Hearthstone developers break down Voyage to the Sunken City’s new mechanics

Hearthstone’s latest expansion, Voyage to the Sunken City, takes players to the underwater runes of Zin-Azshari for the adventure of a lifetime. We caught up with two story developers to talk about their inspiration and the process behind the Colossal and Dredge keywords.

From the frontiers of the tavern to the mercenary village, Blizzard’s legendary competitive card game Hearthstone continues to grow in strength, taking inspiration from some of Azeroth’s most iconic vistas and transforming them into a CCG paradise.

To start a new Hearthstone year in style, the developers created one whole new extension for avid adventurers to immerse themselves in: Voyage to the Sunken City. Amidst the forgotten ruins of Zin-Azshari, a once-proud but now forgotten metropolis, players are tasked with slaying the demons that pollute it and uncovering long-lost mysteries.

To better understand this aquatic universe, we sat down with Associate Game Designer, Edward Goodwin, and Game Designer, Cora Georgiou to discuss the origins of Sunken City and the thought process behind some of its new mechanics.

Hearthstone Journey to the Sunken City Screenshots Jaina player competes against enemy

Nestled in the coral that lies deep beneath the waves, Sunken City offers a whole new look for Hearthstone.

Hearthstone Voyage for lost city inspiration

While it may initially puzzle fans why Blizzard suddenly took the ancient tavern under water, it turns out that this has been on the cards for a while (get it?).

“An underwater set is something we’ve wanted to do for quite some time, and having just gotten past the year of the griffin and years of storytelling with our mercenaries, we’ve played it pretty close to the world of Warcraft experience ‘ Cora explains. “It felt like after a year of three expansions that weren’t connected, it was finally the right time to do an underwater expansion and explore that setting and environment.

“Once we knew we wanted to do that, there were a couple of different stories that we could hook into – Vashj’ir being one of the stories that players were really excited about – but ultimately Nazjatar and the Great Divide and The Creation of the Naga was a story we were really looking forward to telling and it fitted perfectly with the environment we wanted to explore, so it seemed a perfect fit!”

World of Warcraft excites Zin-Azshari in the Great Division

As the Great Sundering tore ancient Kalimdor apart, Zin-Azshari crumbled beneath the waves.

Colossal & Dredge: New keywords for a new story

Alongside this aquatic new environment are two new keywords: Colossal and Dredge. The first breaks down large monsters into various “appendages” that interact with their primary body parts to create powerful combos.

Colossal grew out of developers “trying to capture the feel of these larger than life creatures that exist underwater,” Cora recalls. “They just seem so big they wouldn’t fit on a map. Obviously in the past we’ve made minions that summoned additional minions to come with them, but we wanted these creatures to be special; be set apart in any way.”

Bagger, on the other hand, works quite differently. To allow players to see the three cards at the bottom of their deck, you can pull one up and even combine them with new Azsharan cards to send a powerful “sunken” card at the bottom of your deck.

“With Dredge, we wanted a mechanic that would accommodate our explorers,” explains Edward. “Remember we have this team of researchers venturing into the underwater world, some uncharted waters, trying to figure out what really happened. I think dredging is a really wonderful thematic keyword for this, because just like digging and trolling through the ocean floor, dredging looks at the cards at the bottom of your deck.”

Noting that the developers nailed “the right feel, gameplay and excitement,” Cora concludes, “[Suken City] really is something special.” If that doesn’t encourage you to dive in, we don’t know what will. So get going, fellow adventurers! Zin-Azshari awaits! Hearthstone developers break down Voyage to the Sunken City’s new mechanics

Emma Bowman

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