Hearthstone Closed Beta – First Impressions
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is one of those games that a lot of people might not understand or gel with immediately. If you have no background with Blizzards Warcraft games then learning the ins and outs of classes, abilities and how best to play might take a little while longer, although a background in CCG’s (collectible card games) of any form will certainly help. As a person who played World of Warcraft for around five years, I knew from the instant I saw my first game that I wanted to play it for myself as it brought back memories of time spent on many of my characters, but still posed something of a new challenge as far as gameplay was concerned. But enough of my nostalgic babble, I suppose you want to know just exactly what Hearthstone is.
Hearthstone is a strategic digital CCG, based around Blizzards popular Warcraft games. The aim of the game is to lower your enemies health (from thirty) to zero using a pre-compiled deck of thirty cards with different stats and abilities. Each card has a mana cost and you start the game with one mana crystal, rising by one each turn to a maximum of ten. As is the case with most strategic card games (digital or otherwise) knowledge of your opponent and their abilities is key, but that mostly comes with practice and experience with different situations.
There are nine classes in the game, each with class specific and neutral cards that can be used to adapt your heroes deck theme. For example as a Mage you could construct a rush-down deck that consists of direct damage to the enemy hero and spellpower minions used to increase that damage to a maximum. You could alternatively construct a turtle deck (defensive) that allows you to restrict the use of your enemies cards against you, reducing the damage you take whilst slowly chipping their health away. For each class there are many themes of deck that can be constructed and with nine classes at hand there really is a wide variety of outcomes that could appear in every game.
There are also three game modes to be considered; Casual, Ranked and Arena. Casual gameplay consists of practice games against scalable AI of your choice and also includes a multiplayer portion, where most players gather to grind gold and test out new decks they have created. Ranked mode follows much the same structure as casual multiplayer except that each win and loss will move you up and down a ladder. The lower your ranking, the better a player you are generally considered to be. Ranked gameplay is generally considered as hardcore mode as most players participating in this ladder system will have honed their decks to perfection and will rarely make mistakes. If you enter into ranked mode unprepared, do not expect to go very far.
For me Arena mode is where the real fun is to be had, and is essentially a way to make maximum use of your gold (in game credit) whilst testing your skills to the max. Buying a deck in Hearthstone will cost you 100 gold and consists of five randomly chosen cards. Entry into Arena costs 150 gold, but gives you the chance to win more than one deck, along with bonus gold and dust (used to craft individual cards). The minimum you can walk away with at the end of a bad arena run is one deck of cards, so the choice is yours to spend the extra 50 gold and gamble with the chance to extend your collection or play it safe and just buy decks.
Part of the reason why I enjoy Hearthstone so much is that I have almost never played exactly the same game twice. With 439 cards to chose from there are so many different options for every class that the potential for gameplay is almost endless. There is an addictive side to the game, as you only start out with a basic card roster. It’s only once you have levelled up your characters and played a few arena games that you will be able to craft some proper decks and by that time your hooked to the flush gameplay, RNG of the card draw and the chance to prove your skills at all levels of the game. Blizzard are dedicated to balancing this game as well as they possibly can and have already implemented several patches based on feedback and statistics. I for one am very interested to see what the future of this game has to hold. Did I mention it will be free to play upon full release? What more could you possibly want?