Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, or just Hearthstone for short, is a collectible card game (CCG) MMO based on the Warcraft franchise. Like other Blizzard titles, Hearthstone appeals to both casual and hardcore audiences. The game is simple to pick up, but difficult to master.
|Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: Mar 11, 2014 (NA/EU)
Pros: +Good variety of characters. +Excellent draft system (arena). +Well-balanced. +Lots of cards (500+). +Solid cross platform mobile play.
Cons: -Many cards are bad and unusable. -Expansion content requires lots of gold to unlock.
Hearthstone is a trading card game MMO that appeals to both casual and hardcore audiences. Fans of Magic: The Gathering and other trading card games should find a lot to like in Blizzard's Hearthstone, especially since much of the game's mechanics are similar to Magic's. The game features 500+ trading cards (with new cards being introduced regularly), 9 heroes (based on the 9 original classes in World of Warcraft), and a fun drafting system. The game's cards are broken down into two categories - hero cards and regular cards. Every hero has their own set of hero cards and can use regular cards to build their decks. With each hero having their own hero power and unique cards, there's virtually an incredible amount of variety in the types of decks players can make. Hearthstone is easily one of the most polished, if not most polished, trading card games available. The game is also a cross-platform, meaning it can be enjoyed on Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS.
Hearthstone Key Features
- Variety of Strategies – nine playable heroes, each with their own unique card sets. Mix and match generic card sets with these unique ones to find a deck that fits your style.
- Collect Them All – balanced collectible card game with over 500+ cards
- Crafting System – players can disenchant cards they don't need to make the cards they're looking for.
- Challenging Ranked System – ranked system with monthly resets. Climb from Rank 25 to Rank 1 then reach legendary to see your actual ladder placement.
- Great Arena System – allows for draft play - build a deck out of random cards and play until losing 3 times. Arena rewards are based on wins.
- Cross-Platform – play with Mac OS X, Windows, Android, and Apple iOS.
Hearthstone Featured Video
By Omer Altay
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a free-to-play collectible card game MMO developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. Given that the game was developed by Blizzard, the game had a lot of hype surrounding it from the get-go. The game's closed beta, which launched in August 2013, had a lot of demand, but access was limited. People were paying real money for closed beta invites! By the time open beta rolled around in January 21, 2014, the game had 9 million registered users – an instant hit. By December 2014, Hearthstone had reached over 25 million users and the playerbase is still growing. Fans of trading card games like Yu Gi Oh! and Magic the Gathering will find a lot to like in Hearthstone.
So Let's Get Started. What Exactly is Hearthstone?
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a turn-based card game between two opponents. The game is set in the Warcraft universe, with characters, locations, and cards inspired from existing lore. Upon launching the game for the first time, players are required to complete a short, yet informative, tutorial that introduces the basics of the game.
The tutorial has players facing off against AI opponents, while teaching players how card interactions work. Players start off with Jaina Proudmoore, the mage, and a simple deck. Upon completing the tutorial, players can begin facing off against actual opponents, but before they can unlock additional heroes, they must first defeat them in practice mode. Hearthstone has nine playable heroes, which represent the nine original classes in World of Warcraft. Each hero has access to its own unique set of class cards, as well as a hero power. Hero powers are abilities that can be activated once during your turn at a cost of 2 mana and have varying effects. For example, the Mage hero power can deal 1 damage to any target, while Paladins can summon a 1/1 minion.
The core gameplay mechanics in Hearthstone are similar to Magic: The Gathering, but streamlined to be easier and less random. Players start each game by drawing three cards, with the player going second getting an additional card plus a special card called, “The Coin.” The Coin is a spell that gives them 1 additional mana for that turn only. Players can discard and re-draw any of their starting cards, which reduces the odds of drawing a terrible hand. Like Magic: The Gathering, players use mana as currency to play minions and cast spells. Mana doesn't have to be "played" (like in Magic) – instead, players gain a set number of mana crystals each turn, with that number permanently increasing by one every turn. Well-structured decks feature cards with all kinds of mana costs to create a smooth curve. The more mana a card requires, the more powerful it is.
Hearthstone has over 500 cards (at the time of this review), with more and more cards being introduced through regularly planned expansions and adventure packs. There are so many ways to build a deck and so many potential fun combos to plan out. There are enough cards so that no single deck is just superior to everything else, but Hearthstone does suffer from one problem that every collectible card game does: the sheer number of useless cards.
