Collectable Card Games (CCG) and more accurately, Magic the Gathering, was one of my favorite past times growing up as I spent countless hours building up decks and defeating my friends in glorious battle. Blizzard Entertainment has developed a CCG combining the genre’s addictive gameplay elements with the cartoonish graphical style and widely known lore of the WarCraft universe which has made its way into the hearts and minds of millions of players throughout the years, creating the perfect storm in the form of Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft.
I was lucky enough to win a Closed Beta key in a giveaway one week ago, giving me the opportunity to jump into the WarCraft universe to find out if Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft can satisfy both CCG players as well as avid WarCraft fans…
Gameplay – Surprisingly Complex
Every new player starts the game with the Mage Deck in Practice Mode and you have to defeat different computer controlled heroes to unlock Play Mode, where you battle it out against other real people in an automated matchmaking system. Each player starts the game with 30 Health Points (HP) a deck of cards and a hero from the WarCraft universe. The goal is simple; get your opponent’s HP down to 0 before they do it to you.
The game is turn base and randomly selects which player will have the first turn, however, if you do not get the first turn, you are awarded with an extra card. Every card requires a specific amount of resources to be used, which come in the form of Mana Crystals. You start the match with one Mana Crystal and every time you end the turn, you gain another one up to a limit of ten in total. Every time it becomes your turn to act, another card from your deck becomes available to use, further bolstering your arsenal of creatures and spells.
You can spend all your Mana Crystals every turn, as they replenish with the end of a round. Using your Mana Crystals wisely and reacting to your opponent’s decisions becomes extremely important as you get matched against tougher, smarter opponents very quickly, forcing you to rethink your strategies.
Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft did seem a bit simplistic at the start of my journey, but it quickly became apparent that it is far more complicated than I could have imagined. There are nine different heroes to choose from boasting their personalized decks with creatures and abilities. Furthermore, there are a plethora of neutral cards to choose from bolstering a player’s options and adding strategic depths even before you are able to unlock bigger, stronger and more diverse cards.
Mastering a specific hero’s abilities and cards can take an exceptionally long time, especially when faced with nine different possible opponent hero types, the other player’s ability make custom decks so you never know what to expect as well as the random elements such as who starts first and which card you or your opponent will receive next.
The Metagame – Fantastically Addictive
The game revolves around collecting new cards and building an especially strong custom deck. You can collect new cards by leveling up your specific hero, but that only takes you to a twenty cards. When you reach level ten with a hero, you have unlocked all the basic cards possible and it is at this point where the game really starts to shine.
Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft uses gold as a currency which can be attained by doing Daily Quests that presents themselves in many forms, such as killing a specific total of minions or doing an amount of damage to enemy heroes. Gold is used to buy Expert Card Packs which contain a total of five cards, one of which will be a guaranteed rare card. There are four rarity levels of cards to attain, namely common, rare, epic and legendary. I have yet to receive an epic or legendary card from an expert card pack, so I can say with certainty that legendary cards are extremely rare.
Completing Daily Quests to buy more expert packs create an exceptionally addictive experience. I found myself always wanting to play just a few more games to unlock that next Expert Pack that gave me the feeling of opening a Christmas present, never knowing what to expect yet knowing there will be something inside that will bring me immense joy.
You can also buy Expert Packs with real money, a feature that I do not completely agree with, as I feel that buying 100 Expert Packs will give someone an advantage during competitive play, especially if they find a few legendary cards within. Thankfully acquiring gold is not hard or even time consuming enough to warrant cries of “Pay to Win” from the masses and nothing except normal Expert Packs are sold via the store, creating a relatively even playing field and only offering a shortcut to people who are willing to spend some real money in game.
Graphics and sound – Cartoonish Eye-Candy
The game boasts a cartoonish graphical style all WarCraft fans will be very familiar with. Every single graphical element is brilliantly designed, from character animations, cards being destroyed and spells flying across the screen. The player is treated to a variety of background environments with some exceptionally detailed animations, such as smoke coming from a little Orc hut or a windmill slowly turning.
Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft delivers music that gave me a sense of urgency while playing the game while at the same time keeping me awake during those long gaming sessions. Voice acting is world class and delivers some comic relief during intense battles. Every little background sound, cards flying or spells being cast fit in so perfectly in the WarCraft universe that I can say without a doubt that the sound quality lives up to the very high standards we expect from the game’s creators, Blizzard Entertainment.
Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft is a wonderful little game with an exceptional amount of depth that will keep you playing while mentally challenging you at every turn. Fans of CCG’s or the WarCraft universe will not be disappointed when the game goes into Open Beta in December. No official release date has been set just yet, but if you just can not wait until December for the Open Beta to start, you can opt-in to the Closed Beta via the Battlenet opt-in process or get very lucky in a competition as Closed Beta keys are in short supply.
While playing the game, I could almost not believe that it was still in a Closed Beta stage, as the graphical and sound quality was already of the highest standard. Matchmaking worked well, I had no disconnect issues or crashes and gameplay felt smooth, addictive and the only thing that still has to be perfected are a few balancing issues between heroes and cards. In the end, I could not find one single thing wrong with Hearthstone: Heroes of WarCraft, therefore I believe it lives up to the impeccable reputation of the WarCraft franchise.
Score : 9.5/10
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