Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft, the game developed by the well-known Blizzard, has finally entered its long awaited open beta for all to play. After months of being in closed beta, this game has made its way on to almost every big time streamer on the Internet, proving itself that it’s more than just a niche game. I myself have watched many-a-stream and waited far too long for the beta to become open, but since late January I have been able to play. And oh boy let me tell you, this game has got me glued to my computer.
Hearthstone (for those who have been living under a rock) is an online trading card game based on the popular Warcraft franchise, which is easy to learn, accessible for everyone and not to mention; loads of fun to play! This game is based on Magic: The Gathering, an older trading card game with cards stretching in to the thousands. The sheer amount of cards and money that you have to spend, frightens the newcomers. Not to mention the entire set of rules that come with it. It can be overwhelming for new players. That’s where Hearthstone comes in! It’s so accessible and easy to pick up, that anyone can play it!
The basic premise of the game is whittling your opponent down to 0 healthpoints from 30, before he does the same to you. Each turn you get a chance to play minions or spells that cost mana crystals (your resource) and deal damage for you. Minions also being able to soak up damage for you, making the game drag out if they are focused over your chosen class.
Lots of these cards have their own unique gimmicks, which could cause very funny and unpredictable situations to happen. Some cards also invoke an action influenced by a random number generator, which means you don’t have control over the action being produced by that card. Being it either destroying a random minion in play or randomly dealing damage to ANY character, some of these cards require luck (and balls!) to play and they can either heavily favor you or they could also be your downfall.
With 9 different heroes (classes) each equipped with their own hero power and their own class cards respectively, also add a lot of variety to the game. Hero powers are skills unique to that hero, such as priests being able to heal themselves or their minions or mages able to fireblast (deal damage) to any minion on the field.
My favorite class has got to be the Paladin. He can summon minions with his hero power and buff them as well which make them a lot stronger OR even immune to damage. There are in total 496 cards so every game you play versus another player feels unique. Like I said earlier, every class has their own unique set of cards, but there are also neutral cards. These neutral cards can be fashioned for any classes’ deck.
A deck is always consisting of 30 cards; you can make one yourself once you have finished the tutorial and unlocked the hero you want to play as. You can unlock additional cards by playing games and earning gold. Booster packs can be bought in the game store either with real money or gold. Gold is earned from playing and winning games.
Also there are daily quests that grant you money if you complete them. Be it either from slaying enough minions or winning a certain amount of games with a hero. If you are having troubles acquiring the cards you want, you can always craft some cards in crafting mode. Here you can craft the cards you want with arcane dust. Arcane dust is salvaged from disenchanting cards you already own.
Does this make Hearthstone a pay to win game? I would say yes and no. You can play the game a lot and eventually acquire all the cards you need to play at a high rank. Or you can choose to spend a certain amount of money and get the cards you need much faster. Since the game is free to play anyway, I don’t condemn the business model Blizzard has chosen for their game. They are a business after all and need to earn money one way or another.
Enough about pay to win, let’s talk about the different game modes you can play in Hearthstone. There are a total of three game modes you can choose from. There is constructed play, practice and the Arena.
Practice is where you play against bots either on normal or expert level. Here you can improve your skills if you just started playing Hearthstone. Also it’s an easy opportunity to unlock different heroes and their basic hero cards.
- Constructed play
What is constructed play you ask? Well my good friends, this is where you test out your awesome deck you fashioned by yourself. You can choose to play the casual setting, which is unranked, or you can play the ranked version. This includes you playing against other ranked players, competing on a leaderboard and by winning you slowly climb the ladder.
- The Arena
This game mode is by far my favorite. Here you have to pay to play, either by paying the $1.80 fee or spending 150 gold to enter. After you have paid the entry fee, you get to choose one of three random heroes. Once you have chosen your hero, you get to slowly pick each card for your deck. You get presented three randomly generated cards, these being both neutral and / or class specific cards. Once you pick a card, another three present themselves where you have to choose one again, and so on and so forth.
Once you have a deck of 30 cards, you get to play against other players who have done the same thing. This game mode seems chaotic, but it’s loads of fun. It gives the player the opportunity to play with cards they’ve never had for themselves. You keep playing the deck you handpicked, until you lose a total of three games, or you win 12 games. Which is highly unlikely (and believe me; I’ve tried SO damn hard!). When you’re finished mowing down your enemies in an orderly chaotic fashion, you receive a just reward for your valiant efforts. These rewards usually come as additional cards, boosterpacks, gold or arcane dust!
Now then, what does Hearthstone have to boast in terms of graphics you ask? I’ll be honest; it has its own unique flavor. The user interface is quite intuitive, since everything is highlighted in your turn in what you are able to play. Every spell has its own animation. Every card is neatly hand drawn and when you acquire a golden version of a card from a booster pack, the card has its own unique animation as well.
As for the music, it plays a continuous loop of epic tavern music, perfect for this card game. And a lot of spells and effects you will probably recognize if you’ve played other Warcraft games. Hearthstone can be played on almost any computer, since the requirements aren’t that high. Also Blizzard has promised to release the game on handhelds such as smartphones and tablets as well in the near future.
The only thing I would say is missing from the whole experience is the actual trading of cards itself. That game mode seems to be missing from Hearthstone. But yeah, who cares since Hearthstone is free to play anyway. I guess they would rather see players spending more money on buying boosterpacks then trading with people who have dozens of the same cards left over. Before I forget, I should add that Hearthstone is still in open beta.
If you are looking for a more intricate card game I do advise checking out other, longer running card games. This game still has a lot of depth to it, but there are other card games out there like Magic who have just been in this same business for a much longer time. Not to bad-mouth Blizzard or anything, this game is still awesome! It even got me back into liking trading card games in the first place. This game has served as a gateway drug for me to try out different card games out there.
In conclusion, I want to leave you with this: Try this game, you won’t regret it. Or perhaps maybe you will, since you will be spending countless hours perfecting every little nook and cranny in your deck. If I had to rate this game on a scale from 1 – 10, I’d rate this game a 9 / 10. Hearthstone’s replay value and fun factor is sky-high, easy-to learn-difficult-to-master!
Also I would like to add that it took me quite a while to write this. I just had to pinch in a few games while writing this review. You know, in the name of research! *winks*
Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Hearthstone, Heroes of Warcraft, Preview