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Review

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PC
Robert Handlery on Google+

The Orgrimmar Shuffle.

The key to understanding Hearthstone lies in its very name. Not only does it refer to the white-and-turquoise rock that has sent the World of Warcraft faithful back to inns since 2004; it also suggests friendly competition far removed from the battles and weighty stratagems of other collectible card games. Its cozy syllables evoke not laborious campaigns lasting hours, but quick matches that take no longer than it takes to gulp down a mug of ale. If World of Warcraft is the everyman's massively multiplayer online game, this is the everyman's collectible card game, and for the most part, Blizzard has justified the fanfare that erupted when it first appeared last March.

Few other card games rival its personality, which reveals itself in the little things, such as the way you can tap iron gongs and fiddle with water mills on the board in the 90 seconds when you're awaiting a challenger's next move, or in the way a chorus of rough-and-tumble dwarves and orcs erupts in cheers when you've made a good move. You find it in the flashier details as well, such as the way the mage's arcane missiles pelt enemy heroes with sound files yanked from World of Warcraft, or in the way some of Warcraft's most exaggerated figures guide through a tutorial that's as helpful as it is fun. The emo night elf Illidan from Warcraft III and WOW's Burning Crusade expansion wraps up the swift campaign, still spouting his convictions that we're unprepared.

Superficial simplicity betrays Hearthstone's lurking strategic depth.

That may well be true for card gaming tenderfeet, but it rarely matters. One of the great strengths of Hearthstone is that it embraces players who shied from the know-it-alls at Magic: The Gathering events in comic shops or missed the heydays of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. What's more, it caters to players burned by the caustic personalities in multiplayer games like League of Legends and Dota 2 by limiting communication with random players to preset responses. (Friends can chat with and battle each other, but to prevent exploits, these matches offer no form of reward or advancement.) In true Blizzard form, Hearthstone shatters barriers to entry while supplying the means to access greater challenges if you seek them.

Indeed, card gaming veterans will find much to love beyond the cheesy puns and happy aesthetic. Hearthstone adopts the familiar model of whittling down the opposing player's hit points with attack points from cards, but it simplifies the often cumbersome resource mechanics of other games for a mana bar that automatically expands with the passing of each turn. It's a system geared toward speed, and hero abilities that don't depend on cards--like the mage's fireball--act as wild cards that can keep you in the fight even when surrounded by minions. It's a lunch breaker's game, and indeed, the toughest matches rarely last more than 15 minutes.

Talk about a descriptive name!

Blizzard manages to bless Hearthstone with significant depth in spite of such nods to speed. There's a wide assortment of cards with specific abilities in play here, some of which are part of the nine unlockable decks modeled on familiar World of Warcraft classes, and others of which come with the massive bundle of cards that you can use with all the decks. Using the hunter deck, you might spring a trap by unleashing three weak snake cards after an enemy attacks his or her minions; your opponent might fend off the attacks by tossing down a tanky card with "taunt," thereby forcing the snakes to attack the taunting card instead of the main hero. But still further strategies await: your mage could incapacitate the taunting card with a frost nova, thereby letting you have a go at your opponent's hero.

All this worked well when beta invites shot out a year ago, but Hearthstone now enjoys a commendable degree of balance in the wake of months of tweaks and player suggestions. It's more apparent in the early levels, when most challengers you meet haven't built powerful decks through their winnings from daily quests and simple leveling, but flashes of it remain at higher levels when players start slapping down legendary cards with alarming frequency. Hearthstone's class decks perform a little of the same service as alts in an online role-playing game; once you get tired of one class, you can jump on another and start leveling it from scratch for a varied experience.

Over time, perhaps inevitably, the process of leveling and building killer decks devolves into a grind. Blizzard gives you the option to craft your own cards to counter it, although it's here that the veterans enjoy a significant advantage over card-gaming rookies. Hearthstone simplifies many of the necessary actions, such as destroying excess cards and neatly arranging the available cards in a flipbook of sorts, but the uninitiated get few clues as to what to focus on. In the worst cases, you might waste your material on a worthless card or (the horror) accidentally disintegrate one of the best in your deck. Nevertheless, card crafting is a good way to fill in the gaps for the unlucky. If you can't get a card to appear from the packs you buy through your winnings (or indeed, real-world money), you can usually make it if you have the materials.

