One of the most exciting additions to Hearthstone, courtesy of next month's expansion Kobolds & Catacombs, is a brand-spanking-new single-player mode called Dungeon Run. "Our goal was to create a mode with all the flavor and storytelling of Adventures, but something that was more replayable and always surprising," explains designer David Kosak.
"We knew the Kobolds & Catacombs set was going to be about treasure and loot. What better way is there to get treasure than defeating and looting bosses? Essentially, the whole set was born from the idea of doing a Hearthstone roguelike."
Dungeon Run will work differently than anything else in Hearthstone. You'll start out with a basic set of cards, adding to your deck with each foe you defeat. But there's a catch: lose once, and you go right back to the beginning. "Dungeon Runs play so fast, it doesn’t feel bad to lose," promises Kosak. "You get to build a whole new deck, loot more insanely overpowered treasures, and face different encounters."
Hearthstone's new evil
Of course, that raised a new challenge for the Hearthstone team: creating a bunch of new villains that were satisfying to battle. Especially if you had to do it more than once.
"Sometimes we’ll start with a cool idea for a character, like Candlebeard. Of course we needed a kobold pirate! Then we’ll ask, what would a kobold pirate do?" says Hearthstone designer Peter Whalen. "Other times, we’ll focus on mechanics we think are interesting, or might be a challenging counter to popular deck archetypes. We knew we wanted to create a boss with a simple Counterspell mechanic to challenge spell-heavy decks, so we came up with Elder Brandlemar - a furbolg mystic who can dampen the magic of his opponents."
Blizzard's balancing act
As with everything in Hearthstone, it was a balancing act - a house of cards, if you will. The new mode had to be tested to make sure that whatever your playstyle, the challenge was always satisfying, and never impossible.
"We realized early on that aggro decks were super powerful for the first few encounters, so we created encounters that would counter those kinds of decks," says Kosak. "It forces you to mix up your game plan. Aggressive strategies are still powerful early on, but you have to build a deck that can pivot to something else if you need to. The difficulty sorted itself out along the way: if we created a tough boss, we’d put it later in the dungeon, and if a fight was really easy, we’d put it earlier."
It's a trap!
One encounter that sounds pretty tough was shown at Blizzcon 2017: The Room Full of Traps. Kosak tells us more: "It totally flips the dungeon on its head. The first time you encounter the Room Full of Traps, you won’t know what to do, but there is a way to survive. You’ll have to think about your deck in a whole different way," he warns.
"The final bosses were all lovingly crafted, and they have some interesting and unique mechanics," adds Kosak. "By the time you reach the final boss of a Dungeon Run, your deck will be tremendously OP, so it’ll truly be a clash of the titans."
Kobolds & Catacombs will be available on December 7 in North America and December 8 in Europe. You can pre-purchase the new Kobolds & Catacombs cards in preparation now. We'll have another exclusive Hearthstone video for you next week.