Hearthstone Review - A Strategic Addiction

Hearthstone Review - A Strategic Addiction

Hearthstone takes only the best concepts from its more involved collectible card game predecessors, which proves to be both good and bad.

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Great review. Also, contrary to a somewhat popular belief, this is NOT pay to win. There are a lot of really good basic cards that if put together correctly should be able to get a decently skilled player to the middle of the ranking at least.

The epitome of casual? Please.

While I didn't start playing until I'd done some reading, I watched my girlfriend get into the game with no prior card-game experience or knowledge about hearthstone. The tutorial teaches you NOTHING, it's almost impossible to get your hands on usable deck without sinking a lot of money into the game. Even then there's no way of knowing what constitutes a good deck without doing a lot of reading online.

While certain "skilled individuals" can do really well at this game, the truly casual gamer will have a hard time accomplishing anything other than being destroyed by people in play mode (aka test your new legendary deck-mode) and ranked mode (the regularly resetting one).

There is no way to find a challenger based on the amount of games you've played or something like win-loss ratio, and as such, it's a game that's nearly impenetrable to new players or players who aren't willing to dedicate a lot of time to reading online, aka casual gamers.

"There are no complex rules to learn..." let me stop you right there. Deathrattle (and anything else that causes multiple tiggers) trigger priority (which is on a card by card and situational basis that is fucking ridiculous), the difference between spells (including The Coin), hero powers, minions (and battlecrys), and weapons and which things affect what is unclear in some occasions. The game's ruleset is a mess because it isn't codified like Magic's is. It's only going to get worse as new sets come out (and don't get me started on the pure random nature of a bunch of different cards, including half the priest deck).

The game is absolutely simple to get into if you like limited formats, because you're going to be grinding Arena for packs and gold to build constructed decks. It's really, really easy to get 150g with daily quests and ~7 wins buys you in again. I played nothing but 1 arena a day for ~1 month or so and came away with enough playable legendaries and dust to hit rank 4 last season.

You keep talking about Magic as though it is some inscrutable behemoth but it really isn't as long as the person teaching you knows what they are doing. A massive portion of Magic's complexity comes from having some 13,000 different cards from two decades worth of sets. The comprehensive rulebook may be 200 pages long, but most players will only very rarely look at it.

If you use the right decks to teach Magic, you can get somebody up to speed and playing at least a simple game in 15 minutes. This is doubly true with Duels of the Planeswalkers where players have land untapping/tapping handled for them so they don't have to remember that on their own.

I'm not surprised Hearthstone is doing this well, it's a solid game, but it bugs me that Magic Online is such a mess that I can't in good faith direct people to it. I doubt Hearthstone would be getting as much buzz as it is if Magic Online were more like Duels (And had a less ridiculous pricing structure)

RedDeadFred:
Great review. Also, contrary to a somewhat popular belief, this is NOT pay to win. There are a lot of really good basic cards that if put together correctly should be able to get a decently skilled player to the middle of the ranking at least.

I am usually the biggest skeptic of online card games, micro purchase strategies and large companies hopping onto profitable bandwagons but my god have Blizzard balanced this one well. The dust system, the way the arena system works and the costing of items and events. It all feels so.. fair. We shouldn't have this as the exception but in a world of rip-off game structures hearthstone feels like it has made a real intense effort to be a game with a lot of longevity, balance and a game that earns your money.

Its light years ahead of something like magic online. I like MtG but MTGO is an unstable, time wasting, expensive, impractical mess. Even the simple things like being able to dip in and out of your arena matches (which incidentally are quite nicely costed) and convent useless card to dust making every single card accessible to every single user regardless of if they open it or not.

Hearthstone takes all the things we have been programmed to mistrust in recent years and demonstrates how they SHOULD be done.

Falterfire:
You keep talking about Magic as though it is some inscrutable behemoth but it really isn't as long as the person teaching you knows what they are doing. A massive portion of Magic's complexity comes from having some 13,000 different cards from two decades worth of sets. The comprehensive rulebook may be 200 pages long, but most players will only very rarely look at it.

