Posted in Game Review

Game Review – Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a strategy game developed by Blizzard. Hearthstone was the game that made the genre explode in the digital space. Hearthstone’s major success is in keeping the core mechanics simple enough for new players to pick up, while leaving more than enough complexity to keep you hooked up.

In Hearthstone, two players face off in turn based combat, and each player begins with 30 cards in their deck, plus a selected hero that each have unique powers. The goal of the game is to break through your opponents’ defense and destroy their hero.

There are ten classes to choose from, each class is from World of Warcraft. Hearthstone does a good job of giving each of its classes a distinct flavor, which carries over to their play styles and deckbuilding specializations. Warlock relies on making sacrifices in exchange for more powerful minons and spells. Mage has a diverse and powerful choice of spells. Priest is really good at stealing your stuff and buffing minions. When you’re just starting out with an intimidating new multiplayer game, these clear identities go a long way to helping you figure out what kind of deck you want to play.

In Hearthstone you have to buy packs to build a deck, and if you want access to all the best competitive decks, the best way to do that is to spend money. Taking the free to play route is definitely possible, you can earn some gold through daily quests, and extra from grinding ladder and arena, but you’re paying with time, and it’s a long grind. While there has been an increase in free packs with each new set, and card awards at the end of every season, these do little to offset the effect of a content release schedule that has grown steadily faster over the years. The main thing that the free to play people will miss out on is variety. You can definitely reach legend with a budget deck, but how long until you get bored of playing that one deck? It can certainly be frustrating to get matched against decks full of legendaries when you are stuck with one deck.

Ladder is Hearthstone’s constructed mode, it allows you to climb the ranks with ‘constructed’ decks of your own making. You climb by gaining stars, which you’re awarded one of each time you win a game. Gain five stars and you’ll move up to the next rank. Usually a star is taken away when you lose a game, but these days there are rank floors that you can never fall below. There also win streaks, which can boost your progress up the ranks when you win three in a row or more.

Arena is a Hearthstone’s draft mode, it has a cost of entry: either 150 gold or $1.5. You draft your deck by picking from cards offered to you three at a time, then face off against other players who’ve done the same. You play until you either lose three times or reach 12 wins, and at the end there’s a prize depending on how many wins you racked up. Arena is a good way for new players to learn about all the cards in Hearthstone.

Hearthstone also features multiple single player modes which weren’t present at launch, some of which you have to pay for. In them, you get to build your own deck a you progress further. These are both very fun, pairing a well designed difficulty curve with a flavorful atmosphere. However, these AI battles are quickly exhausted, leading you inevitably back to multiplayer.

Hearthstone asks you to make big decisions on a constant basis. So many that you begin to develop your own internal logic for approaching turns, which over the course of hundreds of games becomes your own personal playstyle. For the players who discover they don’t particularly like trading much, instead preferring to rush down their enemy, aggro decks are for them. And for those who’d rather control the board removing everything their opponent plays, control decks are the way to go. And for those who’d want to pull off some flashy one turn kill combo, combo decks are the perfect match. Hearthstone manages to provide plenty of options to help you find the style that suits you best, which is a huge reason why this game is a major success.

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