When I first posted up my Hearthstone impressions in August, I promised that a more thorough Hearthstone review would come after some additional playtime. Then Blizzard decided to give Hearthstone a major patch along with a wipe, so I figured I would hold off on my review until after those changes were in place. Now that’s come and gone and I’ve been having so much fun playing Hearthstone that I’m having a hard time sitting down, collecting my thoughts and writing the review that it deserves.
Following the wipe, I’ve probably played over 1,000 matches assuming that I have a 50:50 win-loss ratio – and that’s a very optimistic assumption. Yes, I may have 500 wins, but I also have many, many more losses to go along with those wins. But that goes to show just how fun and addicting Hearthstone can be, even to someone that never had any interest in collectible card games in the past. As I said before, Hearthstone is simply a game designed to appeal to everyone, not just CCG fans – and simply put, it succeeds.
With the introduction of Heroes of the Storm at this year’s BlizzCon event, it’s clear now that Blizzard Entertainment’s goal is to create fun, easy-to-learn games that are very difficult to master. Even more so, both Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm have the potential to become great eSports hits, despite the fact that they can be played by virtually any casual gamer. And that’s where Hearthstone truly shines: once you grasp the basic concepts of the game, you can win… no matter what.
While I’ve already addressed whether or not Hearthstone is pay-to-win, the fact of the matter is Hearthstone can be played competitively without spending a dime. There are several highly successful decks that simply uses basic cards that you get by just levelling up your heroes. Don’t want to spend a dime and still have a lot of fun? Hearthstone offers that so long as you’re into its gameplay.
With a huge variety of cards and possible decks, Hearthstone will keep you busy.
At the core of it all, Hearthstone is a card game, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have experience playing them in order to enjoy what Hearthstone has to offer. In fact, amateurs and newcomers to the genre will find that Hearthstone is easy to learn, easy to get into and easy to get addicted to. If you’re unclear as to what a “card game” exactly is, you can look at Hearthstone from the view point of being a strategy game. Building a deck and figuring out how you hope to win your games is the first step, while playing those cards and reacting to what your opponent is playing is the second step. And much like other strategy games out there like StarCraft II, luck plays a role in getting yourself a win.
But unlike those strategy games, losing isn’t as frustrating. Each loss you feel like you learned something, even hundreds of them later. Play mistakes will be made that you can learn from, and there’s always the adjustment needed when you don’t exactly draw the cards you’re looking for. Sure, there are some annoying strategies out currently such as the Priest’s Mind Control and the Hunter’s Unleash the Hounds (changes are incoming), but play several dozen games against those decks and you’ll come up with a strategy of your own to counter it. And essentially that’s the beauty of Hearthstone: every game can possibly be a win, no matter what cards your opponent has in their deck. I’ve even created some absurdly horrible decks to get some of my dailies completed and have won.
And just to show how versatile Hearthstone is as a game, you’ll notice that my Arena wins are… less than stellar. Deck building is a huge part of understanding how to become a real good player in Hearthstone, and given the randomness of the draws in Arena, there’s a level of difficulty that Hearthstone has to offer for the hardcore gamers. Think you grasp the core concepts of Hearthstone really well with the deck you play daily? Take a step into Arena and try a hero that you typically don’t play to give yourself a challenge. It’s a great change of pace and even when I go 0-3 in the Arena, it’s a ton of fun and a great learning experience.
The Arena will put your deck-building skills to the test.
After all these games later, I still stand by the fact that Hearthstone’s lack of chat is one of its best features. When you want to sit down and play dozens of games in a row, it’s a relief that the best taunt your opponent can do to you is an emote. Hearthstone is built from the ground up to be a casual game, and its lack of chat helps make it succeed at that goal.
So who exactly does Hearthstone appeal to? I’d say everyone. Give it a shot, even if you’ve never played a collectible/customizable card game in your life. Learning the rules won’t take very long and customizing decks and coming up with wonky solutions to win games is always entertaining. Honestly, even if you’ve had no interest in Hearthstone, it’s worth giving it a try once it’s in open beta. It’s a free-to-play game with a ton of value and you’ll never have to spend a dime even if you want to be competitive.
From its simple, yet beautiful UI to the little touches that pay homage to Warcraft’s storied history, there’s a lot to enjoy with Hearthstone. Each match feels fresh and exciting, while coming up with strategies to play on the fly never gets old. There’s also no greater satisfaction than doing that one play that gets you a win, even when it looked like all hope was lost.
There’s also more coming to Hearthstone, including a new patch that will change how ranked mode works and Blizzard will continually be working on balancing and changing the meta game to keep Hearthstone fresh and fun. It’s off to a fantastic start and I can’t wait to see what’s to come.