Recently Hearthstone opened its servers to begin Open Beta. For those of you who don’t know, it’s an online collectable card game – but it isn’t like your typical free to play game. In a world where there are dozens of options to choose from, this particular title towers above its competition like a raging Kaiju ready to tear what little leisure time we have into tiny misshapen pieces that will leave us wondering where all the time disappeared to.
While it’s true that this game can become a serious time sink, that’s mainly because the developers Blizzard Entertainment (Yes, That Blizzard, Creators of Starcraft and Diablo) have used their years of experience to push the boundaries of the genre. They have created a landscape that pushes new and innovative ways for players to enjoy card games, which keeps gamers like myself coming back for more. If that wasn’t enough, it also uses the rich lore of the Warcraft franchise to add comical filler and enjoyable audio flavor (triggered whenever a card is played) to drive players deeper into the epic fictional universe.
If you’re new to the genre, the game is remarkably easy to understand – being good at it is an entirely different ball game though. A round consists of two heroes facing off with their 30 card decks, each taking turns to use their cards and ever-growing resource pool to summon minions and cast spells, amongst other things.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Well, not quite…
Why You Should Want It
Whilst most card games divide what cards can and can’t be used in factions, like faction A only being able to use A cards, faction B only being able to use B cards and so on, Hearthstone uses something a little different.
Namely, the well-known non-heroic classes from World of Warcraft, of which there are nine. Each end every class is represented by a heroic figure in the franchise’s history. Now, I know nine may not seem like a large number, but when you combine the fact that each of those classes will have their own unique skill and a variety of class-specific cards plus common cards, it’s a powder keg of creativity in the making. Deck building is the spice of life in a card game after all.
In the simplest terms, the game has a huge amount of depth. It feels like there’s a seemingly endless number of card combinations and play-styles designed to keep everyone on their toes. I mean, if you’re playing you’ll always be wondering what kind of cards and tactics the other guy is using, and it’s when you start to expect one thing only to find something completely different do things go downhill.
Tactics, strategy and luck are all major factors of any card game and Hearthstone does it well. I personally love thinking about it, like a MMO player thinking about their next gear upgrade or a FPS player looking at their next unlock.
Do I build a deck designed to counter a Shaman, but leave myself open to other classes? Do I hold my cards or play them in the hopes that the other guy doesn’t have anything to counter it with? It’s an ever evolving game of checks and counter balance, with players trying to make the best out of their thirty card deck and it is a thrilling experience.
If thinking about all the possibilities isn’t enough to reel you in, then maybe the fact that it’s free-to-play will. The game has no subscription costs and it’s entirely possible to get a number of packs on a weekly basis, and all you need to do is complete some ingame daily quests. As far as FTP games are concerned, that isn’t too much of a grind. Not to mention that there’s also a crafting system that’ll help people grab the cards they’re looking for, it might just take a little effort.
While it’s expected that people will be putting money in, that’s far from paying to win – the good thing about booster packs is that even if someone buys a ton of them, it’s never assured that the guy will get exactly what he’s looking for.
If that still isn’t enough, development is still underway and I’m sure with enough time Blizz will develop some extraordinary game modes. So far, there’s only one additional game mode and it’s called the arena.
This game adds even more depth to a game that’s swimming in it. That’s because the deck you’re going to end up using in the arena gets constructed randomly through a number of sometimes painful choices; I’ve lost count where I was forced to pick between two cards that I desperately wanted.
Basically, the game gives the player sets of cards to choose from, with the player only choosing 1 card for every 3 until the deck is completed; then of course battles other players until they’ve won or lost a certain number of times. Of course, people don’t just do this for the fun factor – prizes are given away after the run and can range from breathtaking to abysmal; it all depends on the number of wins.
While I’m a big fan of card games, It’s not something I get addicted to, at least not when I’m online. There’s just something different about the physical feeling of cards in your hands. That said, though Hearthstone may be the exception to that rule. It is definitely one of the best, if not the best online CCG I’ve experienced to date. I highly recommend trying it out as soon as you can, because testing it for yourself is the only way you’ll understand how immersive it can become. If you have any tips or tricks for a Hearthstone newbie let me know in the comments, I could use all the help I can get.
Let’s face it, card games aren’t for everyone – that is until Blizzard came out with Hearthstone. It’s almost impossible not see what all the fuss is about, and boy it turns out what people have been saying is true. It’s a card game that even the uninterested will give a chance. Addictive, complex and loads of fun – the only card game you’ll ever want.