I didn't meant to suggest that Magic is impossible, or even all that difficult, to learn. Just that Hearthstone is *much* simpler throughout. As a certified (and then expired) Magic Judge, I've taught many newcomers Magic. Many of them picked up on all of the complexities of the game, but some of them only grasped the very basics. Hearthstone is entirely comprised of only the very basics, so practically anybody can figure it out with relative ease.

I talked about it in a bit more depth here, but it boils down to Hearthstone being a less interactive game. Not saying it's better or worse - there are certainly merits on both sides - just that it's easier to figure out how Secrets work than it is to figure out how Instants work, for example.

As somebody who isn't into CCGs at all, computerised or otherwise, I kinda love this game as well. Gameplay wise it's streets ahead of "Scrolls", which is the only other "CCG" that I've played. (Honestly, "Scrolls" wasn't good, and absolutely WAS pay-to-win. There was just no way of getting the cards you needed without shelling out money for them. That's not the case with "Hearthstone".)

Having said that... I have a huge bugbear with "Hearthstone", which is the presentation. First of all is the voice of the "innkeeper", which to me might be the most annoying "novelty voice" since Dynamite Headdy. This is an entirely subjective thing of course, but you should be aware that this character may want to make you rip your ears from your head and try to choke yourself to death with the lobes. The hero voices aren't much better, and what they're saying often makes zero sense. (Case in point: Jaina, "You asked for it!" Erm, you asked for WHAT exactly? What the heck does that even mean?)

Secondly, the music. I grew up playing Warcrafts 1, 2 and 3 (never was interested in the MMO so never got into "World of Warcraft") and I was shocked at how bad the music was in "Hearthstone". It's the worst music of all the Blizzard games I've played by a country mile. "Scrolls", for all its faults, had fantastic presentation and great battle music. "Hearthstone"'s music - what do you even call it? Faux-folk? - makes me want to turn it off. The trouble is that doing that means that the game plays out in absolute silence for the most part, which is no good either. Mostly I play this game with the sound turned entirely off and just have my own music running in the background instead.

Thirdly, the menus. Blizzard have fixed some of the issues (for example, it originally wasn't clear how to switch between "casual" and "ranked" modes, which works much better now) but the setup screens have a weirdly disquieting lack of context to them. It's never quite clear who you're playing or where the game's supposed to take place. You never see the "inn". When the game searches for an opponent, you get a weird wheel-of-fortune spinner that doesn't seem to have anything to do with anything else in the game (with a seriously annoying sound effect on top of some scratchy-sounding Warcraft 2 soundtrack dubs - both really, really bad ideas incidentally; given their relative quality, you do NOT want players to be making comparisons between Hearthstone's music and Warcraft 2's!) So what you end up with is a really odd situation where the game's trailer and concept art communicate more about the context of the game itself - with all the different "heroes" being shown in action poses, speaking about their various strategies - than the actual game does. It's really, really odd.

All that aside, is "Hearthstone" worth playing? Yes, a thousand times yes. It's really fun if you're into this kind of thing. It gives you a good usable selection of cards to start with, and unlike "Scrolls" you don't have to pay a bunch of money to unlock extra "decks". Honestly, if they combined the presentation of "Scrolls" with the game mechanics of "Hearthstone", I think you'd have a near-perfect game. As things stand though, "Hearthstone" is really, really good from a gameplay perspective.

The game is definitely a ton of fun.

But Druids, Shamans and Warlocks can just go choke on a rock.

They're especially brutal on Warriors and Priests.

This game is a strange one for me! I mean, when I first installed this game, I was like 'oh, cool! this is awesome' and enjoyed playing it for a couple of hours. I like the game, but, I think that's about it. As much as I think it's fun, it just hasn't pulled me back in. I still have it installed although I'm afraid there are too many other games I'd rather play when I sit down to game.
I have a feeling when this comes out for android I might play it a bit more as a mobile game.

softclocks:
The epitome of casual? Please.

