Two quick points I want to make before I start this article:
- I’ve never been much of a strategy card gamer. I messed around with Magic the Gathering when I was much younger, but nothing serious.
- I wasn’t a WoW player. I don’t know much about the lore beyond what I played in Warcraft 3. That was years ago and I’ve forgotten pretty much everything.
So, here I am. A total noob to the game and most of the lore. This is my experience with Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft.
What is Hearthstone?
Hearthstone is a strategy card game, along the lines of Magic the Gathering and such, but based on creatures, heroes and lore from the Warcraft world. It’s free to play, multi-player and online.
Hearthstone is currently in closed beta, so you can only play if you have an invite. There is no NDA, which means we’re free to talk about it as much as we like.
I had my doubts about Hearthstone since I’m not much of a competitive player against others online. I don’t tend to have the quick wit and strategy that folks who have played these kinds of games for years have. However, I heard from many reliable sources that this game was a bunch of fun, so I tossed my name into the beta hat. It was drawn a few days ago, and I got the email that invited me to come and test it out.
How’s It Running?
So far, the game runs well. There were a few moments of lag here and there when selecting items from the menu, which made me wonder if the game was stuttering a bit, but nothing I couldn’t live with. The art style is warm and colorful. The creatures and heroes are what you’d expect from Warcraft artists (nice).
The game has its own atmosphere, making it feel like something you’d come and sit down to do with friends in a tavern somewhere near the hearthstone. Go figure! I think it certainly does a good job of this and of displaying a user friendly UI that got me into the game quickly, and taught me what I needed to know.
The only bug I ran into was that sometimes I couldn’t edit my custom card deck. Closing out of the game and coming back in fixed it. Slightly annoying, but the game boots up fast enough for this to be pretty painless.
Learning the Ropes
I found it to be surprisingly fun and pretty simple to pick up. The tutorial threw me into a card game instantly, and at first, I was concerned I was in the wrong place. The welcoming feel and the bantering of the heroes quickly put my mind at ease, and I began to learn how things worked bit by bit. The tutorial built on knowledge and walked me through increasingly more difficult challenges as I continued.
Hearthstone has the Warcraft sense of humor. You can see that from the start, and as you continue along. Oh, like this little gem:
I did beat him, by the way. So, it wasn’t impossible.
So, I’m not a PVPer. At all. But once the tutorial was over, I was given several daily objectives to meet (quests), and didn’t realize I could fill those by doing the Practice mode against the AI. Nervous as I was, I put my pride into the hands of the match-making machine and tried my first games against other real players.
More often than not, I got my head handed to me. Be it rotten cards on my side, the fact that they had uber leet cards (I thought this was a fair match?), or they just really knew their deck, I was a noob playing my first day without extra cards in my hand. It was obvious some of these folks had time and experience on their side.
But even when I lost, it didn’t feel too bad. I still gained experience towards my next level and I often still met objectives that moved me towards completing my daily quest.
When I did win… well, that was just pretty sweet.
Yeah, I said this was free to play. So, as you know, there has to be a catch.
Looks like the game aims to make money from players buying decks or purchasing their way into the Arena play. You can also enter the Arena by the using in-game gold currency.
Decks you can earn in game by meeting certain quest requirements or purchasing with 100 in-game gold. You can earn gold by finishing quests and by winning in the Arena. So, it’s totally do-able to work your way up to a new deck of cards without using real money. It’ll just be slower.
I’m not sure how much of a disadvantage that’ll be for a casual gamer who doesn’t want to be in ranked matches, like me. If you just want to log in, throw out a few games and finish daily quests, you’re probably fine. Depends on how hooked you get.
Decks have 5 random cards each. Most of them are commons, but I got a few rares from the three decks I earned. Cards can either be class specific or neutral, so that means you may get cards for classes other than the ones you like to play. The current cost for real money transactions is $2.99 for 10 cards.
Personally, I don’t see myself putting money into it, since the game is fun, but not something I’m foaming at the mouth to jump head-first into. I’ll just stick with dailies and see what I can earn there.
Overall, I think I’m going to give this game a bit of my attention through beta and see what comes of it. I had fun, even playing against other players, which is unusual for me. It’s a game that gives you something to log in for each day for a little time, and rewards you for meeting achievements and goals as you go along. It’s got its own charm, a casual feel and quite a following already.
This may be a game to keep your eye on if you enjoy strategy card games and the Warcraft world.