Blizzard Entertainment sure has made a name for itself due to some amazing video game series such as Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. It further rose up when World of Warcraft became the world’s most popular MMO, spawning a number of expansions and gaining millions of players worldwide.
The first Blizzard game I played was Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, after which I got it’s expansion pack, The Frozen Throne. I loved both of these games and spent a very long time playing them. StarCraft and Diablo have received my love as well, but truth be told, nothing beats Warcraft. No, I’m not only saying that because I gave up my life for World of Warcraft, it’s because the Warcraft series is truly amazing and praiseworthy. It borrows a lot of elements from popular fantasy franchises, most notably Lord of the Rings, but the series has developed and expanded it’s own fantastic lore that stands out when it comes to fantasy video games.
We experienced this fantastic lore and it’s expansion in all the Warcraft game, but it was World of Warcraft that struck hardest. Even after leaving the game, I remember much of the story, the environments, the characters, the music, the sound effects and much more. How could I not when I played the game for years?
Now that World of Warcraft has gotten old, lost a large percent of it’s player base and is getting no expansions, Blizzard has come up with a new game for die-hard Warcraft fans – Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. However, unlike previous games, Hearthstone is not a real-time strategy, nor an MMORPG. Instead, it’s a card game. But don’t worry, it’s got that Warcraft magic you’re craving for.
I shouldn’t even mention this since all Warcraft fans know this already, but Hearthstone is an item in World of Warcraft that teleports you to your home town, in case you were wondering.
Currently in beta stages, Hearthstone is an online card game, as I mentioned before, that is based on Warcraft. Blizzard provided Gearnuke with a beta code and I’ve been playing the game for a while now. The first word that comes to my mind when I think of Hearthstone: Addictive.
Of course, it’s not the same level of addiction that you felt when playing World of Warcraft, but it’s enough to keep you playing the game for hours without a break. Most of the game is fan-service as you’ll notice when you play it because it uses a lot of sound effects, characters, and art from previous games. That’s what makes the game stand out.
The objective of the game is simple: defeat your opponent by dealing damage to him/her using your minions. I remember there being a Japanese anime called Duel Masters that gave birth to a popular card game. The reason why I remembered the Duel Masters card game is because it bears some striking similarities to Hearthstone. In Duel Masters, you gained one mana per turn and then summoned monsters to fight for you. The monsters would kill other monsters, break shields and then attack the opponent directly.
Hearthstone is quite similar. First, you select your hero. Newcomers start with a mage, Jaina Proudmoore – a popular Warcraft character. Other heroes classes are represented by popular characters as well, such as Thrall and Illidan. You are then given a deck of cards. The cards either summon minions or allow you to do perform a task such as drawing cards or getting an extra mana crystal. You and your opponent have the same amount of HP, while each minion has different HP and attack power. You’ll start off the game with 1 Mana Crystal and gain one each turn in addition to replenishment. Minions require a specific number of Mana Crystals to be summoned. After each turn, your Mana Crystals will be replenished.
Players need to employ strategy and tactics to defeat the opponent. Your minions can either attack other minions or the opponent directly. They can also get their stats increased if you use special cards. Furthermore, some minions have a special ability called Taunt which prevent the opponent from attacking you directly without defeating the minion first. You’ll also see special spells and abilities such as Polymorph, which as you might already know, transforms an enemy minion into a sheep with 1HP.
Apart from familiar spell names, the minions are monsters from the Warcraft games such as the murlocks. Other than that, you’ll hear voices like “Job’s Done!” when there is nothing left to do in your turn. If you’ve played the previous Warcraft games, you’ll remember this as what a human peon would say after completing a task. Each hero will have a set of dialogues as well, most of which are emotes.
The artwork on the cards is quite impressive and is once again borrowed from previous Warcraft games. In order to provoke more nostalgia, you’ll see some stuff on the card table such as Griffins, Zeppelins and some landmarks from World of Warcraft. Everything fits into Hearthstone perfectly and makes you feel at home, hence the name.
Once you get the hang of the game after the tutorials, you’ll move on to practice mode where you defeat other heroes to unlock them and get new cards. Card battles are tough at times if you don’t have a good deck, so you’ll be spending a lot of time trying to maximize the potential of your deck and improve your strategy to get the upper hand. There are class-specific cards and neutral cards, and you’ll have to create a deck with a combination of the two if you want to win. There are a plethora of cards, so get ready to quit your real life for a while if you’re going to start playing Hearthstone.
After you’re done unlocking all classes, you can play against other players in regular battles, or take part in Arena battles. In order to enter the Arena, you need 150 gold or $1.99. Your first Arena pass is free though. In the Arena, you pick one hero from a list of three, and then one card from sets of three until you have a complete deck. Then, you battle random opponents and aim to win nine times. If you complete the challenge, you get a booster pack, or crafting dust or gold.
In the Arena you are guaranteed to get a booster pack of cards to increase your collection, regardless of whether you win or lose. If there are cards you don’t like, you can disenchant them for dust and create cards that you need. The rest of the game is free-to-play, so this isn’t a big problem.
Matches last for about 10-20 minutes, depending on how easy or hard your opponent is. Once a battle ended, I was tempted to start all over again and experiment with new decks. Just like any other Blizzard game, it’s not easy to let go of it.
I did not encounter any bugs in the beta, but I’ll keep playing and see what happens. Some things remain unfinished, such as the animations which will be better in the final release of the game. The visuals are fantastic though. They’ll be improved somehow, but I don’t see how Blizzard can do a better job than they already have.
So far, Hearthstone seems to be an amazing game, especially for fans of the Warcraft series or simply those looking for a fun card game. If you’re one of them, I strongly recommend applying for a beta and trying it out for yourself. However, those who are not fond of digital card games should back off as this is not for them. Waiting for turns and displaying patience is not everyone’s strong point. Blizzard has done a good job of making the game easy for players lacking experience with card games through it’s detailed tutorials, but I fear that is not enough to draw them into the genre.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft will be releasing soon this year and is free-to-play on PC and Mac.