While I didn't start playing until I'd done some reading, I watched my girlfriend get into the game with no prior card-game experience or knowledge about hearthstone. The tutorial teaches you NOTHING, it's almost impossible to get your hands on usable deck without sinking a lot of money into the game. Even then there's no way of knowing what constitutes a good deck without doing a lot of reading online.

While certain "skilled individuals" can do really well at this game, the truly casual gamer will have a hard time accomplishing anything other than being destroyed by people in play mode (aka test your new legendary deck-mode) and ranked mode (the regularly resetting one).

There is no way to find a challenger based on the amount of games you've played or something like win-loss ratio, and as such, it's a game that's nearly impenetrable to new players or players who aren't willing to dedicate a lot of time to reading online, aka casual gamers.

Trump (youtube personality) has build a completely free mage deck for under 1000 dust (no epics, no legendaries) with which he made legendary rank. Slightly depending on the class this game is absolutly freely playable. And casual is compared to magic the gathering and it's ilk. You can't expect to go into a game completely blind and kick ass. You have to actually read the manual and familiarise yourself with the concept to play. I think we have been spoiled by mobile games in that regard. But without experience and skill you can still have fun around the 20 rank, in my experience so far. I have endend 2 seasons in rank 15 with like 2 hours of ranked play per week and not a dollar spend.

Played until I got three wins for the WoW mount and tapped out. The presentation is pretty, but I found the experience to be rather agonizing. It took me back to playing Magic with a starter deck against a friend who had spent a year on his deck. That was ten years and hundreds of dollars ago, and I don't aim to repeat the experience against strangers on the internet.

Great review!

I've been in love with this game since October and have played it fairly consistently since. I've played around 1200 games or so, (the game tells me I have 665 wins, so I just assume about the other half or losses), and I've really come to enjoy playing at least once or twice a day. I primarily only play warlock... that means Watchers, Control, and Reynad's Zoo deck.

Reynad's Zoo, and plenty of other budget decks have really shown how even people who don't want to spend any money can get to the highest ranks in the game. Which, is an excellent quality!

Rblade:

Trump (youtube personality) has build a completely free mage deck for under 1000 dust (no epics, no legendaries) with which he made legendary rank. Slightly depending on the class this game is absolutly freely playable. And casual is compared to magic the gathering and it's ilk. You can't expect to go into a game completely blind and kick ass. You have to actually read the manual and familiarise yourself with the concept to play. I think we have been spoiled by mobile games in that regard. But without experience and skill you can still have fun around the 20 rank, in my experience so far. I have endend 2 seasons in rank 15 with like 2 hours of ranked play per week and not a dollar spend.

Trump has an epic, he created the faceless manipulator like 2 days into the experiment when he was still rank 10.

I'm well aware that anybody who goes online and finds guides, or pro-players like trump, gnimsh but this doesn't lend any credence to the "epitome of casual" statement that the reviewer made, or blizzard's promise that this game was for casuals.

My arugment was solely aimed at the idea that this game is somehow a casual's dream, or the "epitome of casual", when there's already an emerging competitive scene, people who have been playing a long time prior to release and built up cost-heavy decks that simply overpower any basic deck.

Edit: Reynad already did basic to legendary like two times, which is of no relevance when discussing casual gaming.

I'm slightly surprised the review didn't touch on Hearthstone's excellent presentation. All the little animations, all the little sound effects when you summon stuff, the 3D cards, the animation on the golden cards, even being able to interact with the game board all make Hearthstone's visual presentation MILES ahead of any other digital CCG/TCG out there.

And while that's not essential to gameplay, it's still very nice and, at least in my opinion, does improve the experience. It's like a delicious dish that's also beautifully arranged as opposed to a delicious dish that's just piled on a plate.