The best way to break this tedium is to break into the Arena mode. Arenas come with an entry fee, although it's usually negligible if you manage to complete the daily quests, which have you doing things like winning matches with a specific deck or dealing 100 damage to enemy heroes. The allure of Arena lies in the leveling of the playing field. Rather than bringing your own decks into the battle, you're only allowed to choose from one of three classes, and then you need to build your deck by choosing one of the random cards Hearthstone throws at you until you complete a full deck of 30 cards. The outcome can still be outrageously imbalanced. Some schmuck might swim in legendary cards, while the one you have never gets drawn from the deck. Of course, it works both ways. The next Arena match could shower you with legendaries like Ragnaros instead.

Uh oh--it's magic!

As is the case with any collectible card game, a degree of randomness affects each action in Hearthstone. It's possible you'll end up with nothing but sorry cards beyond the capable starter decks--I suffered the same fate after I lost my godly deck in a planned wipe halfway through the beta--but there's always the chance of scoring big as well. Still, that randomness might drive players to toss some cash at Blizzard for new card packs (priced at $1.50 each), but the beauty of Hearthstone is that you never feel much if any need to fork out cash. It's a free-to-play game in the best sense of the word, and even the interface for unloading your cash is more stylish than it normally is in such ventures.

Hearthstone features no built-in spectator mode, nor does it offer a replay mode, which could have been helpful in learning from your mistakes. Features such as team battles that make Magic's digital duel games so fun make no appearances here, and the daily quests take long enough to complete that you'll sometimes want to spend cash if you want to play in the Arena. But such objections are minor in light of the breezy but brainy experience Blizzard delivers here, particularly for the massive segment of the populace that's never played a collectible card game. If it's dumbed down, then it's in good hands. If any developer's good at weeding out the chaff of more robust games in a particular genre, surely it's Blizzard.

The Good
Allows for heavy strategy in spite of supremely accessible gameplay
Playful sound effects and board interaction enhance the experience
High degree of balance makes each deck fun
Limited communication keeps matches civil
Quick but satisfying matches
The Bad
Absence of extra features hampers long-term appeal
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Leif Johnson was originally one of those folks who shied away from Magic: The Gathering events, but eventually he got over it. He’s enjoyed the renaissance of sorts that collectible card gaming has enjoyed with new digital games, and he prefers to play with Hearthstone’s Hunter deck. Leif has been playing Hearthstone since the first beta invites went out last year.

Discussion

53 comments
anaxim777
anaxim777

This was my favorite game for some months now. But as long as I was gaining lvls and cards (and not paying real money) , it was becoming more clear that this game has a hidden LUCK  factor. YES this game has "fake luck" and Im really sorry for the gaming community that isnt that clever to find out(or that the high lvl payers/players are fine with the game cheating for their advantage). Im not going to say examples about how this game cheats. The only thing I will say is that after you do some wins the game will put you against harder opponents (which is fine) and it will turn your LUCK factor to "%$^k me plenty".

Sethalos
Sethalos

I'm completely baffled why you would give this game an 8. Once again Blizzard steals and idea from another company MTGO, dumbs it down so that a retarded pack of monkeys can play it, and makes it a visual saturday morning cartoon. The game is linear and boring, the cards are simple and not very entertaining. 


If this is the direction games are going for modern day gamers, I have little hope for our future.

mariocerame
mariocerame

I'm not sure whether it's an 8.  It's really good for a while, but the appeal does drop some when you really grokk the game and learn efficient trading and so on.  Two problems:

1- There aren't loads of clever tricks right now in the meta, and with the stream of nerfs (understandable, mind you) the options available have become even more narrow.  I like the simplicity of play, but I don't like the narrow band to create interesting combos. This lack of a diverse meta keeps the game from being great.

2- There is little emphasis on balance between the classes--the developers are open about that.  For me, that's a major strike, and kicks the game down a notch to 7.5. 

I used to play a lot, and I have a good collection, but I don't play much now because of these two issues.

jk12324
jk12324

Hurry up and release it on iPad already! :D

drekula2
drekula2

it's basically a dumbed down version of magic the gathering.


the good: its accessible in a way to casual gamers that MTG can never be


the bad: it lacks the depth and originality of the game it wanted to clone

Pyrosa
Pyrosa

'emo night elf Illidan..."   -- good one. :)

Jah_Glow
Jah_Glow

A fair and balanced review. I flat-out hated this game but I confess it was simply due to losing and not understanding the game at all. I now clearly prefer this over any other card game, and I enjoy picking it up for a quick match every now and then. Pretty good deal for something that's free I would say. :)

DigitalDame
DigitalDame moderator moderatorstaff

"Hearthstone is that it embraces players who shied from the know-it-alls at Magic: The Gathering events." Grumble.... 

jupsto
jupsto

This game is so incredibly bland and basic.


only reason it has any traction is because blizzard/Warcraft


go play Scrolls.

grove12345
grove12345

the game is too simplistic. The mechanics are that of a regular card game except missing is the different stages and monster types. So basically you cant plan any grand strategy or lay a trap and customization is and uniqueness is limited since there is no minion type really. There are no +1 to knights or +1 to goblins its just +1 to all your guys usually. 


