HEARTHSTONE CLOSED BETA IMPRESSIONS

When you think Warcraft the first thing that comes to mind are the brilliant strategy games or maybe the extremely popular MMO World of Warcraft. Instead of giving us Warcraft 4 or yet another WoW expansion, Blizzard decided to turn the beloved franchise into a turn-based card game. As crazy and odd as it sounds, my initial impressions after the announcement of the title was that it was going to be a shameless cash grab by making a half-assed card game and typing Warcraft on it. Once I got around to playing it, however, I realized that Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is far from what I originally thought, and is actually an extremely fun game full of strategy and replay-ability.

There are 9 Heroes to chose from inspired by the classes of World of Warcraft ranging from Mage to Rogue and from Warrior to Warlock, each class has unique play styles and cards, however, each deck can be customized to best suit your play style. More cards are unlocked as you level up by participating in matches and virtual currency is earned by completing challenges and can be spent on booster packs (along with real money). The Mage class is what you’ll be playing first, as it’s the default class for the tutorial.

The tutorial does a good job of introducing the game play mechanics slowly and thoroughly so that new players clearly understand how the game works. It guides you through the different mechanics and rules of Hearthstone so that you can hit the ground running as soon as it’s over and jump straight into the online mode and battle other players. Hearthstone isn’t a complicated game at all, if you’ve played other Trading Card Games you’ll find yourself right at home, as it shares many similarities.

Once you are done playing through the scripted, yet comprehensive tutorial, you can jump right into the online mode and battle other real people online or you can choose to battle against AI to sharpen your skills a bit more. I decided to play against every class as the mage to see if there were other classes which appealed to me before getting my ass handed to me by people who are much better than me at this sort of game. Whilst I did really enjoy the mage class, I also really liked the Rogue and Paladin and the Warlock and Shaman classes had a really interesting play style which I made me eager to give them a try.

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The advantage of playing a few matches against AI, other than becoming more familiar with the game’s tactics, is that you will level up and unlock new cards for your deck. Customizing your deck is a big part of Hearthstone as there are many different strategies you can use depending on your enemy. Deck building is all about careful balance of creatures and spells as well as making sure it suits the play style you want. If you are all about summoning huge creatures as quickly as possible, you have to make sure you will have the cards necessary to survive the first turns.

I struggle with building a consistent deck, no matter how hard I tried to stick to a game plan, my deck would always be a mess of different cards which didn’t always have great synergy; hence why I usually stick to the default decks and only make minor alterations. The downside to this is that, whilst the starting decks are well balanced, they are also very predictable and lack a specific strength. If you are against a good opponent, he can take advantage of that. You have to learn to surprise people with your choices.

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The online mode in Hearthstone does a good job of matching you with opponents of similar skill and I was surprised by how little the game depends on luck. Sure, you might have waited the whole game for a specific card which ended up at the bottom of the deck, but there always seems to be a way you can deal with any situation if you play your cards right. If I would lose a game, it often wasn’t because I had gotten a series of bad cards in row, but mostly because I wasted a really good spell on a target which could have been dealt with in a different manner if I hadn’t been so short-sighted.

Overall, Hearthstone is a surprisingly deep and addictive card game. It doesn’t feel like a cheap cash-grab from Blizzard but rather it’s a unique and entertaining game which is fun to watch and play. There’s a reason why this game sits comfortably in the Top 5 most watched games on Twitch – it’s really fun, even if you aren’t the one playing it. Expect a lot of people to talk about this game once it enters open beta – it’s simplicity and appeal makes Hearthstone a game for just about anyone.

 

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