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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

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Rating: 4.2/5 (31 votes)
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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

DoraSo I had to look up what Warcraft actually was, as opposed to being that MMORPG you play if you're not still putting around Ultima Online and too invested to quit. I wanted to feel like I was at least a little qualified to even look at Blizzard Entertainment's card-based strategy game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, available free for iPad, Windows, and Mac. (Free account registration required.) With the release of their new single-player expansion, The Curse of Naxxramas, it seemed like a good time to dive in and see what all the fuss has been about, though I was more than a little apprehensive about it. Though the first act of the new expansion is free, you'll need to pay for the others, but even if you aren't willing to crack open your wallet, you can still play practice missions or against other players online without paying a penny. Any game that offers multiplayer with microtransactions is automatically a little suspicious... free-to-play can easily turn into pay-to-win, after all. Fortunately, Hearthstone manages to provide some seriously addictive and strategic gameplay without ever feeling like it's leaning on your wallet. Unlike other free-to-play games, there are no timers or other restrictions placed on how often you play, either against others or by yourself, so you can play the game as much as you want.

HearthstoneThe basics of Hearthstone are actually pretty simple, as you'll discover in the tutorial. You and your opponents take turns drawing cards and placing them on the board, trying to get each others' health down to zero first and win. Minions are cards that can help attack and defend, though they can only do either after they've been deployed for one round. You can typically choose to attack either your enemy or their Minions to attempt to remove those cards from play. If you direct your Minion to attack one of your enemy's Minions, both of them will take damage. Each card has a cost of blue mana crystals you need to have in order to use its abilities during your turn, and after each round, you'll have your mana replenished, plus gain an extra point up to a total of ten. Minions, of course, are just one of the card types you can find and use, and as you play you'll gain access to Spells, Secrets, Weapons, Hero Powers, and more. Likewise, Minions themselves can offer more beyond simple muscle, including increases to the strength or health of other cards in play, or even special effects to enemies or yourself, so with a bit of strategy, you can turn even the lowliest Murloc into... uh... a less junky Murloc, anyway.

HearthstoneThere are nine different "classes" of card types available, each bound to a specific type of character such as Mage or Paladin (though some cards can be used by anyone), and all of them have different abilities. Many can be unlocked by completing quests or winning battles against them, and as you duel with them, they'll level up and grant you more cards as a reward. You gain experience even if you lose a battle, so you don't feel like you have to flip the table over quite as much if you're a sore loser. You can buy packs of five random Expert cards with Gold, which is awarded at ten pieces for every three battles up to one hundred pieces daily fought in Play mode (or from Quests or the Arena), or you can pay $2.99USD for two packs or more. During Play mode, even if you're not playing a ranked match, you're always playing against another person. While the game does try to match you against someone who is close to your level of skill based on your current ranking, you do of course run the risk that you might be matched up with someone who is more than comfortable makin' it rain all over the in-game purchases to get more cards. I chose to pay to compare the decks received for free during play to those you receive for cash, however, and found that there was no difference whatsoever in the caliber or variety of cards offered. In fact, since the cards are distributed to random classes, paying means you might fork over money only to find yourself saddled with a bunch of cards for classes you don't use. Luckily, if that happens, you can always choose to reduce those cards to "Arcane Dust", which can then be spent towards crafting cards you actually want.

HearthstoneIt's hard to make a card battle game that offers enough depth and complexity to draw in the hardcore crowd while not scare off the casual newcomers peering anxiously from the sidelines, but Hearthstone is amazingly accessible regardless of whether you've ever laid hands on a deck in your life. The tutorial stages do a great job of walking you through the basics without feeling like they're swamping you in information too fast, or condescendingly holding your hands like your a toddler who keeps banging your head on the table edge. The huge variety of cards and powers keeps things challenging and interesting no matter who you're playing against or as, and careful deck planning and game strategy means clever players needn't be pushed against the wall by someone with money in their pocket. Deck building can make an enormous difference if you're struggling, allowing you to balance out your cards much more carefully with useful bonuses and effects to bolster comparatively weaker Minions, or just turn your heavy hitters into terrifying powerhouses.

All of this makes Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft one of those rare free-to-play games that actually feels like it rewards you for simply playing rather than shelling out to keep doing so. Everything in the game is available free to earn with patience or careful deck crafting, and I didn't see so much as a peep out of the game to try to convince me to open my wallet. The lack of in-game chat means players (or their parents) don't have to worry about being exposed to potential nastiness, and since someone quitting a battle counts as a win for you, others can't just leave matches to preserve their dignity/ranking if they're losing. It's also a gorgeous little game, from its smooth animations to the stunning artwork, making it easy on the eyes in addition to dangerously easy to keep playing over and over. It's sort of a good thing it took me so long to get around to playing Hearthstone because once you start, its simple pick-up-and-play style is hard to pull yourself away from.

Download on the AppstoreHearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (iPad)

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I've been playing Hearthstone since the beta, so here's a few bits of info that people might like to know;

First, the game is absolutely "free to play". Even the new Naxxramas expansion. The first wing is free (for a limited time), other wings can be unlocked for real money, as noted in the review, OR they can be unlocked with in-game gold. I think it's 700 gold per wing.

