If there's been one thing missing from Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, the incredibly addictive digital card game from Blizzard, it's a true single-player component: up until now you've only been able to play online or against computer-controlled bots in a training mode. But that's finally changed, with the release of Curse of Naxxramas, the game's very first expansion. It adds a brand-new mode that lets you play against a series of tough bosses, and it makes the game a whole lot better.
Naxxramas is essentially a multistage dungeon, with five wings that each house three powerful monsters that you battle individually. The first wing, dubbed the Arachnid Quarter, is available now, and it features some uniquely challenging opponents. After losing a few rounds to start, I found myself building a custom deck to deal with the new challenge: the spidery bad guys in the first wing play quite a bit differently than your typical online opponent, forcing me to change up my tactics to deal with an onslaught on arachnids. Each of the four upcoming sections, which will be released over the next four weeks, promise similar challenges that will take you out of your comfort zone. You can't just brute-force your way to victory. It takes some strategy.
Defeating all three bosses unlocks new challenge modes and a higher difficulty, but perhaps most importantly you'll get more cards to add your deck. Each wing offers four unique cards, and the Arachnid Corner's bonuses will be particularly useful if you like to play as a hunter, expanding your legion of beasts with a few tricky new spiders. All told it's a great change of pace from the standard online battles, and as a somewhat lapsed player it really helped me get back into the Hearthstone experience, much to the horror of my productivity.
But as solid as the expansion is, there is one potential sticking point: the price. While the first section is free for a limited time, after that you'll need to pay a relatively hefty sum. The wings cost $6.99 each, or $19.99 as a bundle if you snag the first for free. You can also spend in-game gold, but scrounging up 700 gold for each wing will take quite some time to earn. But for that price you'll get 30 new cards and 15 boss battles — not a bad deal by any stretch, and for Hearthstone devotees it's one that'll be hard to pass up. Curse of Naxxramas is available now for all versions of the game, including Windows, Mac, and iPad.