Developer/Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Introduction: So, rather than my usual casual online game review for this week, I decided to review a game I’ve been playing a fair amount of lately, somewhat obsessively. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is an upcoming free-to-play digital collectible card game created by Blizzard, the makers of popular series such as Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. Currently, Hearthstone is in closed beta, with a final release set sometime for 2013. There has been a massive amount of hype for this game, and as such, closed beta keys have been in high demand, though Blizzard has been steadily releasing more and more to the community.
Gameplay: One of the primary mechanics of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is its mana system, where you get 1 additional mana each turn, to a total of 10. The player going first starts with 3 cards in hand, and the player going second starts with 5 cards in hand, one of which is the Coin, which adds 1 mana for a turn. Each card has a specific mana cost, and in order to play that card, you have to have enough mana. In addition, you draw a card each turn, and can attack either opponent’s minions or your opponent directly with minions that have been on the board since the last turn. Other than those rules, the rest of the rules are printed on each individual card.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is still in beta, but overall, the gameplay is excellent. There are a few things that I feel need adjusting, particularly the balancing of playing first rather than playing second. Going first should feel like a good thing, but due to the extra card and specifically the Coin, going first often feels like a far greater benefit. However, according to Blizzard’s statistics, the win rate of going first is roughly equal to that of going second, so, at least in terms of low level play, it must be relatively balanced.
Players can unlock basic cards of each class by playing games with that class until you get to certain levels, as each class levels separately. In addition, you can earn money by winning 3 games with any class, and this money can be used to either buy booster packs, or tickets to ‘The Arena”. The Arena is where Hearthstone particularly shines. Playing regular mode can get repetitive, boring, and sometimes even frustrating, but The Arena is a new experience each time. For those of you familiar with Magic: The Gathering, The Arena is very similar to a draft. To start, you get to pick 1 of 3 random champions to play as, then you get to pick 1 out of 3 randomly displayed cards until you have 30 cards for your deck. You then play games against other human players until you either win 9 games, or lose 3 games. At the end you are awarded a prize based on your number of wins, however the prize will ALWAYS contain at least one booster pack.
Graphics: The Graphics of Hearthstone are top notch, with widely varying pictures on each card that are all very fitting for the card they’re on. Each game, the arena contains one of three sets of four warcraft style buildings, that are fully interactive. There are things like a catapult, where you can load the catapult from a pile of stones, fire it, then crank it back to reload it. These interactive environments are very nice to pass the time with while you wait for your opponent to take their turn. These buildings, as well as the hero portraits are all very detailed.
Sound: The sounds of Hearthstone are all excellent, with interesting music, and excellent and a large number of sound effects. Each card has its own sound effects, with card types like the murlocs having a universal sound effect that comes straight from the warcraft games. (A sound that, while fitting, makes me cringe every-time I hear it.) Each sound effect is very crisp and clean sounding.
Verdict: Among collectible card games, Hearthstone stands out a fair amount, particularly among online card games. Hearthstone is a decent amount simpler than most collectible card games, allowing a larger portion of the population to play. Spending real money doesn’t really do much for the player other than speed up the rate at which you get new cards. While the game can feel pay-to-win from time to time, there really is no requirement to spend money to still play at the same skill level as someone who has most of the cards, as long as you have a good sense of strategy. Games like Magic the Gathering: Online, as much as I enjoy MTG, can often be pay-to-win, as strategy can only take you so far. However, Hearthstone gives players a fairly large pool of cards to start with, including the basic cards each class can earn through simply playing a small number of games with said class. Overall, Hearthstone is an excellent game, although there are a few bugs, due to the game currently being in beta. This game deserves 5 out of 6.
I’ve gotten my hands on a spare Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft beta key, so I’d like to give it away to one of our readers to show our appreciation! To participate in the giveaway, simply leave a comment below describing how you first found out about Beer and Joysticks, and in a week, November 8, 2013, one lucky winner will be chosen at random to receive the key! Be sure to use an active and valid email, or else we will not be able to send you your key if you win! Once the winner is chosen, the post will be updated with the username of the winner below!
And the winner is… Milvato!
You will be contacted at your given email, and if you don’t respond within three days, another winner will be chosen.