Im no Magic fanatic. But any hope of capturing the joy of creating a unique deck is gone in this game

superbuuman
superbuuman

beginning to like this game..but Im crap at it..keep blowing myself up with magic cards..*stop clicking so many times* :P

bpthomas85
bpthomas85

im liking the game and its easy to get a competitive deck without spending any money if you put some thought into it. i do wish there were more rewards for ranked play and maybe more modes.

Flamewolf75
Flamewolf75

The game has very little balance to it. Mages and warriors dominate every aspect of the game, unless you spend real money on this game, which I would not recommend due to RNG, you won't be getting very far in ranked play.

gix47
gix47

feel like the game kinda push's real hard for you to spend real money, had my fun with it in beta but they really need a lot more cards for any kind of lasting power, it seems like to me they want to keep the card count low and just nerf and buff the ones they have now forever.

Daian
Daian

This game is Magic The Gathering for dumb dumbs.

Bowser05
Bowser05

Fair score. It is a very solid and fun game. I'm sure we'll get more fun features with time...but as it stands...I'm having a heck of a time with the game.

Granatar
Granatar

you would not have to limit communication if you forced people to use their real names.  Oh wait, we have to be jerks with fake names on the internet.  

Hurvl
Hurvl

"Limited communication keeps matches civil" Just like no news is good news, limited communication is good communication :P.

Granatar
Granatar

I would disagree about not wanting to fork down some money.  In Order to get to the area and play on a level playing field, you must win some freaking games.  and right now as a beginner I am still getting trounced on a regular basis.  

prats93
prats93

THE BAD: Its fuckin pay 2 win.

airboard360
airboard360

The game can be fun, but its long-term appeal drop drastically after a few weeks. Solid, accessible card game though.

bluefox755
bluefox755

Game is surprisingly lots of fun, I didn't think I'd be into a game like this, but I can't stop playing.

Simonus18
Simonus18

@anaxim777 Actually true, this game system is relying on luck and rank. No matter how good your deck is, and even if both of you have all the cards with the same class, only one of you gonna win on that basis, that he got optimal cards in a right order, and you don't ... I'm playin' with Mage, and still don't have all the cards of course, but with a level of 31 I could make some good deck, with which I could win games, however if you lose like 6 play in a row in some bad day, you could ask yourself if the deck is crafted wrong, or just a bad day, when the opponent gets always the good cards or similar. For me the Priest was a nightmare as an opponent, but it can be beaten, but the Hunter ... omg, what a full of *rap ballance is that. 

KelpsterD
KelpsterD

@Sethalos 

If you're basing our future on video games, I have little hope for you.

Jah_Glow
Jah_Glow

@DigitalDame Sorry, I fit into that category. :P I have to work with people who just *love* to tell me how they thought I played wrong, and where I wasted money. Frankly I'd rather play for free and use a little thing called "introspection" with a side of metagaming to find out where I've erred than suffer another long-winded speech or snide quip from a MTG vampire.

ganondorf77
ganondorf77

@jupsto  Yes it's said and well known almost every Blizzard fan and "profesional Youtuber" like TB and many others opinion about endgame complexity, is that this game is even more complex than WoW , Sc2 and D3 together, and Blizz should learn a lesson out of this [obviously exaggerated] statement. But, in essence, I feel it too. Just play 5 hours a week for some months, and you will understand. It's not possible to judge a Blizz game in a couple of hours.

zulls
zulls

@grove12345 There are some types, like "beasts" and "dragons" and boosts, that only apply to these types.

ganondorf77
ganondorf77

@grove12345  http://www.hearthhead.com/decks

The game is simple because a desire. They made it as simple as they could because they wanted, that is not a problem. Now, in it's simplicity, and considering it's a free casual game, it's way more fun than Magic (talking about the videogame, of course), and better than any other game, no matter genre, that has less score than this review. Unique Decks you say, have a look and try that link. You should mark its a free game.

zulls
zulls

@Flamewolf75 I mostly play with a druid, with no money invested in the game. Mages and warriors are easy to take down, but against priests and warlocks i loose more often than win. The second character I started to develop recently is the rogue. The win/loose average is close to 50/50. This deck still needs some tweaking. Even being quite new to this game, I still feel it is balanced. If you can pick up on clues to your enemies strategy/playstyle for his given class quickly, than both druid and rogue can take down any class, if the randomness isn't overly against you.

