Exclusive Review of Hearthstone

We lately had the chance to eventually try out Hearthstone and, of course, want to share our experience with you. The game can be described in two ways: First, easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master. Secondly, three words are enough: fast, fun and addictive.We will definitively continue to play since we have been testing the game for days.

When thinking of card games, Magic: The Gathering comes to mind as flagship of the genre and many of us think of them as being difficult and inaccessible if you have neither the time to understand the infinite number of rules nor the money to buy cards, but Blizzard destroys the myth with Hearthstone.

The game presents quite simple mechanics: one versus one, 30 health points, a mana-crystals pool which starts small (just 1) and grows with each turn (up to 10) and cards with a mana-crystal cost you have to pay to play the cards, either by summoning minions or using spells. The goal is to reduce  the opponent player's health points to zero. Due to this simplicit, a match can easily finish in ten or fifteen minutes, but don’t get us wrong: the game has a great deal of strategic and tactical depth.

There are several types of cards that can be categorized in three big groups: minions, spells and secrets. All minions have two stats: attack and health points, and of course there are minions with special abilities, such as taunt (which forces the enemy minions to attack that creature) or charge (to be able to attack when the creature is summoned, since minions can’t attack when they come into play). The minions' health isn’t restored at the end of the turn but it’s possible to heal them with different spells.

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At the beginning, you select a hero from nine possible heroes - well-known ones in the Warcraft Universe as Hearthstone is set in the universe of the Warcraft games series. Classes resemble those of World of Warcraft: Hunter, Warrior, Paladin, Mage, Priest, Druid, Warlock, Rogue and Shaman; each with their own unique special cards and play style. Each class has its own feel. For example, The Druid deck is all about creatures and enchantments and buffs, while The Mage deck runs with magic damage and crowd control. Decks consist of thirty cards, but don’t worry if you are a newcomer because you don’t need to build your deck from the very first minute, you can select a basic deck or build your own custom deck. For deck building, there are neutral cards or class-specific cards at the player's disposal, and there are more than 300 cards in total, just to give you an idea of how many different options you have.

The UI is beautiful and if you are (or have been) a World of Warcraft player, you will fall in love with it. It uses easily recognizable scenarios, like Orgrimmar or Stormwind. Spells and creatures come from the Warcraft Universe so you will be able to notice sound effects and even animations.

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Hearthstone features three game modes: Ranked, Practice and the Arena. In Practice mode, you can play against AI opponents with two difficulty levels – standard and exper. Ranked mode uses a match making system to match you against opponents with similar skills and it will use a system with different divisions, similar to Starcraft 2, providing Hearthstone with lots of potential as an e-Sport. And finally, there is the Arena, a very special mode in which you will have to play a sudden death round (with three lives) with a random cards deck. The further you get, the better prizes you will obtain. However, to access the Arena you have to pay tokens or real money but in this mode you can get incredible treasures, such as legendary cards.

The free-to-play business model - remember that Hearthstone is a free-to-play game - surprised us. There are daily quests (easy to complete as far as we have tested) that will reward you with tokens, 40 tokens for most of them, at least at this beta stage. These tokens can be used to buy new packs of cards or get passes to the Arena. A pack of five cards costs 100 tokens (2 packs - $2.99 / 2.69 euro) and the Arena pass costs 150 tokens (or $1.99 / 1.79 euro). Also, you will get five tokens after five victories in the Ranked mode or when you accomplish certain achievements, e.g. for playing 100 games you will be rewarded with 300 tokens. Nevertheless, it’s relatively easy to get tokens by playing, so it’s not necessary to spend real money at all.

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In addition, there is another interesting feature in Hearthstone: Crafting. By disenchanting cards or playing in the Arena, you get Arcane Dust. And you can use this dust to craft cards. We haven’t tested this feature yet but we will come back to it in a future review.

Hearthstone will be initially available for Windows and Mac, and later for iPad, too (not at launch though). Nothing has been said about an Android version but it should more than likely eventually arrive as well.

In conclusion, Hearthstone is more than a simple free-to-play collectible card game and definitely is worth trying. Check out our videos and screenshots and enjoy the experience.

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