As for the game itself... I've been playing ever since I got in the Beta in November, pretty much on a daily basis. I have over 1000 games under my belt so far and I don't see myself stopping any time soon. It's fun, it's VERY easy to get into, pretty much everything you need to know is explained on the cards themselves in a pretty non-ambiguous way (though you will, very rarely, encounter an interaction that isn't clear how it plays out. This is the nature of the beast with such games, and Hearthstone is probably the most straightforward)

And it is NOT pay2win. Yes, spending money will speed up your "progression" so to speak, and can get you the cards to build stronger decks FASTER than non-paying players, but eventually the free players can catch up (and the game is balanced well enough that rarer cards aren't neccesseraly better than commons). And it's a CCG, spending money to get better cards is the norm for these games, it's how they are designed in the first place. Hearthstone is probably the friendliest to players who don't pay out of any TCG/CCG.

Plus it has the Arena (which in my opinion is much more fun than Constructed decks anyway), which COMPLETELY levels the playing field, since it gives you access to absolutely every card in the game.

There remains only one collectible card game I've ever enjoyed:

Wanted and tried to get in to Hearthstone.
Prior to it's release I really wanted in on the beta and watched a bunch of streams of the game trying to learn the basics etc.

Then I found MMDoC (Might and Magic duel of champions) by chance thinking it could bridge the time before Hearthstone was released.

Now I'm still playing MMDoC (which is also free to play and it does that very well too - you don't feel you have to spend money) and I actually found I couldn't go back to Hearthstone because it seemed basic by comparison. MMDoC doesn't feel nearly as polished as HS but as a game I feel it's a lot better. yet it's been overlooked by most game sites. Barely any bigger site has given it the time of day whilst HS gets mentioned all over the shop.

VladG:
I'm slightly surprised the review didn't touch on Hearthstone's excellent presentation. All the little animations, all the little sound effects when you summon stuff, the 3D cards, the animation on the golden cards, even being able to interact with the game board all make Hearthstone's visual presentation MILES ahead of any other digital CCG/TCG out there.

And while that's not essential to gameplay, it's still very nice and, at least in my opinion, does improve the experience. It's like a delicious dish that's also beautifully arranged as opposed to a delicious dish that's just piled on a plate.

In the interests of fairness, since I gave "Hearthstone"'s presentation a bashing above, I should say that I agree with all of this. I particularly love "Elite Tauren Chieftain"'s appearance.

None of it excuses the mundane music, the annoying voice acting or the total lack of context in-game (the first two points are entirely subjective, I know, but I wish they'd do something about the third) but the excellent gameplay does. Again, I'd absolutely recommend "Hearthstone" for its mechanics, but be aware that some of the voices (especially that damn Innkeeper) may want you to stuff red-hot pokers into your ear canals.

RedDeadFred:
Great review. Also, contrary to a somewhat popular belief, this is NOT pay to win. There are a lot of really good basic cards that if put together correctly should be able to get a decently skilled player to the middle of the ranking at least.

I still call it pay to win, its true the common cards are great and cover all the basics but if your going to claim someone with a fresh deck is on an even footing with someone with 100+ packs opened im just gonna flat out say your wrong. the common argument is you can get gold to unlock packs but so does the guy who bought a load and hes always going to be that much further ahead than you.

zumbledum:

RedDeadFred:
Great review. Also, contrary to a somewhat popular belief, this is NOT pay to win. There are a lot of really good basic cards that if put together correctly should be able to get a decently skilled player to the middle of the ranking at least.

I still call it pay to win, its true the common cards are great and cover all the basics but if your going to claim someone with a fresh deck is on an even footing with someone with 100+ packs opened im just gonna flat out say your wrong. the common argument is you can get gold to unlock packs but so does the guy who bought a load and hes always going to be that much further ahead than you.

There's plenty of proof that you can be just as good, if not better than people who've opened tons of packs. There are several streamers/youtubers who have Free-to-play series where they don't spend any money and start with a brand new account. One who I follow has gotten to rank 1 (not in the world, just Innkeeper rank) that way. So while no, you're not quite on an even footing, you can still make a very good deck and it comes down a lot more to player skill. Also, there are a lot of rares, epics, and legendaries that are quite awful compared to the basic cards you start with.

