Review: Hearthstone – Heroes of Warcraft

I went into Hearthstone – Heroes of Warcraft not sure exactly what to expect. It was a card fighting game, and I like those, but it was free to play, and I’m wary of that model of gaming. What’s more, it was based on World of Warcraft, a game I could never really get into for various reasons. Finally, what I did know about the game was that it was apparently a lot like Magic: The Gathering, a card game I don’t mind but often find to be a bit heavy on rules. Put simply, Hearthstone – Heroes of Warcraft  had a lot riding against it.

But what I found was a game that was easy to pick up and play, stylish and dammit, it’s a lot of fun.

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For those who have no idea what this game is about, the first thing you need to know is that while Hearthstone – Heroes of Warcraft does have the word Warcraft right there in it’s title, this isn’t World of Warcraft. The comparisons to Magic are well founded; it’s much more M:TG than it is WoW. Like M:TG, you fight enemy mages, drawing one card each round to use in the next round (“summoning sickness” is present here too) battle and all of this is dependent on the amount of mana you have. So it would be fair to say that Blizzard drew heavy inspiration from Magic. But where Magic felt top heavy and overly complex sometimes, Hearthstone really was very much a pick up and play experience for me. There is essentially no learning curve in this game and cards explain exactly what they do in a clear manner. The in game tutorial also helps explain some of the game’s finer points, so unless you’re a thickie, you’ll be winning battles against enemy wizards in no time.

That said, the game felt a little too predetermined, at times. I often found myself drawing exactly the right card I needed to win at just the right moment. At other times, I couldn’t help but feel like those cards that had a 10% chance of blowing up in my face seemed to do so more often than 10% of the time. Card games, especially in real life, are fun because they’re random. Whereas this game did mostly manage to feel random, there were far too many times where it didn’t.

Gameplay itself is fun, flashy and, for the most part, fast. Animations used when playing cards almost make it feel like you’re playing a game with physical cards, instead of on a PC or Mac. And many cards have their own sound effects when entering battle, which helps add to the atmosphere. The only downside in this respect is that sometime’s the banter between your mage and the enemy mage can slow down the flow of the game. I’m ready to cast my next spell but instead I’m listening to banter. I guess it’s meant to add even more atmosphere, but I mostly just found it irritating.

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Normally I rail against Free to Play games, but there are exceptions to the rule. For every instance of F2P greed (like the new Dungeon Keeper). there’s a F2P game that get’s it right. Hearthstone definitely falls into the latter category, and it works in its favour. It’s fair to say that if it Hearthstone hadn’t been free, I’d probably never have even tried it. But best of all, whereas some F2P games start bombarding you fairly quickly with requests to pay, or limit what you can play in an attempt to gouge you for cash, Hearthstone just let’s you play. And it essentially pays you for playing. The “Daily Quests” system gives you enough in-game currency to buy a new pack of premium cards every few days, so only the most impatient of players will find themselves forking out any money straight away. What’s more, you could spend some of the currency you get from playing Daily Quests to gain entry into the Premium Card Drafting Arena. This is a riskier route, since you’ll obviously be facing off against experienced human players, but if you win you’ll leave with a stack of in-game currency and should let you play almost indefinitely without ever spending a cent of real world cash.

Put simply, I’m having a lot  of fun in Hearthstone, and I can see myself playing this for quote some time. It probably won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but at the low low cost of free, you really don’t have much to lose by trying.

Final Score: 8 out of 10.

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