We have been procrastinating on writing this article, but for once, it’s not entirely our fault. Blizzard Entertainment, the company that brought us such titles as the World of Where the Hell Did the Past Two Years of My Life Go, and Deckard Cain’s Bogus Journey, has been pushing its newest addiction, Hearthstone, and we finally decided to check out what all the excitement was about.
A New World of Warcraft
Hearthstone is not your typical Blizzard title. It’s not about finding loot, leveling up skills, or even sending roided up Marines to their death against hordes of angry Zerglings. No, on its face, Hearthstone is just a simple and easy card game, but much like the trash in the Death Star’s trash compactor room, there is something much more surprising hidden deep inside.
Hearthstone is Blizzard’s attempt to break into the casual gaming market, or the world of Freemium gaming, if you will. It’s the realm of gaming mostly reserved for birds with anger issues, social networking farmers, and some game where you pulverize pieces of candy and then pay real money. However, unlike those other games it is done with a flair that is unique to the company who created such classics as Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess.
In four simple words: this game is addicting. It’s so deceptively simple that you find yourself getting hooked in relatively no time. Built on the world of World of Warcraft, it is fun and colorful, and requires no special knowledge of WoW to play. There is a twist, because unlike card games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, or that other game that wants to be Pokemon, Hearthstone offers nine different types of decks with nine different types of characters, with more to come.
The Rules and Rage Quits
Currently, you can choose from being a Hunter, Priest, Warlock, Shaman, Druid, Mage, Warrior, Rogue, or Paladin. Each character has cards unique to his or her own deck as well a special power they can use once a turn. For instance, the Paladin can summon a 1/1 soldier, but the Mage can hurl a one point damage fireball to any enemy or player they wish. These special cards and abilities are further enhanced by the presence of a pool of general cards which a player can choose from. It’s hard not compare a game such as this to Magic: The Gathering, as both games use a pool of mana to play cards, but unlike MTG a player’s mana pool in Hearthstone naturally increases by one point every level until reaching a maximum of ten. Additionally, with the exclusions of interrupts, instants, or other “play at any time” cards, Blizzard has created an equally infuriating and enjoyable experience by streamlining the game down to its simplest form.
Now, that is not say that there is not a lot of strategy and complexity involved. Each character lends itself better to a different play style. A Warrior will tend to be more aggressive, with many cards that utilize charge and weaponry, while a Priest may emphasize a deck geared more toward controlling the board and his opponent. Yet, even with that said there are a myriad of possibilities, tactics, and combos that can be made just by rearranging a few cards in your deck. Do you want a rush Druid or a direct damage Warlock? It may not always work, but the game will not stop you from trying, and better yet if you pull it off you’re going to surprise the seven hells out of your opponents, and really isn’t that what’s it all about? Creatively beating some poor sap into submission with a combo of cards he or she never saw coming?
Ultimately, there is no other point of the game except to beat whatever poor schmuck you get randomly paired against. It’s not like Diablo III where there are side quests or monsters to slay, with the occasional interaction with other players. No, Hearthstone is more akin to the PvP arena in WoW, and we all know how calming of an experience that can be. It’s competition at its most basic level, which is where the major problem comes in.
You see, as fun as the game gets it won’t be long before you find yourself wanting to put your fist through the drywall because some jerk on the verge of death pulled out an amazing epic card that saved his half-charred butt at the last second. Of course, sometimes you will be that jerk and then you may find yourself putting your fist through the dry wall in exhilaration. On a side note, we just realized how many holes there are in our office drywall.
Hearthstone is a lot like gambling in that you quickly find yourself getting swept up in the highs and lows of a deceptively simple game. The analogy is only enhanced by the fact that you also win coins for completing quests or winning games. You can then use that gold to buy new cards or to pay entry into the arena, where you are literally competing for more gold.
We’re not saying this bad, but we are saying it is genius on the part of Blizzard. It is also the reason why we had to ban Hearthstone from everyone’s computers at work, because it gets hard to resist playing “just one more match.” With games that last less than fifteen minutes, they don’t feel like they are eating up a person’s day, but after four or five games an hour has passed, your dinner is burning in the oven, your loved ones aren’t talking to you anymore, and you haven’t showered for days. Unlike WoW, where, when you log onto the game, you have the expectation of wasting several hours, Hearthstone’s format and quick succession of games can eat away your day before you realize it. This is a testament to the power of Blizzard, and a trouble for the rest of us that are trying to get work done. Even worse, Hearthstone is now on tablets and phones, just to make sure that there is no place let to hide.
Overall, it’s hard for us to find anything particularly bad to say about this game, other than its addicting properties. Perhaps, some of the epic cards are a bit overpowered to the point where they can destroy even the most creative and effective strategies of an opponent, but that is kind of the point of epic cards. If you are looking for a fun casual game to fill time in your life, download Angry Birds, but if you are looking for an epic card game that allows you to harness a world of endless card combinations, creative strategies, and lets you compete against other players then Hearthstone is for you. It is a game that has something for video and tabletop gamers alike, and best of all you don’t even have to expend brain power to keep track of hit points and mana costs.
Download it for free and say goodbye to the next few weeks of your life. Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to get back to… something else we were doing.
Top photo credit: http://blizzard.gamespress.com/Hearthstone
Body photo credit: http://blizzard.gamespress.com/Hearthstone
- Easy to learn
- Allows for creativity in deck creation
- Heroes put a unique spin on the game
- Limited chat options limits trolls and raging
- Games last no longer than 15 minutes
- Variety of gameplay, which includes Arena and Tavern Brawl
- Possibly addictive
- Everyone uses the same decks they find on the Internet
- No limit on how many epic cards can be used in a deck
- Freemium game designed to get players to spend real money for quicker perks
The word "addictive" best describes Blizzard's newest foray into casual gaming. It may not be the best title Blizzard has ever developed, but it is a quality game which will kill endless hours for old and new fans of Blizzard alike.