Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment’s free-to-play CCG (collectible card game) was finally released on March 11 after being in open beta since late January 2014.
The game is all about 1v1 online battles in a turn-based fashion that features many of the beloved characters and spells from the Warcraft Universe. There are a total of nine classes, each having their own cards and a unique hero ability as well as a wide variety of neutral cards to choose from.These can be used in conjunction with your chosen class’ cards to create your deck. The cards themselves, whether they are neutral or class specific are grouped in categories with most basic cards being readily available once you start. However, there are also common, rare, epic and legendary cards which can be acquired via the purchase of booster packs or as arena rewards. Hearthstone cards can also be crafted with arcane dust. Card packs can be bought with in game gold which is gained from daily quests, battling opponents online or with real currency.
An interesting mechanic is “disenchanting” which allows players to craft their own cards with the use of arcane dust. The dust itself is a resource that comes from destroying other cards or competing in the arena. So basically, you disenchant the cards you don’t need and you craft the ones you do with the use of the dust you acquired. If you need any more, there is always the arena. But there is always a catch, isn’t there? The cards you disenchant only give you a quarter of the dust that you need to craft another card of the same rarity. While this may seem like a bummer, it does allow for some resource management which adds a bit of complexity to the game and makes things more interesting, challenging and fun.
Blizzard took many people by surprise in March 2013 when they announced their newest title, Hearthstone at the Penny Arcade Expo. Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, the expansion for their highly acclaimed RTS game was scheduled for release on the 12th of the same month, and as many of you are aware, Blizzard likes to take its time in developing their products, so the announcement that another game will soon follow came unexpected.
Closed beta began in August of the same year with gamers everywhere pushing and shoving to get their hands on a beta key for the game that slowly seemed to become the next big thing in competitive gaming. The game’s first major tournament, The Inkeeper’s Invitational took place at Blizzcon, on November 8-9th 2013 while the game was still in closed beta and was won by the well-known Starcraft 2 commentator and former Starcraft: Brood War player, Daniel “Artosis” Stemkoski.
After a few more months of closed beta the game went into open beta in January 21 2014 in North America with Europe following the next day and the rest of the world soon after. Just a little under two more months and the game was finally released. While the game has suffered some changes during the different stages of the beta it’s just as fun as the day I first got my beta key back in late October.The game was praised for its simplicity, fast-pace and attention to details, especially some of the animations which set it apart from other card games The downside however is that there is no trading of cards in the game, but I suppose that would have made the collecting aspect of the game less enjoyable for most.
Hearthstone features an improved ranked play system, higher arena cap with better rewards and some changes to the user interface and card balance since it’s early days, with unique card backs for each ranked season and golden hero portraits just implemented with the launch of its first ranked play season on April 1st . With more additions to the game planned for the future this is a great time to jump right into Blizzard’s newest CCG and play as your favorite character from the Warcraft Universe with your own custom deck, and while laddering may seem a bit frustrating at first, don’t worry, you can always train against the A.I. or enter the Arena where you get to create your deck out of random cards.
All in all Blizzard has done it again and delivered a great product. I expect we’ll see Hearthstone grow more and more in the competitive scene and be one of the most viewed E-Sports alongside already infamous titles such as Dota 2, League of Legends or Starcraft 2. In fact, a Hearthstone tournament is programmed for this year’s Dreamhack Bucharest, taking place in April, so if you’re a fan of Hearthstone, make sure you tune in to some some great streams.