Second, the game honestly discourages grinding. The gold-per-win is capped, and it's relatively inefficient; there are also "daily quests", which range from 40-100 gold each. You get one per day, and if you hate the one you get (like it wants you to get wins with a hero you hate), once a day you can delete a daily and get another. You can also save up dailies, up to three; you get the daily by logging in, but you don't have to complete it that day. And they can be worked on simultaneously, at times; the get a win with your Druid deck, and you'll progress the "get 7 wins" daily, the "get 3 wins with Druid" daily, and probably progress your "summon 20 minions of cost 5 or more" daily. So this isn't a game that will eat your free time by forcing you to grind, is my point.

You certainly CAN pay, if you want a step up, and it can be particularly helpful early on, but it becomes less and less worth the investment over time; I spent $20 early on, but I've felt no desire to spend more since.

If you like these kinds of card games, IMO Hearthstone is a really strong online contender. This is just the first expansion, so card diversity is a LITTLE limited, but still plenty for quite a few decks.


I have been playing this every day now for a couple of months and I absolutely love it. The variety of the heroes with their respective strengths and weaknesses, hero ability and exclusive cards available to each provide a great deal of depth to the game such that I never get bored playing.

The expansion is particularly fun because not only does it unleash a bevy of new cards into the mix of regular play, it also provides a challenging single-player experience in the form of 'bosses' all with their own unique decks and hero abilities. It becomes more like a puzzle in which you must create a custom deck tailored to counter each individual boss.

Blizzard has done an exceptional job with Hearthstone, as one would expect from the company.


If you like Hearthstone, please consider trying Magic: the Gathering Online or Duels of the Planeswalkers. Magic has been around far, far longer than Hearthstone, and has much greater depth.


I've played Hearthstone for a while...
Honestly, it is a rather poorly designed game, from my view. The strategy in the higher levels is basically, "Deal with your opponent's minions until you have the right cards to burst them down from 15 or more to 0 while they can't fight back". It makes for incredibly frustrating gameplay.

Compounding on this is the fact that at least on the EU servers, the matchmaking is borked. I started up a new account so I could play with my friend, and I was pitted up against the highest level players the game had to throw at me, all with legendaries and all the best cards and experience, while I was piddling around with a level 4 Paladin.

In essence, it's a fun little romp, but extremely infuriating if you refuse to fork out the money to get the leg up on cards to match your opponents.


I played Hearthstone regularly for a few weeks, but then I got bored with it. That's still a lot of free game, though.

Naxxramas will probably get me back in for a little while!

joe1512 July 24, 2014 12:35 PM replied to Koa Gasper

Hearthstone is popular BECAUSE it is a scaled down version of MTG with less options and such. MTG is horribly complicated and utterly unfriendly for a new player. Even as an ex-high ranking player, if a few expansions have gone by, I have a hard time gettting my bearings. I can't imagine being a new player.

Hearthstone greatly streamlines play. You play your entire turn, they play theirs. MTG forces interaction for every single element, every single phase. There is a untap phase, upkeep, draw, main, declaration of attack phase, declare attackers, declare blockers, damage dealing phase where you'd put Heal-Shields on minions in response to damage on the stack, then back to main phase again, end turn, cleanup phase. All of these can be responded to by instant effects.

Hearthstone is easy. It also discouragins turtling and rewards aggression. In MTG a 2/2 creature is near useless when the enemy drops a 3/3. You attack with the 2/2, they block with the 3/3 which gets healed at end of turn.
In Hearthstone you can directly attack minions or ignore non-taunt minions. It hugely improves pacing.


I've had this argument ad nauseam; MTG is a strong game. But a LOT of its diversity emerged with the expansions; it has had decades to build to its current state. I started shortly after it launched; most of my MTG set are 2nd edition or thereabouts. So when I compare my early experience to Hearthstone at launch, it's a lot more favorable a comparison.

And a lot of what's different in Hearthstone improves the game for an online experience. Take interrupts; in any online MtG game, they need to pause after EVERY phase, to give the opponent a chance to play an interrupt. They can't skip it if you lack interrupts, because that tells your opponent you lack interrupts. It slows down play. In a physical real-world match, you can just say "wait a sec" and interrupt, and things can get rolled back a few seconds if need be, but that's not something you can do in online play. Hearthstone just gets around that by not including the mechanic at all. They have other effects, like Secrets, that play a similar role, but in a way that works better in an online game.

MtG might be the deeper game, after 20 years of constant expansion, but Hearthstone is, IMO, a better ONLINE game, and compares favorably in terms of depth to MtG at launch, which is the more reasonable comparison to make.


The fact the more and more of the games you review are iOs and Android is really turning me off JayisGames. I wish there was a way to filter these from the results of the front page completely so I didn't have to see it since it doesn't interest me at all.


That's why I mentioned DotP, which has a vastly better interface than MTGO, including, for example, timers after each move that can be paused to play instants and interrupts. Some version also have features that Hearthstone does not, such as Two-Headed Giant, a 2v2 format, and Sealed, where you make a deck from booster packs.


I'd just like to chime in that the microtransaction aspect doesn't really impact the competition much, if any. You can gain any card the same way whether you're buying expansion packs with real money or in-game earned currency. Plus, you can also create a special sub-currency for "crafting" cards by throwing out ones you don't use, if they meet the criteria. On top of that, you can only have 2 cards of a single type in your deck anyway, and cards earned by more complex means aren't inherently better than those you simply gain as part of a basic deck anyway. Of course "freemium" models are worth scrutinizing in any kind of competitive environment, and normally that turns me right off, but the result in this case is pretty harmless.


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