World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, was released earlier this year, while the Hearthstone team revealed its own new expansion, Rastakhan’s Rumble, at BlizzCon 2018. Both the World of Warcraft expansion and this new Hearthstone pack deal heavily with the Warcraft race of trolls — the titular Rastakhan himself is, in fact, a new character introduced in Battle for Azeroth.
Rastakhan’s Rumble is unlike many other Hearthstone expansions, because it ties in so neatly to what’s going on in World of Warcraft at the moment, rather than delving into years-old history, like Knights of the Frozen Throne did. And lead mission designer Dave Kosak is excited about the two games coming together once again.
“It kind of was a happy coincidence,” said Kosak on how Rastakhan’s Rumble relates to World of Warcraft’s recent troll-centered focus. “Because we’d wanted to do a troll set for awhile. And what appeals to us on the Hearthstone team about trolls is that the fantasy is so broad.”
The troll variety in World of Warcraft is certainly something that’s always spoken to players. Trolls have all kinds of different cultures and tribes within them, and they’ve played the villain in Warcraft more than once over the years. But the newly introduced King Rastakhan and his Zandalari subjects are powerful, ancient trolls that have a deep connection to the troll gods, known as Loa.
“You have your sort of dark, creepy Voodoo trolls, as well as the ‘golden king on a golden throne’ kind of fantasy with trolls,” said Kosak. “And the trolls in Azeroth encompass all these fantasies. That’s perfect for Hearthstone, because they can fight in all kinds of different ways and do really, really, really cool things. The fact that World of Warcraft was about to explore Zandalari culture in a big way was just a great opportunity for us, because that gave us access to new characters.”
But aside from the setting and the characters, the trolls in Hearthstone’s new expansion and Battle for Azeroth couldn’t be any more different. In the upcoming Tides of Vengeance patch for World of Warcraft, players will take down a corrupted King Rastakhan, likely ending his life for good. The Zandalari kingdom is in some serious trouble in Battle for Azeroth, but Hearthstone goes in a different direction.
“What I love about Rastakhan’s Rumble is, in the World of Warcraft universe, Rastakhan is going through a tough time,” said Kosak. “I mean, his kingdom is falling apart. It’s kind of beset on threats from inside and outside and he’s in a really tough position. Whereas in Hearthstone, he gets to kind of just cut loose. This is Rastakhan when he’s at the peak of his game, like he’s at the top of the arena and saying, you know, ‘Everyone [claps] fight,’ and we get to have a lot of fun with that character.”
This dichotomy or almost alternate universe is something the Hearthstone team has done before. In one of the original Hearthstone mission packs, One Night in Karazhan, the team envisioned the great keep of Karazhan — home to Medivh, one of the most powerful sorcerers in Azeroth’s history — as a late-night disco party.
But while Kosak and the team love to shake things up from time to time, they know Hearthstone is a World of Warcraft-based game, and sometimes that offers them the treat of recreating an authentic World of Warcraft experience in game.
“If you played the original World of Warcraft, the Gurubashi Arena was one of the only places in the world that was free for all [player-versus-player], like you got flagged for PvP just for setting foot in that arena, even within your own faction,” said Kosak. “And it was one of the only places in the world where that happened. And so for players that recognized Gurubashi Arena as that lawless, anything goes place, that’s exactly how it’s portrayed in Hearthstone.”
Players who remember the golden age of trolls have a great deal to look forward to with Rastakhan’s Rumble. But for all the troll nostalgia that awaits players, the Hearthstone team has slipped in new stuff as well. The end result should hopefully be a mix of old Warcraft lore and new. Troll cultures will clash, and players will get to see how Rastakhan was before, just around the time they snuff him out in World of Warcraft.