Link3301
Link3301

One thing that gets tricky with this is that it's a card game. Expect to spend a lot on cars just like a real ccg.

bpthomas85
bpthomas85

@Flamewolf75  i usualy destroy mages and warriors with my lock but lose to bad shamans. every deck is going to have its weaknesses.

SamehH99
SamehH99

@Flamewolf75 Lol Mages aren't that good their power comes from their spell cards, and Warriors are only good for agro play in the first half of the match. Learn to deal with them...

Lhomity
Lhomity

@bruta   Not actually pay2win.


Sadly, that doesn't stop people from instantly dismissing every F2P game as pay2win.


DigitalDame
DigitalDame moderator moderatorstaff

@Daian  It's kinda nice for people who don't wanna play with the stack or the variant of mana flood/screw. 

Master_Overlord
Master_Overlord

@prats93  no, you can grind wins to get money and buy arena pass, then u win more cards, money and dust which lets you create more cards. yes, with bad luck this can very very very long, but still you wont need to pay a penny.

DuaMn
DuaMn

@prats93  Yeah, Super Mario Bros 2 was pay to win too. Stupid coins.

qewretrytuyiuoi
qewretrytuyiuoi

@prats93  Not really, I have never put any real money into this game and still have a great collection of cards. However it can be a long slog sometimes getting the 150 gold for the arena and as long as you get to around 5-3 or 6-3 you will pretty much get enough gold to go again.

Arena is by far the best mode of play, you first get to choose between 3 heroes then you get to choose 30 random cards to build a deck with (they come in sets of three which you pick one from and then another three appear etc)  these choices are made up from EVERY single class based card in the game and every single neutral class card in the game, so if you are (un)lucky enough it is possible, in theory, to make a complete deck of legendary cards for an arena run, but this is not likely to happen in arena mode.


One of the best players of this game is a chap who goes by the name of Trump and as far as I'm aware he has never spent money on this game but still has every card for it.

For those of you who haven't tried it and like CTCG I absolutely recommend giving this a go. For some decent games to watch I would suggest youtubing TotalBiscuits'  "Lord of the Arena" and "Lord of the Legendaries" video's they are quite entertaining.




Master_Overlord
Master_Overlord

@bluefox755  game is addictive as hell. Unfortunately I had to force myself to quit it, after several unslept nights :(

anaxim777
anaxim777

@Simonus18 @anaxim777 Unfortunately it is not the bad luck for the 6 loses in a row ....it is just that you "did your wins" and now we will f%$k you up with some "fake bad luck draws"  , some "fake matching with legendary opponents" and "some fake RNG"(the 1/16 that aaalways happens when you dont want it)until you do your losses. I dont mind if the game matches me with legendary opponents but i hate it when it  messes with my RNG.

When you do your losses(5 or more) then RNG becomes fair again


Unfortunately Hearthstone is the only game that I play right now ....but if it was fair it would be the best game ever made......now it is just for people that like card games and hate Magic.

Granatar
Granatar

@SamehH99 @Flamewolf75  


Mages have strong power with the ability to "Tim" your player or mobs any time they want.  


Warriors can build up massive armor quickly and with a good tank can almost double your hero's HP.  

Mantan911
Mantan911

Why the hell would you register your real name in Yt

jk12324
jk12324

@Master_Overlord @bluefox755  But if you had the ability to force yourself to quit a super-addictive game, you must've had enough determination in you to be able to force yourself to go to bed instead?  It's like you managed to quit smoking all together because you couldn't limit yourself to a certain number a day. :P

grove12345
grove12345

@Granatar @SamehH99 @Flamewolf75  yeah when i saw that there +2 defense every turn actually stacks...I was like WTF?

They can churn out monsters and manage to buff up past capped health cheaply

Link3301
Link3301

A lot of people are jerks on Facebook even when we they use their real indentities.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft More Info

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  • First Released
    • Android
    • iPhone/iPod
    • + 2 more
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    Hearthstone is a free-to-play digital strategy card game where you can choose one of nine epic Warcraft heroes to play as.
    8.3
    Average User RatingOut of 175 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
    Developed by:
    Blizzard Entertainment
    Published by:
    Blizzard Entertainment
    Genres:
    Card Game
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Alcohol Reference, Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes