How could a free-to-play card game possibly beat out the likes of video game behemoths Dark Souls, GTA V and Dragon Age: Inquisition among many more to claim a magnificent third place on your Game of the Year 2014 podium? This is because Blizzard Entertainment in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has created an addictive, brilliantly designed snippet of the World of Warcraft (WoW) universe, appealing to dedicated veterans as well as casual ‘noobs.’
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a digital card game based on the WoW trading card game set in the Warcraft universe, available first on Windows and Mac, then later on iPad. The latter is the perfect platform for Hearthstone; the game is the ultimate quick fix, ideal to be squeezed into train journeys, queues and maybe even lectures (we all know you do it).
You start off by choosing one of the nine Hearthstone classes that are each represented by an epic hero. Then—either against real players online or against the computer—you take turns playing one of your cards from customisable decks. Cards can possess potent spells, enable you to use heroic weapons and abilities or summon powerful minions to beat your opponent.
First, Hearthstone has a particularly inclusive feel, rather than the potentially exclusive barriers to entry presented by the expansive lore and the esoteric knowledge some may feel is required to play WoW.
In the collection manager, you are able to peruse and organise your ever-expanding card collection, as well as building your own custom decks, but there is also an automatic deck-building feature that’s an excellent time saver. Equally, Hearthstone offers you guided help and tips in maximising the potential of your arsenal; Blizzard are constantly thinking about beginners and casual players, as well as the hardcore.
Matches are quick and simple to join—Hearthstone is connected to Battle.net, so you can challenge someone easily from your friends list—whether you’re playing a standard 1v1 match, or Arena: here you’re given a totally new set of cards in which to compile a deck, then you battle against others and you’re game ends once you lose three times, with the reward proportionate to the amount of victories you’ve achieved.
Hearthstone is terribly addictive. You’ll gain experience and gold every match regardless of whether you win or lose—with higher rewards for a victory—which you can either spend on unlocking new card packs or gaining entry to the Arena. New quests are also available daily to keep you coming back for more.
However, Hearthstone would be nothing without depth, tactical complexity and future content for the hardcore. Luckily then, Blizzard has continually updated their game with new packs and content, on top of more than 300 cards present in the initial launch; here at Exeposé we recently featured Blizzard’s latest Goblins vs Gnomes update. However, Hearthstone fans are still waiting for certain features, such as a spectator mode.
As a free-to-play game, questions have inevitably arisen as to whether it is possible to play Hearthstone entirely for free. Players have largely noted that this is possible, but your progress in unlocking stronger cards and decks will be slower. It is possible to pay and receive stronger cards quicker—you can pay anywhere between £1.99 for 2 card packs up to £34.99 for 40 packs—but the beauty of Hearthstone is that you will not necessarily win with just stronger cards: solid, sophisticated tactics are equally important.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has a glowing reputation among critics and is rightly deserves its place in third spot in your Game of the Year 2014. Despite the game not having all the desired features quite yet, Hearthstone is still a brilliant lesson in appealing to a wide variety of audiences on different platforms, featuring an addictive, strikingly well-presented and colourful design that succeeds in appealing to both casual players looking for a brief game in their lunch break, to dedicated veterans looking to master the latest part of their WoW obsession.
Online Games and Tech Editor
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