Hearthstone is a surprisingly well-balanced game. There are countless viable “good” deck options out there, but the game does have cards that are just horribly unusable. For example, common cards like Wisp and Magma Rager have zero place in anyone's deck, both constructed and in the arena. Even legendary cards (rarest tier) like Nozdormu and Millhouse Manastorm are extremely weak. Nozdormu, in particular, will never be used in a serious game. These are just a few examples, but there are dozens of cards in Hearthstone that are absolute trash. On the positive side, there are less useless cards in Hearthstone compared to other card games like Yu Gi Oh! and Magic the Gathering. Unlike physical card games, Hearthstone can be regularly patched and updated, which ensures that the game remains balanced. Blizzard rarely has to nerf cards, but they do so on occasion. One card in particular, "Goblin Auctioneer," was used in so many competitive decks that it had to be nerfed. The change was minor, with its mana cost increased from 5 to 6. This resulted in Goblin Auctioneer being severely overused to only being used in very specific decks.
Getting New Cards
Players can unlock new “basic” cards simply by playing the game and leveling up their heroes. Heroes level up as players win games using that hero. Additional cards can be acquired by purchasing booster packs, which contain 5 cards with at least one rare or better card, for 100 gold each (or with real money). Gold can be acquired in Hearthstone simply by winning games as well as completing quests. Players are given a random quest every day from "win X number of games with X hero," to "kill X number of minions." Players can have three quests at once, but never more than that, so make sure to regularly complete your quests to make room for new ones. Players can also acquire gold by unlocking various achievements. Things like winning 100 games in any mode rewards players with 300 gold, while defeating every AI in expert mode grants 100 gold. Achievements can only be unlocked once, so it's not a reliable way of earning gold, but is worth doing as it's an excellent way to get gold early on. Another way of earning gold is through winning games in the Arena.
Deck Drafting Fun – Arenas
Hearthstone has a built-in drafting system called "Arena," where players create decks by choosing from one of three random cards of the same rarity over and over again until they create a full deck. Players can keep using their arena deck until they lose three games. Entering the arena requires 150 in-game gold (or $1.99USD), and players are rewarded at the end of their arena run based on how many wins they achieved. Every arena run is guaranteed a booster pack of cards, with seven or more wins guaranteeing enough gold (150+) to enter the arena again. Players can also obtain rare and legendary cards simply by doing well in the arena. Individual card rewards are never guaranteed though, as rewards are always random based on the number of wins players achieve.
Climbing the Ladder
Hearthstone also offers two modes of traditional play – casual and ranked. Quests can be completed in either mode, and the only difference between the two is that ranked mode is considered more serious. Players start off as Rank 25. Winning games advances them towards Rank 1. After achieving Rank 1, players can advance to “Legend,” which puts them in the top 1% and their numerical ranking in the region becomes visible. For example, Legend 300 means that that player is the 300th highest ranked player in the region. These rankings reset every month and players who have achieved at least Rank 20 are rewarded with a new card-back. I've personally been playing Hearthstone on and off since release and have regularly achieved Rank 6-7. Not Legend 6, but regular ol' Rank 6, which, according to Blizzard's data, puts me at the top 5% of Hearthstone players. Not bad!
One aspect of Hearthstone that Blizzard Entertainment masterfully refined is accessibility. Hearthstone can be played on virtually any platform, including PC, Mac, Android, and iOS. The game is identical on smartphones as it is on the PC, so players on mobile devices can match up against players on their desktops. The mobile app for Hearthstone is also extremely well-made and feels quite responsive. I've personally played the mobile version quite a bit, and aside from the battery drain caused by the game, I have zero complaints – the game works perfectly on mobile.
No Trading? Come On!
One serious complaint I have with Hearthstone is the game's lack of trading. Blizzard likely never introduced trading to Hearthstone to prevent accounts from getting hacked. Why hack an account if there's nothing to be gained? Still, the inability to trade makes it harder for new players to create specific decks, as the odds of getting the exact cards they need from booster packs is slim. Luckily, Hearthstone does have a craft crafting system which acts as an alternative to trading. Players can disenchant cards they don't want into arcane dust which can then be used to craft any card in the game. The rarer the card, the more arcane dust it yields. Disenchanting a common card yields 5 arcane dust while disenchanting a legendary yields 400. Crafting a common card costs 20 dust while crafting a legendary costs 1600. This isn't a perfect replacement for trading, but does allow players to essentially swap out cards they don't want for the cards they're looking for.
