Blizzard’s coordinated assault on our free time is rapidly progressing on four fronts. World of Warcraft is about to receive its fifth expansion, Heroes of the Storm is appearing in beta, and Diablo III is “getting bigger” these days. And then there’s Hearthstone, perhaps the most insidious danger of all.
With the recent transition from closed to open beta, Hearthstone eSports has shown its harmless and kind face to a huge audience of players.
The attention that always gathers around a new title from the Irvine house is always high and many have been surprised by this apparently very simple card game, absolutely “friendly” in its elegant presentation and moreover completely free. The Blizzard that gives a game: if we exclude the vintage goodies like Blackthorne, it is an absolutely unprecedented fact.
We introduced the speech with our preview a few weeks ago but the hour of truth has come. Hearthstone is free to download by everyone, all you need is a Battle.net account, and there is no longer the “beta” label to indicate the presence of a construction site. The game is on the shelf, so to speak, and we’ve had a very long test run.
The first impressions are all confirmed. Under the guise of free to play (and soon even mobile, the iPad version is just around the corner) there is a “real” game. The typical Blizzard care is evident in every element that appears on the screen, from the quality of the illustrations to the dubbing in Italian to the simple, colorful, and captivating interface.
The gameplay is accompanied by very varied and spectacular animations, which reinforce the impression of fighting with small armies: we are very far from what happens in Duels of the Planeswalker, for example.
In this sense, Hearthstone takes full advantage of the opportunity deriving from being born first as a video game than as a “card game”, with a presentation and concepts that are absolutely at ease in a digital context.
“Hearthstone Is An Online-only And (Almost) Exclusively Multiplayer Collectible Card Game”
Hearthstone, it is worth mentioning, is a collectible card game exclusively online and (almost) exclusively multiplayer. If any of you have played Magic: The Gathering, it will be easy enough to understand some of its mechanics and completely reject others.
Unlike Magic, in fact, there are no lands or colors of mana, creatures can choose who to attack, in some cases, the heroes (the avatars of the players) can directly slap each other and you cannot play cards in the turn of the ‘opponent. Described in this way it sounds too simple, but there are logical complications.
First of all, while getting rid of lands and mana management in deck creation (players receive one permanent mana crystal per turn, up to a maximum of ten), Hearthstone has quite a large number of abilities in its first set of cards.
Simple concepts such as “provocation” (the ability of a creature that forces the opponent to attack it) or “charge” (the possibility of having a creature attack the turn it is summoned) are immediately joined by other more or less unprecedented ones: creatures that affect other adjacent creatures (positional effects), weapons to allow the heroes to attack themselves, specific abilities for each class, enhancements to the effectiveness of spells, and so on.
There is too much to learn and it doesn’t take long.
The learning goes well beyond the tutorial and continues even after bringing all the available classes beyond the tenth level (i.e. the point where you receive the approximately 130 basic cards). Finding out which cards are unexpectedly useful and which ones turn out to be just red herrings takes a lot of time, and without knowing all the cards available for each class, you can’t really claim to know how to play.
“The Level Of Experience And Skill Achieved By The Players At The Top Of The Leaderboard Is Impressive”
Even the complete knowledge of what is contained in Hearthstone, however, is not enough to really know how to play. The level of experience and skill achieved by the players at the top of the leaderboard is impressive and can only be appreciated by meeting them or watching their games in one of the endless streams found on the net.
Experience and concentration make the real difference, and anyone who dismisses Hearthstone as “too simple a game” would do well to reconsider their judgment.
If you want, you can grab the handful of basic cards and throw your head down into the fray: impossible to be sure, but there is a feeling that the game tends to pair players of similar “level”, probably measured by the total sum of the levels. of the nine heroes.
This makes you more likely to meet people with the same experience, if not with a comparable level collection. The logic of pairing jumps when you meet people who have put their hands to their wallets. Hearthstone is free to play but in some way, it must be self-financed, and the trick is precisely linked to the possibility of buying the packets.
In Arena mode, we have to select each card from a randomly chosen set of three. The difference between a failing deck and a formidable one is dictated by both chance and the player’s experience. This, for example, is a bankruptcy deck.
Each card can be obtained by playing for free: every day Hearthstone offers us a mission to overcome (win X games with class Y, usually, but there are other scenarios), and upon passing each mission we are rewarded with the internal currency of the game.
This virtual money can be spent to buy sleeves or to play the beautiful Arena mode, in which you are asked to choose thirty cards practically at random and you fight against players who have been imposed the same limit. A kind of modern version of the sealed deck.
“In The” Ranked Match “Game Mode You End Up Meeting Dozens Of Players Who Have Copied The Deck From Any Site”
Access to the Arena and the purchase of packets can also be done by spending real money, and it is obvious that many have not resisted the temptation to spend “just one euro and change” for five random cards and a little more to enter. ‘Arena.
Inevitably there will be those who will find themselves gnawing because someone has spent more than him and gained a temporal advantage but there is one truth to always keep in mind, and that is that in Hearthstone the strong player beats the weak one, (almost) independently of the rare cards contained in his deck.
This can be seen in the second game mode, where you climb the leaderboard with previously made decks. In the “Ranked Match” Game mode, you end up encountering dozens of players who have simply copied their deck from any site. Everyone feels great and everyone has the feeling that they can win an endless string of games. The “du jour” deck changes with each game update, but the scene is always the same.
But when you find yourself with the right deck, the right hand, and the adrenaline flowing, it turns out that the opponent has done the same thing. Use the same legendary cards that are in your deck, there’s that combo you expect, play that 1/1 creature you would have chosen too.
Maybe he uses the Wizard and you the Paladin, but it doesn’t matter: there you discover the ability to play the right card in the right way and at the right time. And on a deck of only thirty cards, the decisions made by the player are all fundamental. You start losing a game for a small mistake and never go back. Skill matters.
Hearthstone’s flaws are the same as we noticed in beta, and not all this time has passed.
There is no half concession to the social side, you cannot compare decks and collections except by clashing in the open field, the interface to create the decks is extraordinarily lacking and the game does not seem to keep track of all the possible statistics that could be of interest to the player. player (and in fact, there are already quite interesting add-ons).
“Hearthstone’s Flaws Are The Same As We Noticed In Beta, And Not All This Time Has Passed.”
To be picky, then, all the versions published so far have been plagued by various bugs. Cards that dance in hand, creatures that move on their own (in a game where their position matters can be very annoying), connection problems. The first “real” version of the game seems to have fixed these problems and Hearthstone is now fairly solid.
To close, two game modes are few for now, even if they give a different meaning and importance to the cards (a good Arena card can be mediocre in Game mode and vice versa). Put like this they are the minimum guaranteed system in a game of this kind: in the future, we might want more than two-player modes, scenarios to face, some puzzles to solve. And above all other classes! And more cards! But there will be time for this.