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GD Star RatingHearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft,
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a free-to-play digital collectible card game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. As a long-term fan of Blizzard’s games, I was lucky enough to be granted access to the closed beta of Hearthstone when it was first released on PC. Hooked right from the beginning, my only complaint was that I had to sit at my computer to play a game that would be perfect for the iPad. Now it’s finally here, does Hearthstone for iPad live up to expectations? In short, yes! Download it right now and get playing. Not convinced? Then read on, or skip that and watch our video review instead.
Sporting nine different classes, four game modes and an abundance of cards, Hearthstone provides casual and hardcore CCG gamers alike with hundreds of hours of gameplay. For a freemium game, I was astounded by the amount of decent cards you get for free. Winning games and completing quests gain you more cards as well as gold coins, which you can use to buy even more cards. If you play well, and the gods are on your side, you need never spend a penny of real money. However, in-app purchases are available, should you wish to build your decks faster.
Both players choose a class for their hero, who starts with 30 health. Each match lasts no more than 15 minutes, and the object of the game is to be the first to reduce your opponent’s health to zero. Armed with 30 cards each, both players take turns casting cards from their custom deck. However, the cards are dealt randomly, and casting them costs mana. Mana increases by one point with each turn and is replenished at the start of the next. A maximum of ten mana points are available, and any unused mana points on any turn are lost.
The key to winning is knowing the cards and building a strong, balanced deck. Whilst there are a lot of neutral cards available for use by all classes, each class has its own specific cards and some of these can deliver game-changing blows when used at the right time. Learn the best strategies of each class, tinker with your decks to find the right combination of cards, and you can rank up rapidly.
Practice mode starts with a mini-quest as a one-off tutorial in which you are pitted against the AI, who is personified as the Innkeeper. What’s more, practice mode allows you to play as any class you wish, and set the AI to be whichever class you’d like to duel against. This is an extremely useful feature, as it allows you to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each class, from both sides of the table.
Play mode randomly matches you against another online player of a similar skill, and you can choose between casual (friendly) or ranked play. The latter allows you to rank up and gain special rewards, usually in the form of new cards. To be honest, this mode is ideal for most players, as it affords the best all-round pick-up-and-play experience. For every 3 victories, you will earn 10 gold coins, but you can earn more by completing daily quests. You can also play your friends in duels mode. Whilst this works exactly the same as play mode, there’s little reward for the winner other than the pleasure of defeating your friend.
Arena mode, whilst available to all players, is extremely challenging. Unlike the other modes, players don’t get to use their own decks; instead, you have to forge a new deck from a random offering of cards. An additional consideration is cost. Whereas you can play all the other modes for free, entry to the arena costs 150 gold coins per ticket, which equates to £1.49 / $1.99 / €1.79. Once you lose 3 matches or win 12, your ticket expires, and you collect your rewards.
Adventure mode isn’t currently available. However, Blizzard recently announced an upcoming single player adventure at PAX East, titled “Curse of Naxxramas: A Hearthstone Adventure”.
Hearthstone delivers individually crafted, high quality artwork and a user-friendly interface. Gameplay is intuitive and the opening tutorial makes light work of getting you up to speed. The ability to buy card packs using gold that you’ve earned by winning games means you’re not going to get ripped off by costly IAP. A great feature is the ability to craft cards you want for free. Duplicate or unwanted cards can be destroyed and turned into Arcane Dust – a kind of pseudo-currency – which can then be used to create specific cards.
Admittedly there’s no offline play, but this is more than compensated for by the wide choice of game modes, considerable online content and addictive ranking system. Once you register your Battle.net account, you can play Hearthstone on iPad, PC or Mac and access all your cards and account on any of these devices. My only complaint is the occasional crash and frame rate issues. Thankfully neither seem to happen very often, so hopefully they’ll be ironed out in the first patch.
Parents can rest assured; Blizzard has done a wonderful thing and ensured that in-game chat is restricted to a handful of pleasant emotes, thereby preventing the haters and trolls from ruining your kid’s game. In short, Hearthstone is a feature-rich game experience that ticks all the boxes.
Blizzard has once again managed to achieve the holy grail in game design by creating a game that is easy to learn but difficult to master. Hearthstone is an addictive game that’s approachable for card game newcomers and veterans alike, with its ease of access and depth of strategy. Highly replayable with fairly-priced IAP and tons of free content, Hearthstone is the fairest freemium game I’ve ever played. Once they fix the occasional crashes and lag, Hearthstone will be a perfect 10/10 game. Don’t hesitate to download and try it out for yourself.