Some months ago, I was given access to the then-closed beta of Blizzard Entertainment’s new game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. If I’m honest, I didn’t really bother to play it until a few weeks ago.
The open beta cycle is now coming to an end, so presumably the final release of the game is imminent. Unlike other Blizzard games it’s expected to be free to play, but with in-app payments to be extras. It integrates with Blizzard’s Battle.net service so you can chat to friends playing other Blizzard games like World of Warcraft, Diablo III and Starcraft II whilst playing.
Hearthstone is, essentially, a turn-based card game. It can be played either against the computer, in practice mode, or against other players – either friends or random matches. So far, I haven’t ventured outside practice mode so I haven’t played against any other real people as yet.
The basic premise of the game is that you have a deck of cards, which belong to a class from one of the original nine World of Warcraft classes (i.e. no death knights or monks), and you play a hero of that class. As I started with the Mage deck, I played Jaina Proudmore. You then play against another hero of a different class – so choosing a Warrior opponent will give you Garrosh Hellscream. As you defeat other classes, you get access to those decks, until you can choose any of the nine class decks to play.
In the games, you start off with several cards, and receive at least one more card with each turn. Some cards produce minions, which can attack or defend you; others enable spells and abilities. You also gain a mana crystal with each turn – the number of crystals you have for each turn budgets the number of abilities you can use. If you defeat the opposing hero, you win.
It’s very similar to real world table top games, but with the bonus of having the computer enforce the rules. I occasionally play table top games but sometimes the rules can be bewildering, and some games have a steep learning curve that puts off more casual gamers like me. So I appreciate having my hand held by the game in this way. It’s also nice that it uses a familiar universe of characters, as all of them have appeared in the Warcraft game series at some point.
Hearthstone itself is relatively easy to play, and is controlled entirely with the mouse. I’m pretty sure it’s been designed so that it can be easily ported to tablets, although as yet it’s only playable on Windows and Mac OS X. Hopefully Android and iOS versions will be forthcoming when it’s finally released, as I think it would lend itself well to casual play on a tablet.
If you want to try Hearthstone before it exits beta, you’ll need to download it now. A Battle.net account is required, but it’s free to play.