Hearthstone has grown quite a bit in it’s young life, from fledgling beta to a full-blown game with tournaments, well-known Twitch players, and a large community. I wrote about it last year and played for a while, but the recent port to Android phones got me hooked again. I’m glad it did, because I simply can’t stop playing.
- TL;DR: Deck-building + Warcraft = fun
- Platform: Android (LG G3)
- Hours Played: 30? 40? I lost count.
- What I Played: Play mode (casual and ranked), a handful of arena runs, most of Naxxramas
- Should You Play It?: Yes.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a deck-building game. I talked about most of the basics in my previous article on Hearthstone, so I’ll stay light on them here. Basically, you create decks of 30 cards to battle other players. Cards come in the form of spells and minions (mostly), and the first player to lose all of their life loses.
If you’ve played any slice of Warcraft, you’ll be familiar with the world all of the cards come from. Each deck is built around one of nine classes (rogue, hunter, paladin, etc.) which all have a unique hero power. For example, priests can heal a target for two life while shamans summon a random totem to the battlefield. Each class can play multiple ways, but their cards all reflect skills from World of Warcraft, whether it be the whirlwind or execute for warriors, mind blast or holy nova for priests, or backstab or sap for rogues. It’s not important to know the background for cards, but it’s fun to be in on it.
I’m really glad that Hearthstone is finally out for Android phones because it is a perfect mobile game. Matches only take about 10 minutes and don’t drain the battery much, at least on my LG G3. In the 100+ matches I’ve played, I’ve only disconnected once or twice and each time I was able to reconnect to the match almost immediately. One nice feature of the mobile version is that your hand stays off to the side until you click on it, unlike the PC version where it is always visible. With the limited screen space of a phone compared to a computer, this is a welcome addition.
Speaking of limited real estate, building a new deck from scratch is one of my few complaints for the mobile port of Hearthstone. It’s tough to compare multiple cards at once, check your current mana curve, and swap cards in and out all on a five-inch screen, and I have one of the bigger phones out there. Since I’ve played before this isn’t such a huge deal for me, but for new players I can see this being a bit of a pain without bringing up a guide on a separate screen.
There are multiple ways to play Hearthstone, although they all involve one-on-one battles. The aptly named play mode is the regular way to play. You can play either casual or ranked, trying to climb the ladder for each month’s season. Reaching rank 20 (you start at 25) gives you that season’s special card back, so I’d definitely gun for that each month. It’s pretty easy to do. There is also the arena, which costs in-game currency to play. Arena mode lets you pick from one of three heroes and draft a deck out of random cards. You definitely need to know a fair amount about the game to succeed in arena mode, but if you can do so, you’ll be rewarded pretty handsomely. Arena runs last until you lose three games and the more wins you get before losing those three games means bigger prizes like more gold, extra card packs, or enchanting dust for crafting cards.
The other way to play is adventure mode, which is Hearthstone’s foray into single player. There are now two adventures to pick from, Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain, which both take after their World of Warcraft locations. An adventure consists of multiple wings, each of which has a set of bosses to play against. These matches aren’t your run-of-the-mill matches, either. Each boss has it’s own special power, which make each match very unique. I really liked fighting Baron Rivendare and the four horsemen, a callback to one of my favorite WoW dungeons, Stratholme. Some bosses all but require a deck tailored specifically towards beating them, forcing you to play a way you normally wouldn’t. You can also unlock class-specific challenges and a more difficult heroic mode. I’m on the last boss of Naxxramas, Kel’Thuzad, and I can’t wait to finally beat him, get his card, and move into Blackrock Mountain.
I highly recommend playing through the adventures not only for the fun of it, but for the cards you get. Each boss unlocks a new card and the end boss of each wing nets you that boss’s card. Check out Kel’Thuzad up there — a friend that I’ve played against has turned around a half dozen matches purely with that jerk.
Blizzard has done an absolutely fantastic job with it’s money model for Hearthstone. Honestly, I think it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a free-to-play game. You are given a new quest every day, which can be worth anywhere from 40 to 100 gold. Every three wins also nets you 10 gold. Card packs cost 100 gold, so if you complete a quest each day you’re pretty much guaranteed a new card pack every other day. Arena runs cost 150 gold or $2, which is more risky but also a great way to learn how to play. Adventure wings cost 700 gold a piece or you can pony up $25 for the entire thing. Personally, I have no problem paying $25 for the amount of content that comes with an adventure.
Hearthstone is also a game that can be played on many levels. If you just want to have a little bit of fun, you can play casual mode and buy new packs every now and then just to putz around. Maybe you want to climb up the ladder like me. There are plenty of communities out there, like the excellent Icy Veins or the subreddit which, at the time of writing, had over 240,000 subscribers. Hell, there are even tournaments streamed on Twitch and at big conventions like BlizzCon, complete with announcers and prize purses.
I love Hearthstone. I’ve played it just about every day for a month now and don’t see any signs of stopping. If you like deck-building games in any capacity, you owe it to yourself to play Hearthstone. Even if you aren’t sure, you can’t go wrong at the low price of free, right? I’m going to go pull up a chair by the hearth and try to finish off that lich bastard.