Preview: Blizzard Strikes Again: Hearthstone

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The love for CCG is nothing new. At sometime or another I feel that we have all touched a trading card of some sort. Hoards of fans from many different games, from Magic the gathering, to Pokemon gather each year for tournaments or conventions. Some of these games have tried to make the transition to digital, with varied results. For the past few years however, the digital TCG scene has grown quite considerably.

Which for me, is fantastic. I’m not fortunate enough to live in a city with lots of players. So I have been resorted to trying each online TCG I can get my hands on, to find something I like. I’m a fan of the Pokemon TCG online, however it’s accessibility is quite unappealing since the only way I can get new cards is by buying physical booster packs, which for where I live. Are useless. My latest addiction being Infinity Wars by Lightmare Studios.

Magic the gathering comes out on XBLA, PSN, Steam and the appstore with a new iteration each year for the past 3 or so years. Ascension is a fantastic App store card game.  Pokemon TCGO is quite established, the upcoming Infinity Wars, and much, much more are fighting to make their presence known on the scene.

hearthstone unlock

So we go back to PAX East 2013, where Blizzard announced Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a CCG built purely for the digital space. Blizzard already has a prominent physical TCG community with the World Of Warcraft TCG, so it wasn’t surprising it the least to see such a huge reaction to this game being announced.

Blizzards work in the video games industry is certainly something that won’t be forgotten. Each of their franchises have become massively successful in their own right. From the Starcraft E-sport fever, Diablo being hailed as the grandfather of it’s genre and World of Warcraft being the golden standard that every new MMORPG is compared to, whether they like it or not. So what can they do for this growing scene of digital CCG? Well, quite a damn lot.

Two days ago, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a beta Key, and I could not thank Blizzard enough for their kindness. Footage of Hearthstone has exploded all over Youtube, Twitch and god knows where else, and there is a reason for that. Hearthstone is bloody amazing.

hearthstone spell

For a product in closed beta, Hearthstone addresses so many issues I have had with digital CCG, that I honestly don’t know where to start. I guess we will go in order of what the game throws at you. When you first boot up the game, Hearthstone throws you into a series of what seems to be unavoidable tutorials, and this would normally make me groan and put me in a bad mood. A problem that all digital CCG’s seem to have is that the tutorials they put you through feel like you are learning from a textbook. A chunk of text is thrown at you and then it forces you to make certain moves, just terribly boring and it just doesn’t make the game any fun what so ever.

Hearthstone is different. It doesn’t treat you like a two year old, or like a university student. Everything you need to know is explained to you in the game itself, and actually feels like it’s letting you play, not forcing you through some sort of contrived tutorial environment. Sure there are a few scripted segments, but they are for humor and fanfare for you and the Warcraft vets more then explaining the actual game. Which is just so incredibly fun, that I feel like the short time I have had with Hearthstone, is some of the best time I’ve had with digital CCG in quite some time.

It’s just so simple to pick up and play. Here is a quick run down on how matches work. Your resource is Mana Crystals, and each turn you gain one more, allowing you to play more advanced spells and monsters, you use these cards to take down your opponents monsters and ultimately, their champion.

hearthstone legendary

You never feel lost in what’s going on in a match. Everything is clearly explained, which makes devising different strategies all the easier. Speaking of which, Hearthstone has the most intuitive and easy to use deck building system I’ve had the pleasure to use. Whether of not you just want to throw a quick deck together through the suggest a card feature, or you have a specific idea in mind, the game allows you to do that.

Speaking of which, in hearthstone there are a few ways to gain cards. By practicing with the basic decks you can unlock, you gain experience for those classes. Once they level you get some more basic cards, however these are limited to 20 extra cards per class, so this will only satisfy your card hunger for so long.  Then you can buy booster packs with currency you gain by playing online, or using real currency. Then you get quests thrown at you which will give you a booster pack when completed.  So once again, Hearthstone gives you plenty of options to do things. To be honest though, I might have been irresponsible and spent more money then I should have, but I don’t regret it.

Last but not least, the icing on the cake that is Hearthstones presentation. The music is catchy, (I have it open now for music while writing)  the voice acting is fantastic, The UI is clean and everything you need is easy to find, card art is beautiful, diverse, interactive and beautiful battlegrounds, and unique spell and special effect animations! (Repeated spell animations is a big pet peeve for me in this genre) The legendary blizzard polish is in full effect here, and it ties in all into one neat, addictive, and extremely fun package. If I had any criticisms, it’s just some ideas that I would like to see in the full game, such as being able to select all your available units to attack at once, and I think a replay feature would be a cool addition for looking at how to improve your deck against certain opponents, etc. However, this is still closed beta. It is not the final representation of the product but if it’s anything to go by, I really, really cannot wait till the full product. I think I have found that digital CCG I have been searching for. One that isn’t bogged down by bad design decisions, lack of development devotion, or just general oversight. I am willing to say this right now.

hearthstone vic

Hearthstone is currently the most promising digital CCG coming, and I couldn’t be more excited on how this game evolves next. I honestly hope the game will see something of a changing meta game, balance patches, new cards, etc, etc. I know I’m rambling right now, but I’m excited.

Hearthstone is really, really good and I can’t wait what else Blizzard does with it. Let’s leave it at that shall we 😀