Simple. Intriguing. Frustrating.
These three words describe my experience with Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
For those uninitiated, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a Free to Play Trading Card Game developed by Activision-Blizzard. Developed over the past few years by a dedicated team, it shines as another testament to Blizzard's trademark style and now well known polish.
With easy to understand core concepts and a massive amount of truly free content, it has become my go-to card game of choice. It is supremely balanced as far as a CCG goes, and there is more than enough content here to drown out my frustrations of its sometimes random nature (especially in the early stages).
Where Hearthstone really shines is its core simplicity. It doesn't rely on complicated rules or mathematics to become a skilled player. Most of the cards are self explanatory and communicate their effects well. That is not to say however, that this is a game of ability mashing, or shoving cards in your opponents face looking to get lucky. There is a bit of skill involved in deciding which card to play when. Do I use my Assassinate card to destroy an enemy minion this turn, and then use my special ability or another card to take a shot at my opponents health, or wait until near end game when more powerful minions are in play?
The cards are “split” between nine different classes. Each class has its own special power. Jana Proudmoore for example, has a “Fireball” special ability where you drain 2 Mana to deal 1 damage to an enemy minion or your opponent directly. Choosing which action to take can be tricky, but satisfying and rewarding just the same. The connection to the Warcraft lore really shines here, as all of your classes and Hero cards/decks are based off of said lore.
The words “Free to Play” are the bane of some people's existence as this term is usually found hand in hand with “Pay to Win”. Hearthstone is really the exception to the rule and that blows my mind. The Daily Quest system pays you enough gold to buy a new premium pack every other day, if you're dedicated enough. The quests aren't that hard to complete either ranging from “Play Three Matches” to “Win Three Matches With _____ Class”. In game currency can also be spent to enter the Arena mode. Arena mode is a challenge not for the faint of heart, but a very rewarding experience should you succeed in winning a match. This Arena mode will allow those dedicated and skilled players to continue to play for free for the months and years to come.
If you do decide to spend money you'll be happy to notice that a little goes a long way in Hearthstone. Card packs range from $1.25 to $1.50 each and contain 5 cards per pack. There is however, no in game trading system. Which is odd considering this is a trading card game. Once you end up with most of the cards unlocked and you've built your decks, you end up opening pack after pack of the same cards to get the one or two cards you want to complete your set or deck. It can be frustrating at times!
Hearthstone is also missing a tournament mode. You can play against random opponents, Battle.Net friends, and in the previously mentioned Arena modes. Thats it. It almost feels like they're waiting to push a huge update that will add this feature in, but there is no word on when or if that will happen. The potential is there though, and that is exciting to think about. Blizzard has also revealed they are working on an iOS and Android version of the game which will sync with your PC version.