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The QueueOct 15, 2021 12:00 pm CT

The Queue: Just queuin’ right along

Welcome to the Queue, which is still not about Star Trek but might be about the Muppets.


Q4tQ Did you enjoy the Muppets Haunted Mansion?


It’s a movie with a target audience specifically of me. It’s jam-packed with Muppet references and Haunted Mansion references all wrapped around a surprisingly sweet little story.

“You don’t have to be The Great Gonzo to be great, Gonzo.”

You said it, Kermit. 🥲


Q4TLiz: Explain the intricacies of public policy around public transportation or the heroic Painsmith fight’s mechanics.

There are really just two mechanics in the entire Painsmith fight that you need to know:

  1. Do not jump while dodging deadly floor stuff. A poorly timed jump can leave you dead on the ground even well into a safe space. Because I jump while walking without even thinking about it, I have run into this troublesome mechanic a surprising number of times. The deadly floor stuff moves fast in Heroic, so no jumping allowed.
  2. Heal a WHOLE BUNCH, and when you run out of mana (rare for a Holy Paladin, but happens in this fight), beg for an innervate. My raid has a lot of Druids so usually I’m good here.

That’s it, that’s the whole fight, nothing else to know.


QftQ: What do you *really* expect as a proper narrative pay-off for gamifying the afterlife? My expectations keep growing. The devs are either going to have to knock this one out of the park or give me enough “healing azeroth” stuff to content me. You?

I’ve stopped expecting WoW’s narratives to have a satisfying conclusion, which has helped.

I don’t mean to dig on the writing staff, but there’s just not a satisfying way to conclude this expansion, or to conclude most expansions. Every problem solved has to lead to a new, bigger problem with higher stakes and escalating drama. Nothing can ever end or be fully concluded, because there always has to be a next catastrophe for us to jump towards, without pause. But at the same time expansions are kind of self-contained, and when we finish one there are going to be a bunch of loose threads left hanging that we’ll probably never come back to.

There’s no gratifying narrative payoff possible, and even if there is, it won’t be gratifying to everyone. By not expecting a great ending, I’m hoping not to be disappointed.


Softball Q4tQ: what do you think of Mercenaries so far?

Now that I’ve had a few days to play it, I’m still enjoying it – about an hour and a half disappeared somehow while I was playing tonight, so clearly it’s done something right. I’m not thrilled with how quickly the leveling slows down, though, as it seems I’ll have to do a lot of dragging my mercs through the same content to get them powerful enough to progress.

I also feel like the coin system is too random. I have a ton of mercs with 20-80 coins, but since it takes up to 500 to craft some of them, it feels like I’m stuck hoping to get a lucky pack to get the ones I want. But the fights are tactical enough to keep me interested without being frustrating, and it does feel good to keep making progress.

Overall, I think it’s the start of a good game, and one that’s easy to just pick up and play for a little while, so I plan to stick with it. And I look forward to seeing how it grows and changes – I feel like there’s a lot of potential here, like it could be refined into something really great.

I’ve played a lot of Mercenaries since it’s come out. Really. A lot. I already have all but nine of the mercenaries. All of my mercs are level 5+ and I have a full party maxed out at level 30.

Also I think I might hate it.

Firstly, the gameplay is quite simple, to the point whether I’m not sure it will have any longevity. It’s less tactical than I expected — less tactical than any other game mode — with barely any decisions to make. It’s practically a color matching game: blue attacks red, red attacks green, green attacks blue. The skills you use and team you pick and gear you equip have little impact on the outcome of a match. Some mercs are more powerful than others and some skills are more powerful than others, but there really isn’t any strategy or decision making involved in gameplay. This sounded like it was going to be a tactical RPG where you’d build the perfect team and gear them up and use different strategies and tactics to progress. That is wrong. There are practically no choices to make, only buttons to click.

Many, many buttons.

Though the gameplay is a bit simple, my biggest complaint is by far the complexity of the UI. I feel like this is partially a problem with Hearthstone continually bolting new gameplay on top of an existing framework without updating the UI in any significant way, which has gradually made it clunkier and clunkier.

Menus are not inherently fun to navigate. Clicking things is not inherently fun. And in fact, I’d say that the more clicks it takes to just play the game, the less fun it is. And Mercenaries takes a massive number of clicks to do anything. Considering you are making very few tactical decisions in combat, you’re doing a lot of clicking for a small amount of gameplay. And since it takes a good amount of time to level your mercs, you’ll be repeating this repetitive, non-tactical, click-happy, loading screen-happy gameplay a whole lot.

But maybe you think I’m overstating things. Maybe you think clicks just aren’t a good metric of fun. I have one example that will make you understand what I’m talking about. The true horror of this convoluted UI: equipping the single piece of gear gear that each merc earns on reaching level 30. What you might think would take a click or two is actually a complicated, unintuitive, and surprisingly time-consuming process.

Let me walk you through it:

  1. You’ll level during combat, and the achievement will pop up just before combat is completed. You’ll have to click through the victory window, then two pages of post-battle mercenary information to get back to the Bounty screen.
  2. Click “Back” to return to the main Mercenaries menu.
  3. Click “Back” to return to the main Hearthstone menu.
  4. Click quests.
  5. Click achievements.
  6. Click game modes. (Fortunately the Mercenaries game mode should be selected by default when you get here. Saved you a click!)
  7. Scroll down to find the mercenary you just leveled and click the achievement “Geared Up: <Mercenary Name>”
  8. Click away from the congratulatory pop-up you get for earning the achievement.
  9. Click away from the achievement menu.
  10. Click Mercenaries to return to Mercenaries mode.
  11. Click the Tavern to open your list of Mercenaries.
  12. Scroll until you find the Mercenary who just got gear, then click them.
  13. Click the piece of gear you’ve unlocked and drag it to the gear slot.
  14. Click “Done.”

That’s fourteen steps just to put on a piece of gear. I just timed how long it takes to go through all of the animations, clicking, scrolling, and navigating: 1 minute, 15 seconds.

The interface of this game wasn’t just an afterthought: it wasn’t thought about at all. It’s difficult and time consuming to navigate. Information isn’t clearly displayed, or requires extra clicks to display it. There’s noticeable load time between screens and menus as animations and graphics are loaded and displayed. The majority of the time I spend “playing” this game does not involve actual gameplay in any way: it’s just navigating menus.

I play Hearthstone regularly. I know the interface is clunky, showing its age. But I’m still perplexed by what a complicated mess the Mercenaries interface is. Team 5 tried to cram a game that’s nothing like Hearthstone into a Hearthstone interface and it just doesn’t work. The interface actively prevents you from playing the game, and noconsideration seems to have been put into making the gameplay experience better.

Mercenaries isn’t Hearthstone, and it would be better if it had never tried to be Hearthstone.

Yeah, you thought you asked a softball question, Musedmoose, but you did not.

That’s all for today’s Queue. I hope you all have a great Friday and a great weekend, and if you enjoy Hearthstone Mercenaries I hope you keep enjoying it (and I also hope Team 5 continues to improve it). Be sure to pet your pets and hug your loved ones this weekend when you get the chance — I’m pretty sure you earn achievement points for both, so it’s well worth doing.

I’ll catch you all back here next week.

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