All of that is constructed. If you want to be on a truly equal playing field, the Arena is where it's at. Unless you get absolute shit luck with your picks, it isn't too difficult to get 5+ wins. If you get 7, you're guaranteed enough gold to get back in to the Arena. Honestly, I find the Arena to be more fun than constructed simply because so many people are just running the same decks as everyone else that they've copied card for card off the internet. The one thing I really want them to add to the game is a way to do Arena drafting with friends. You'd both do an Arena draft and then use your decks against each other.

RedDeadFred:

There's plenty of proof that you can be just as good, if not better than people who've opened tons of packs. There are several streamers/youtubers who have Free-to-play series where they don't spend any money and start with a brand new account. One who I follow has gotten to rank 1 (not in the world, just Innkeeper rank) that way. So while no, you're not quite on an even footing, you can still make a very good deck and it comes down a lot more to player skill. Also, there are a lot of rares, epics, and legendaries that are quite awful compared to the basic cards you start with.

All of that is constructed. If you want to be on a truly equal playing field, the Arena is where it's at. Unless you get absolute shit luck with your picks, it isn't too difficult to get 5+ wins. If you get 7, you're guaranteed enough gold to get back in to the Arena. Honestly, I find the Arena to be more fun than constructed simply because so many people are just running the same decks as everyone else that they've copied card for card off the internet. The one thing I really want them to add to the game is a way to do Arena drafting with friends. You'd both do an Arena draft and then use your decks against each other.

Actually thats not proof of anything, its theoretically possible for a chimp smashing on a keyboard with nothing but the noob deck to win the grand slam and be crowned best player in the universe. that doesnt mean they wouldnt of had a better chance with better cards, your streamer (who out of interest?) would of done it sooner or with safer margins if he had paid for cards.

Paying for cards ups your odds , so its paying to win.

yeah they did a good job on a lot of the rare cards to make them situation rather than straight upgrades. but there are plenty of ysera's, Tirion's,Antonidas's, and Black Knights.

yeah Arena is "even" but it does cost to play so ... paying to get an even shot? is that better? and besides its a mode that looses its charm after a while, ive played so damn much of it i can now predict with a 2 margin of error how many wins a draw is going to get, be it zero or 12 you can tell from just looking at what you got.

zumbledum:

RedDeadFred:

There's plenty of proof that you can be just as good, if not better than people who've opened tons of packs. There are several streamers/youtubers who have Free-to-play series where they don't spend any money and start with a brand new account. One who I follow has gotten to rank 1 (not in the world, just Innkeeper rank) that way. So while no, you're not quite on an even footing, you can still make a very good deck and it comes down a lot more to player skill. Also, there are a lot of rares, epics, and legendaries that are quite awful compared to the basic cards you start with.

All of that is constructed. If you want to be on a truly equal playing field, the Arena is where it's at. Unless you get absolute shit luck with your picks, it isn't too difficult to get 5+ wins. If you get 7, you're guaranteed enough gold to get back in to the Arena. Honestly, I find the Arena to be more fun than constructed simply because so many people are just running the same decks as everyone else that they've copied card for card off the internet. The one thing I really want them to add to the game is a way to do Arena drafting with friends. You'd both do an Arena draft and then use your decks against each other.

your streamer (who out of interest?)

Trump. He's awesome and often times, hilarity will ensue in his games. Here's his most recent F2P ladder climb video:


And yes, I guess you're right. It is pay to win to an extent. I guess I was just getting at the fact that the basic cards are good enough that the game isn't putting you in such a bad starting point that you feel the need to put money down. Even though it would improve your odds of winning.

Completely agree with the review. I have played a lot of magic and this is just the perfect opportunity to play for some hours one day then come back a week later.

One more thing the ranking system us genius. You play until you loose as much as you win, then you analyze what the meta is on your rank then change your deck a little then go a rank up.

I'm liking it a lot this far, even tho it's way simplier than magic. I hope more cards will be added in the future. Anyway, bashing the game for that would be kind of bashing chess for being a simplier strategy game than Medieval: Total War. It's just not what you should be looking at.

A game can be elegantly simplier, as long as it allows players to show their kills through it's system.

It's a great game. I must say. But the RNG is a bitch. I can't get any good cards.

 

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