Gotta Collect 'Em All!
Every card in Hearthstone has a “golden” version available. The golden version of the a card is identical to the regular version as far as gameplay is concerned. The only difference is that golden cards have a golden border and have visual effects. Golden cards are much rarer then regular cards and can be obtained by opening boosters packs or crafting. Crafting a golden card requires a tremendous amount of arcane dust. Common golden cards can be crafted for 400 dust while golden legendaries can be crafted for 3600 dust. Given their rarity, players can also disenchant golden cards for much more dust than regular cards. Given that these cards serve no additional utility, it makes sense for new players to disenchant any golden cards they find to craft the cards they actually need. Players can also unlock golden heroes, which gives their hero a golden border and a cool visual effect. Golden heroes are unlocked by winning 500 ranked games with that particular hero.
One aspect of Hearthstone that's surprisingly fun is the game's PvE content. Blizzard regularly releases adventure packs that involve players facing off against AI controlled opponents. Players can access these PvE missions in the “solo adventures” section of the main menu. The Curse of Naxxramas for example has players facing off against enemies from Naxxramas. Since these missions are against AI controlled opponents, Blizzard has the creative freedom to give the enemy AI special hero powers that aren't available to players, which makes matches both challenging and fun. One minor complaint about these adventure packs though is that they're quite pricy. Unlocking a single section of an adventure (which typically have many sections) costs 700 gold with the entire adventure available for $20. Free to play users have to farm for A LONG time to unlock the adventure pack content. Some cards can only be obtained through these adventure packs too, so those unwilling to shell out cash have to save up gold for weeks or pay up.
Final Verdict – Excellent
Hearthstone is a remarkably fun game that appeals to all audiences. It's really easy to pick up and learn, but difficult to master. This is one of those games that i'll just keep coming back to over and over again. Hearthstone is easily one of the best, if not best collectible card games out there and is definitely worth checking out.
Hearthstone System Requirements
Operating System: Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8
CPU: Intel Pentium D / AMD Athlon 64 X2
Video Card: GeForce 6800 (256 MB Video Ram) or ATI Radeon X1600 Pro
RAM: 2 GB
Hard Disk Space: 3 GB
Operating System: Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8
CPU: Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.2 GHz) or AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ (2.6 GHz)
Video Card: GeForce 8800 GT (512 MB Video Ram) or ATI Radeon HD 4850
RAM: 4 GB
Hard Disk Space: 3 GB
Mac OS X System Requirements
Operation System: MAC OS X 10.7 (Latest)
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo
Video Card: Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT / ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro
Hard Disk: 3 GB
Hearthstone is compatible with Ipads and mobile Android devices with 6 inch screens or larger.
Hearthstone Music & Soundtrack
Hearthstone Additional Information
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Game Engine: Unity
Composer(s): Peter McConnell / Jason Hayes
Other Platforms: Mac OS X / Android / iOS / Windows 8 Touch
Closed Beta Date: August 16, 2013
Open Beta: January 21, 2014
Other Platform Release Dates
iPad Release Date: April 16, 2014
Android Tablets: December 15, 2014
Iphone / Android Smartphones: Mid-2015
Development History / Background:
Hearthstone was developed by renowned American game studio Blizzard Entertainment and is powered by the flexible Unity engine. The premise behind Hearthstone from the start was to mimic the feel of a physical card game - from opening packs to slamming cards on the table. Blizzard first announced Hearthstone at the Penny Arcade gaming Expo in March 2013 for Microsoft Windows, Mac, and iPad. Cross-platform playability wasn't available from the start, but was implemented (Players on iPads playing against those on PCs). Closed beta commenced in August, 2013 and open bet followed on January 21, 2014. Millions of players applied for closed beta access and by the end of March, 2014, 2 weeks after launch, a total of 10 million accounts were registered for Hearthstone. By Q4 2014, over 25 million accounts were registered for Hearthstone, with that number still growing rapidly.