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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Video Game Review)

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is the highly anticipated collectible card game from Blizzard Entertainment based on the Warcraft universe. The game quickly grew a huge following during its closed and open beta periods and the full release finally arrived in March. The game is incredibly addictive and surprisingly simple to play even for gamers that don't know a whole lot about collectible card games or the series Hearthstone is based upon. Players will choose a hero, create a deck and enter into the Arena to test their cards against other players or simply enter quick Play and Ranked sessions to test out new strategies. The game is built in a free to play model that allows gamers to fully enjoy everything Hearthstone has to offer without spending a single cent of real world currency, though it ultimately will lead to more victories for the players that do decide to invest a little cash into the game, for better or worse.

Hearthstone doesn't offer players much in terms of a storyline, and there is no real campaign featured in the game, yet. Players enter into the game and are greeted by the friendly Innkeeper before being invited to play a friendly card game based on the Heroes of Warcraft. Each match features a different stage with an audience that can be heard murmuring and cheering during matches, but no characters are ever seen outside of the fancy wooden box in which matches are held. Players will recognize many of the faces and characters on the cards in the game, and there is a surprising amount of humor in the game as well including the spoof Harrison Jones card and a special appearance by Leeroy Jenkins.

The rules of Hearthstone are easy to understand even for beginner level card players. Decks must consist of 30 cards, and there are some Hero specific cards and a Hero Power associated with each deck. One mana crystal is gained each turn during a match that can be spent to summon cards to the field, and crystals recharge at the beginning of a new turn. The game doesn't yet feature any way for players to do anything during other players' turns, so it's easy to focus on playing cards and watch how an opponent reacts accordingly. There are spells, traps and other special cards besides Minions that are used at the primary attackers, and it's a good idea to balance all card types in a single deck. Luckily, Hearthstone features a full custom Deck Builder where players can create and modify their own decks after unlocking new cards to summon the best cards possible.

New players begin playing Hearthstone in the tutorial while playing as the Mage class and Jaina Proudmoore from the World of Warcraft series. The deck is one of the best in the game and comes with a Hero Power that shoots a Fireball at enemies dealing one damage to any character at the cost of two mana. The game slowly introduces all of the key gameplay mechanics in the game across six missions, then players will unlock the deck for good to use across all other game modes. New decks are acquired by defeating that deck, and decks can be unlocked across all game modes. Additionally, players will gain experience through each match to level up, unlock new cards and eventually gain enough renown to unlock special gold variant cards for decks. Experience points and levels are class specific though, so it definitely takes numerous hours to unlock everything.

The three game modes in Hearthstone all offer players different ways to experience the game. Practice places players against AI opponents that don't offer much of a challenge but are good for quickly testing out a deck while gaining a little bit of experience points needed to unlock new cards for a specific character. Additionally, players can play these opponents enough to unlock expert level opponents for an even greater challenge, though it's typically more beneficial to play others online, since Hearthstone requires players to play the game with an Internet connection at all times anyhow. Play mode is where these types of matches happen, and players can choose between Casual and Ranked matches, though the opponent difficulty can quickly amp up after winning just a few Ranked games. Arena is the third mode that allows players to construct decks from randomized cards and compete against other players for prizes. Arena sessions require 150 in-game gold to enter, but gold can be won back for winning enough matches during Arena so that the entry fee doesn't seem so bad.

Where Hearthstone has its biggest problems is in Play mode. It's fairly simple to dump a lot of money into the game to purchase additional packs of cards and unlock a few Legendary cards to win matches. This leaves players that don't want to spend a little real world cash on additional packs out of luck in some matches, since Hearthstone does feature many different cards that are considerably more powerful than some of the basic cards unlocked in each deck through normal means. It can be terribly frustrating to play an entire match with an opponent only to lose it at the end when an ultra powerful card hits the field for the other player that there is simply no answer for in normal decks. That said, some players won't mind investing just a bit of money into the game to help level the playing field somewhat.

Hearthstone also features Daily Challenges that can easily be completed in a few matches and will earn around 40 in-game gold with each met objective. Since packs only cost 100 in-game gold, players can easily get new packs, and hopefully, be lucky enough to snag a few Epic or Legendary cards of their own. The Arena is also an option for players looking to unlock packs of cards, since nearly every Arena entry at 150 in-game gold will return a pack of cards as one of the prizes at the end of the session. If all else fails, players can also choose to Disenchant their cards for Arcane Dust that can be used to craft the cards they need to build the perfect deck to challenge other players online.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft features a top notch presentation that completely nails what is means to be a collectible card video game. There are some nice animations and graphics for each of the cards in the game, and special Gold, similar to foil variants, come with some extra cool graphics. Each level in Hearthstone is also full of interactive objects including a gryphon that can be touched, a loud bell that can be wrung and a catapult to launch rocks across the screen. These neat objects aren't necessary, but they're fun to mess with when playing opponents that like to take their sweet time with each turn. Hearthstone also features some pretty good voice acting to bring each Minion and Hero to life in the game, and there are some catchy themes that play in each session as well.

Some players would call Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft pay to win or even completely luck based, and they wouldn't be completely wrong. Every card game, including Poker, involves some amounts of luck though, and investing a bit of money into a game as addictive as this one isn't the worst way to spend your hard earned cash. Hearthstone is fun for fans of the Warcraft game series and even more so for collectible card game enthusiasts. There are very few things to dislike about the title, and considering everything in the game is available for free, if players choose to invest a considerable amount of time into the game, it hardly seems fair to criticize the game too much. Check out Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft for free on Battle.net today!

Hearthstone is now available free to play for PC and Mac and is coming soon to iOS and Android. Hearthstone is rated T by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Blood, Fantasy Violence & Mild Suggestive Themes. For more information on the game, check out the official Hearthstone website.

Game Features:
  • Online Multiplayer 1-2
  • Practice, Play and Arena Game Modes
  • Daily Challenges and Prizes
  • Supports In-Game Purchases
  • Full Deck Builder and Card Craft System

Game Information:
Developer & Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: PC (reviewed) & Mac
Release Date: March 11, 2014

Score: 8 out of 10
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