Hearthstone Review - A Strategic Addiction

Joshua Vanderwall | 14 Mar 2014 15:00
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The third play mode is The Arena, where you'll assemble a deck from a random assortment of cards. The game presents you three cards and you'll select one to add to your deck. After 30 selections, you'll take your deck out into the wild, and try your luck against other players' drafted decks. While there's a lot of randomness involved in Arena, it's also some of the most fun you'll have in Hearthstone. Your run ends when you've lost three matches, so your goal is to simply win as many games as possible before you get beat three times. The more wins you get, the better the prizes, up to a maximum of 12 wins which offers the grandest of grand prizes. No matter what, though, even if you go 0-3, you'll still get a pack out of the deal, making it an economical way to participate in the microtransactions. It's $1.99 or 150 gold to play Arena, which, given the one to three hours of fun and the $1.49 pack of cards you'll get out of it, actually seems a fairly reasonable cost. If you don't want to spend money, though, the 150 Gold is fairly easy to acquire as well.

There are two reliable ways to earn gold in Hearthstone, namely Play Mode and Daily Quests. For every three wins you get in either Casual Play or Ranked Play, you'll earn 10 Gold. Additionally, every day, you'll get a Daily Quest, like "Cast 40 Spells" or "Win 2 Games With Paladin or Priest." Most of them offer 40 Gold for completion, but some offer more. If you complete your quests every day, and play a couple games in Play mode, you'll be able to do an Arena run about twice a week for free.

Despite a lengthy beta, the live game still holds a few minor bugs, but they're strictly aesthetic, like floating minions. These blemishes don't detract much, if at all, from the experience, but it does seem unlike Blizzard to have issues this common to persist through a game's launch. Server stability, on the other hand, has never been a problem in my experience. From closed beta through launch, I've only ever seen the servers down for scheduled maintenance. Additionally, matchmaking takes 10 to 30 seconds in almost every case, so you'll never have to wait long for your next match.

The sound and visuals are very World of Warcraft, so if that motif is to your liking, you'll adore the cartoony characters and animations in Hearthstone. Even individual cards have their own sounds, so casting certain murlocs, you get the classic MRGLGLGLGL to boot, which adds another layer of enjoyment to the experience. The only major downside is the fact that your hard earned collection is completely intangible. That said, there's a ton of value in being able to include the same card in multiple decks.

Hearthstone is the kind of game that virtually everybody can enjoy for at least a while. Some will burn out quickly, and others will play for a long time to come, but it's hard to imagine anybody that simply doesn't appreciate the simple elegance that is the stripped down ruleset of Hearthstone. If you love Magic, Hearthstone will offer a good diversion, even if it may seem a little simplistic in light of your experience. More so, if you just want to love Magic, but don't have the wherewithal to plod through 200 pages of rules, the barebones Hearthstone is exactly what you need.

Bottom Line: Hearthstone might not fully scratch the strategy itch of the most advanced CCG/TCG players, but it makes an impressive attempt. The rules are simple, so anybody can get the hang of it, but there are enough deck variations available that only skilled deck builders and players will make it high in the ranks.

Recommendation: It's free. It's fun. Just play it.

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