Robert Steinman
E3 2015: Hex: Shards of Fate Impressions
Hope I haven't been dealt a cruel hand...
06.20.15 - 12:26 AM

One thought kept cropping up in my head during my hands-off demo of Hex: Shards of Fate; now I know how my physics students feel! I have a passing idea of what a trading card game (TCG) is, thanks to a few years of playing Magic: The Gathering as a kid, and of course I've heard of Blizzard's Hearthstone, but Hex feels like calculus in terms of complexity compared to those other titles. Corey Jones, a former developer at Blizzard and founder of Hex, did a great job of taking this neophyte through the experience, and now I have a new appreciation for this type of game and what the developers at Cryptozoic are trying to accomplish.

Hex is trying to combine the best parts of an MMO and TCG. You collect cards for your deck, win new ones through beating other players (both human and AI controlled), and outfit your in-game avatar with new equipment to make them stronger. The depth on display was truly impressive even when simply putting together a deck of sixty cards. You need to make sure your avatar's abilities complement your deck and vice versa, allowing for a great deal of strategy before the first card is thrown down. You can even socket items into your cards for powerful effects and, thankfully, you can take them out and restructure your deck without having to buy new cards (which was a pretty dastardly idea that I pointed out to Corey, and I hope we never see it!).

After putting everything together, we moved into a PvE arena to play against a computer-controlled opponent. This is where my lack of knowledge of complicated TCGs left me a bit lost, but I still managed to grasp some of the basics. It was easy to see trap cards laid out for unsuspecting players (one particularly nasty trap was used to knock out every living thing on the field), but I've never actually played a TCG that allows one to act during the other player's turn. It was a cacophony of pretty colors, heavy hitting effects, and other graphical touches that made the game feel alive in that special way only a virtual card game can really achieve. Of course, you'll be able to buy rare cards using real money, but Cryptozoic is making it easy for players to use in-game currency to buy new decks and cards without having to reach for their wallet.

While Hex may be too far advanced for me, I can see players absolutely losing themselves in this type of experience. It offers a ton of customization options that will probably make fellow editors like Dave Yeager and John McCarroll absolutely gaga. I'll admit that the fact the game features a race of feudal bunny creatures who practice ritual sacrifice might be enough for me to branch out of my comfort zone.