Reviewer: Jacob Toman
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Teen
Platforms: PC (reviewed), OS X, Android, iOS
Hearthstone is like a good book. You can cuddle up with a glass of your favorite beverage, a blanket, and a mobile device like a cell phone, tablet, or PC and enjoy a quiet evening.
With each turn new challenges, twists, and options open up. As the game first begins a world is revealed through the introduction of new characters, abilities, and cards.
What Is Hearthstone?
Hearthstone is a player versus player collectible digital card game. 2 players start with 30 HP, and the first person to reach 0 HP loses. Decks are made up of 30 cards (only 2 duplicate cards allowed) with 9 unique classes offering multiple deck types each. Games typically last between 5-15 minutes. The game itself is free-to-play, and all cards are unlockable through playtime, or through purchasing with digital transactions.
The Goal of Hearthstone is simple: make your opponent's life points drop to 0. Just like a good book, each game of Hearthstone offers a slightly different journey, full of excitement and unexpected surprises before the final turn. The fun of Hearthstone can be found in many places, and thanks to the multiple game modes, there is a bit fun for everyone. Whether you’re the ultra competitive type, or you’d like a game to casually play together with your children, Hearthstone has a range of appeal that is rarely seen in today's highly targeted gaming culture.
The Boundaries of Hearthstone
Cards are broken into 3 major categories in Hearthstone: Creatures, Weapons and Spells. Creatures typically have a value for attack, and health. Creatures remain on the game board until they have received enough damage to reach zero life. Weapons are equipped to your character and have an attack value and a durability value (how many times the character can use the weapon before it is discarded). Spells typically are a single use card that gives an immediate ability. All three of these card types have a resource cost displayed in the top left of the card.
Because decks are so small (30 cards) and games are rather short (Averaging 5-15 minutes), one choice can determine a game of Hearthstone. Short turns, fast games, and high impact decisions all combine to make Hearthstone so appealing to it’s wide audience of over 40 million players. (http://toucharcade.com/2016/02/11/hearthstone-heroes-of-warcraft-has-more-than-40-million-registered-players/)
There are 4 different types of game modes to be selected in Hearthstone (Blizzard is currently looking to expand the options for play and has goals for early-mid 2016 of even more options for play):
Players have a choice to play against friends, or against others online in every game mode except “Solo Adventures”. “Solo Adventures” are customized boss battles that have unique rules, and also offer collectable cards that are only earned through completing the adventure.
In “Play” mode players can compete on a “ranked” ladder using custom built decks of cards to achieve recognition and test their skills against other competitive players, or go into “casual” mode for a less intense match.
The “Arena” is a mode where players are given randomized cards to build a deck with and then compete. Playing in the Arena costs either $1.99 or 150 gold in game.
Each week “Tavern Brawl” offers a dynamic option for players looking for unique rules. Once a week Blizzard releases special rules alterations within the “Tavern Brawl” that give Hearthstone a different taste than typical “Play” mode or “Arena” games.
These four game modes offer great options for players. The strength of this particular game is found in its quick playability and its wide variety of potential game interactions. The rules are simple, but the available depth is large enough for any die hard gamer who is looking for a competitive and compelling strategy game.
A Strategic Choice
Players make meaningful choices throughout every step of the game in Hearthstone. As players create a deck they need to decide what strategy their deck is built around. A game of Hearthstone can be won at almost any point of the game, and each deck has a tendency to focus on a few particular cards in order to achieve victory. These cards create what is known as a deck’s “Win condition”. There are dozens of websites dedicated to teaching and sharing deck building strategies, ideas, and game tactics within the Hearthstone community.
Hearthstone offers daily quests on a 24-hour clock that incentivizes players to return for in-game rewards. This is one of the attractive and fun mechanics that allows this game to be optionally free-to-play. Yes, you can purchase cards and unlock content through monetary spending; however, you can also earn up to 100 gold (in-game currency) per day. Individual packs are available for purchase for 100 gold (the least amount of money that can be spent on packs $2.99 for 2 packs), and entire solo adventures are available for 2800 gold. This means every week players can earn enough in game money for 7 packs (5 cards in each) and purchase new in game solo adventure content with each release (new solo adventures currently come out about twice a year).
Hearthstone also offers rewards for climbing the ranked ladder by giving cards and other in-game perks (such as gold, and dust used to craft cards that haven’t been collected through packs or adventures) by giving away tiered prizes once a month to players who compete on the ranked ladder. The better you do in ranked gameplay, the better your end of the month reward. When you’ve hit the plateau of 500 wins with a certain character, the game flashes a special “500th win” animation and from then on, your class character will be a shiney golden version rather than the base plain image.
As of writing this review I’ve got 4827 wins in ranked play, 221 wins in the Arena and have 6 out of 9 classes with 500 wins or above. We have high standards in our game review system (which you can read more about here) but also want to guard against wasting our time and resources. I’ve been playing Hearthstone since it was in closed Beta in August of 2013.
*As far as tutorials go, Hearthstone's is by far the best I've ever played as an educational piece. The tutorial exposes new players to the rules, mechanics, and options made available through unique card interactions.
*Hearthstone is a quick game to learn, but has a high demand on a player's time or money in order to posses the entire collection of cards.
*Quicker games are the trend over the last 3-5 years in casual game development. By making a game that offers short individual match sessions grows the audience of mobile gamers playing.
*With virtually no objectionable content except for cartoonish fantasy violence, this game’s objectionable content compares to JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit or Brian Jacques RedWall.
*Hearthstone is a great game to play with friends on the go, at a coffee shop, between classes, or during a break at the office. I play almost every night with my 4-year-old daughter before she goes to bed. She loves to move the cards around, name the characters involved, and we share laughs over the cartoony characters and fantasy themed gameplay.
*Decide before you play whether or not you are going to spend money or not on the game, then stay committed.I’d rather not have any of our readers or supporters of Gospel & Gaming spending $3,000 on Hearthstone (you can read about that incident here [http://www.pcgamer.com/meet-the-guy-who-spent-3200-on-hearthstone-packs-in-one-night/]).
The next time you have a few minutes to kill and the itch to play a fun, quick game, I encourage you to try out a game of Hearthstone. In the opinion of this reviewer Hearthstone gets high marks in theme, art, game mechanics, online support, gameplay, and availability. This combination of excellence in multiple facets makes Hearthstone a top tier game.
Overall Score: A+