Blizzard , CCG , collectible card game , Hearthstone , Heroes of Warcraft , Magic , Magic: The Gathering , One Night in Karazha , Reviews , Whispers of the Old God
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by Jasmine Greene
Hearthstone by Blizzard is a simplified take on the ever popular collectible card game (CCG) genre set in the Warcraft universe. While many players consider it a simplified version of Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone manages to polish the basic mechanics of this genre while bringing some new gameplay to the table.
Hearthstone is easy to learn, but very difficult to master. An excellent introductory tutorial leads you through the basics of the game. You play against different NPCs and as you do you learn the play style of each class as well as different strategies to playing a game. The gameplay is pretty much a stripped down version of Magic. You choose cards for your deck and each turn you gain mana to spend on summoning your cards. There are two different types of cards: spells and minions. Some of these you’ll find are only available to certain classes. It’s up to you to expertly build a deck that will overwhelm your enemy. As of now there are several different strategies. Here are some of the more popular ones:
- Control – these decks tend to focus on crowd controls spells and board control.
- Zoo – these focus on many small, cheap minions and overwhelming your opponent early on in the game.
- Fatigue – these force your opponents to draw until they are out of cards, leading to damage via fatigue eventually leading to death.
- Face – similar to zoo decks these have a focus on small, cheap cards to dole out damage early in the game. However, these combine more damage and buff spells in addition to minions.
- Spell – this focus more on spells cards to do massive amounts of damage to the other player.
Your deck consists of 30 cards. You can either use a pre-made deck or customize your own. There are several ways to increase your overall card collection:
- Level up your character to 60.
- Complete daily quests for gold and use the gold to buy packs.
- Pay real money for packs.
- Disenchant your duplicates and/or unwanted cards for dust, which you can use to buy most cards.
One of the great things about Hearthstone is that it can be completely free to play. You can pretty much unlock every card and expansion by earning in-game gold. With that said, the game is so fun and engaging that you don’t mind spending actual money for packs.
Speaking of expansion, Blizzard has released several already for Hearthstone. Their latest card expansion is called Whispers of the Old God. This introduces new spells and minions that focus on buffing the minion C’thun. In order to keep the gameplay fresh and force players to change up their decks, Blizzard has made some cards from previous expansions unusable in their standard format. Not only does it keep seasoned players on their toes, it also makes it easier for new players to join in without needing to collect as many cards in the beginning. That doesn’t mean all the cards are gone, however. In wild format, players can use every card they’ve collected in every expansion.
For the most part, Hearthstone is a one-on-one game where you battle other players to see who is the best based on your card deck. However, other modes put an interesting twist on the CCG genre.
- Tavern brawl – this weekly event introduces different rules and mechanics you follow in order to beat the other player. These might be variations on normal games, may introduce mini boss fights or might be totally random games or matches.
- Adventure – this great single player mode allows you to fight various bosses based on the specific theme. Right now the latest adventure mode is One Night in Karazhan. This introduces characters like Medivh and other Warcraft characters. It’s smart and funny and just a ton of fun.
- Arena – Unlike standard mode where you can come in with a prebuilt deck, in Arena you must choose from cards presented to you in the beginning. This adds an extra element of randomness to the game and forces you to play a different style.
With so many different modes and expansions, Hearthstone offers a ton replay value. No two games are alike and you can create different decks to see what play style you prefer. The art here is beautiful and minimal. Besides the regular card art, there are also golden versions that add an animated effect. Each board you play on has interactive objects you can touch that set off different animations. While it doesn’t affect the gameplay, it’s a nice touch and something to kill the time while you’re waiting for your opponent to make their move. Besides that, the music and voice acting are all on point. Your heroes have a handful of phrases they can say, each voiced true to the original Warcraft game. Sadly, a lot of players use these phrases to spam others, so you end up squelching them.
For the most part, Hearthstone is a great game but there are a few drawbacks here. You can only play if you have Internet connection, even the adventure mode. It’s a shame and is especially frustrating in Arena or Ranked mode if you accidentally close out the app or randomly lose your connection.
Perhaps the best and worst part of the game, however, is the randomization. Like other CCG games you have no control over when you draw your cards. Sure you can control what cards are in the deck, but when you get them is up to chance. This means you’ll often get cards in the beginning of the game you can’t use until much later. Many times, this will cost you a game or two…or three. It can get especially frustrating when it seems like your opponent is drawing the best combination of cards. While there is some strategy as to how to build your deck, ultimately the fate of the match relies on the luck of the draw.
Speaking of opponents, more than once you’ll run into one that will wait until the very last second to pull out their cards. This can get very frustrating as you have to wait 30 seconds every turn. It might not seem like much in the beginning, but it extends your play time unnecessarily. What could have been a minute game ends up dragging because the other player takes too long. The worst part is that you can’t block other players so you’ll end up playing against the same person who uses this tactic.
Despite this, Hearthstone is still a fun and really addictive game. I highly suggest it for anyone who wants to get into CCG, but doesn’t want to deal with the complexities of Magic.
- Endless replayability
- Several different multiplayer modes and single player adventure
- Free to play
- Easy to learn
- Deep strategy in deck building
- Completely random card draws
- Only usable with Internet connection
- Some players draw out matches purposefully