Free-to-Play 'Hearthstone' is equal parts addicting, fun
I kept telling myself, “One more game and then I’ll go to bed,” the first night I played “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft”. I finally put the iPad away around 2 a.m.
Hearthstone is the brilliant amalgamation of Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft” and a collectible card game, or CCG. I should state, for full disclosure, that I’m not a fan of tabletop or digital CCGs. I’ve tried my fair share, but it just isn’t something that has appealed to me. That is probably Hearthstone’s greatest asset. You don’t have to be a hardcore CCG or Warcraft fan to appreciate Hearthstone. Best of all, it is completely Free-to-Play on PC and iPad.
The premise is simple, and if you have played a CCG in the past, it should feel instantly familiar. You pick one of the 10 available character classes as seen in “World of Warcraft.” Based on that class, you are given basic cards and class specific cards to round out your deck. The cards represent various abilities like summoning minions to fight for you and spells that cause either direct damage or provide support abilities like healing or attack buffs.Customize your deck andgo into battle against a random opponent. The first hero to lose all of their health loses the game.
Blizzard was smart in easing players into the game as thetutorial starts out by introducing the mage class and the gameplay. All of the other classes are available by beating computer controlled opponents. Each class has a hero with its own special ability. Ideally, players will want to customize their decks with cards that fit their class and style of play which should adapt the deeper players get into the game. Beating the computer is a great way to get more familiar with the game and unlock a few levels, but going online and playing against other players is where the fun truly begins.
I’ll admit that online play might seem a little unforgiving at first. It’s because of the combination of unfamiliarity with battling human players and not having acquired better cards. I took my lumps early on. Earning money through winning and completing quests rewards players with gold as in-game currency. Earn enough gold and you can buy card packs with five random cards. Or if you really wish, you can invest real world money for card packs. That is the quick fix, but spending money is completely optional. I can't stress that enough. Hearthstone is totally fun as a Free-to-Play game.
The key really comes down to experimentation and luck. A mage might not fare as well against a priest or a warlock but might dominate a warrior or hunter. I still cringe every time my mage comes up against a priest because I just haven’t been able to figure out the right mix to win. Despite running up against players with much better decks, all it took was that first win for Hearthstone to sink in its teeth. I persevered, and it didn’t take long to start building up some wins as well as obtaining cards for my deck for my current class as well as cards for future custom decks.
The game uses Battle.net which saves progress and allows players to play on either PC or iPad. I love being able to take Hearthstone with me where ever I want, provided there's an online connection which is required to sign in.
Blizzard is best known for making great games and “Hearthstone” does not disappoint. It feels right at home on the iPad without feeling like a cut-rate mobile release or a gated Free-to-Play game. The gameplay is surprisingly deep. The graphics are simple but vibrant. It is one of the most addicting competitive multiplayer games I've played in a long time. It is extremely accessible, and I can't recommend it enough whether or not you're a fan of "World of Warcraft" or collectible card games.
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