Blizzard has recently released their newest installment of the World of Warcraft universe, Hearthstone. In Hearthstone you get to use the characters and items and heroes from the World of Warcraft universe to battle other players in a card game. The game plays very similar to Magic the Gathering but is significantly simpler and the games are usually shorter only lasting about 5-10 minutes. So with Blizzard throwing their hat into the ring of card gaming will the game rise to the top and be the new competitive card game or will it fade into obscurity like every MMO that has challenged World of Warcraft? To answer this question we have to look at Hearthstone’s approachability, playability, potential competitiveness, and finally whether or not it is fun.
With Hearthstone being available for IOS, PC, and most tablets the game can be played anywhere. This means as long as you have one of the systems mentioned above and a stable internet connection you can play the game. The game also includes a pretty comprehensive tutorial so players can understand the game quickly. This tutorial helps a lot because it doesn’t just introduce the players to the card game but also the various strategies for each hero. For example I started playing as the mage in the tutorial and she was about doing damage with spells; later on in the tutorial I tried using a warrior hero and he is more about having lots of buffs for your minion; after that I tried the Paladin and he was about getting a ton of minions on the field. The cards also vary wildly with some buffing while others damage, protect, heal, or anything else and while this would overwhelm most new players the tutorial and deck building systems make it incredibly easy to grasp concepts and simply play the game. Which leads to the next point…
Playability is a big deal in competitive gaming and any really kind of Player versus Player game. Each player has to be able to understand the rules and grasp main concept so they can fine tune their skills and become seriously competitive. Hearthstone does great job of that; all the heroes’ powers are simple yet effective and the cards do a great job of explaining what they do. I haven’t found a card that has confused me to the point that I couldn’t use it, which was one of the problems I had wit hMagic the Gathering. They also offer a lot of different way to play the game and different game types. For instance someone could play a deck with only Murloc cards or play a deck where you spam monsters and buff them or a deck full of spells to kill monsters and damage your opponent or any kind of combination of cards. There game modes to use these decks are solo, online, and arena. Solo is self explanatory, with online you have ranked and casual matches, and in arena you make your deck out of cards you are given and you battle other players till you lose 3 times at which point you collect a prize.
Hearthstone is made by Blizzard and because it is a card game it is assumed it will be competitive, but competitiveness comes in may shapes and sizes. Gladly, in this analogy, Hearthstone is an incredibly attractive person in formal wear. Cards are incredibly balanced and player’s can’t spam cards. This means that each round is based on player’s skill, strategy, and the composition of their decks, which bring me to the packs. I was so incredibly glad to see that Hearthstone is not pay to win. It costs a pretty small amount to buy a pack of cards and that pack can contain most any card in the game. The only reason to pay money is to get more packs but buying packs with money does not mean a player will get better cards, thus the game is about skill and strategy and not about how much disposable income the player has. The only thing a player really has to pay for is the new solo adventures for new cards and new heroes but the cards aren’t so powerful they can be abuse and the heroes are just as good as the heroes that can be unlocked for free.
Who wants to play agate that is all about competition and is no fun? Having a game be fun and competitive is hard to balance out because on one hand you have the hardcore audience wanting more rules and balancing and patches while on the other hand casual players just want to build decks, play the game, and have fun. Hearthstone does great job of this by giving player casual and ranked options, give hard core player arena, which can be instance, and by giving new player solo adventure for them to learn. All this great balancing means there is fun to be had by anyone who enjoys card games like Magic the Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh.