarded with ‘Exalted’ status and get permanently immortalized in the game with a vanity card.
Entertaining Twitch personalities, free community-ran tournaments with big prize pools, forum contests and giveaways, and a very generous in-game playerbase that is known to hand out cards and help new players at great lengths. It’s something you’ll need to experience for yourself to understand but there’s no doubt that if you’re looking for friendly people to play with, you’ll find that in droves inside of Hex.
7) A Never-Ending Stream of Features
Already the game has so much more going for it than other competitors but what I’ve described here is just scratching the surface of what is being worked on and coming to the game. Soon you’ll have Strongholds where you’ll be able to build a series of decks for the AI to play on your behalf against any other player daring to challenge you, and make money if they lose. Speaking of the AI, it’s being designed by Chris Woods who’s perhaps the most experienced AI-developer in the industry, and it’s constantly getting better by analyzing what players do and how they play. Then you have Mercenaries which will be alternate champions all with unique special abilities that you’ll want to collect (on top of the Sleeve and Alternate Art collectibles that are already in the game) and put to good use in certain areas of the PvE campaign. We’ll also have Guilds where players will be able to share decks, and also go Raiding with up to two other friends playing against huge menacing bosses that’ll no doubt drop epic loot. Then, somewhere down the line, there’s going to be Double-Backs which will track just about any stat and achievement on every card, making every single card in the game unique. There’s already news coming out of the Chinese servers that we’ll be able to host our own private tournaments with prize support and other customizations. I could go on but you get the gist – this game is going to be bonkers!
Double-backs, one of the many features that is planned for this constantly growing game.
As it’s hard to come across all of the above after just a few hours of gameplay, I hope reading this helped to get a sense of the scale and potential that Hex ultimately offers. We truly believe this game has something for everyone and we can only wish that you give it a real shot – it deserves it.