Join Eamon as he discusses the introductory features of Hearthstone, deck building, hero system, and card mechanics. As an active gamer, he is currently heroic raiding Throne of Thunder while still finding time for weekly Magic: The Gathering tournaments. He can be found live-streaming matches here: http://www.twitch.tv/eamon2tweet or feel free to listen to his blabbering on Twitter @eamon2tweet
Hearthstone, an elegant game from a more civilized time.
If you are a fan of Warcraft or card games in general, chances are you are dying to get your hands on Blizzard’s latest release, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. While many people are used to the crash & smash nature of Warcraft, Diablo & Starcraft – Hearthstone is a more elegant game harking back to Blizzard’s early development style.
While still in Closed Beta, Hearthstone is a free-to-play digital strategy card game that is expected to be released as free-to-play. Players choose one of nine epic Warcraft heroes to control, and then take turns playing cards from customizable decks to cast spells, use weapons or abilities, or summon powerful characters to crush their opponent.
Hearthstone is designed to be easy to understand and teaches you how to play through simplified card matches and an integrated quest system (think dailies). Upon logging in, you are thrown right into a pre-made match pitting your hero (Jaina) against a computer-controlled opponent. The fight is very simple and is designed to teach you controls, resource management, and card mechanics.
After working your way through the first set of pre-made encounters you are freed into the wilds of Hearthstone with a couple paths available to you. If you are feeling brave, you can immediately jump in to player-vs-player matches and start earning badges and leveling up. I decided to focus on the player-vs-computer practice match-ups which let you unlock additional heroes, cards, and further increase your level.
As a new player, you will need to unlock every hero you wish to play with via battle. For example, if you wanted to play the always-healing Priest or the shape-shifting Druid, you would need to first defeat them in battle. The more you play with your selected hero in either practice or ranked matches, the more they will level and unlock additional cards for you to play with. By the time I had unlocked most heroes, I found myself at level 10 on my Shaman hero with each level providing Shaman-specific cards. Each hero has its own level, completely independent of your other heroes.
After you get a couple of wins in practice mode you will be guided to the deck creation interface to customize your favorite deck with your newly won cards. When it comes to deck building, there is a set of class-specific cards which is accentuated with a massive pool of neutral cards which can be used by any hero once unlocked. For example, a Shaman can add totem-enhancing abilities to his deck while also pulling from the pool of neutral creatures.
Deck building is a bit of an art form and your deck should combine both your play style and strengths. My best advice is to pick a specific focus and maximize it. For example, there are a multitude of Murloc cards which either summon additional Murlocs or buff existing ones. The same can be said for the charge mechanic, allowing you to attack as soon as your character enters the battlefield. Once you figure out what mechanic tickles your fancy, grab every related card that emphasizes it. Some mechanics are stronger than others but you will quickly figure out what strategies work best against your deck and how to counter them.
And so ends our first peek at Hearthstone and its game mechanics. In the coming week, I am comparing and contrasting Hearthstone to Magic, the Gathering. Additionally, we will explore the player-vs-player aspect of the game and discuss Arena play. As mentioned in the preface, I am actively streaming Hearthstone in the evenings on Twitch. If you can’t get enough Hearthstone, feel free to join and ask questions. Additionally, Blizzplanet.com will be hosting the latest and greatest articles and gameplay footage of Hearthstone and I encourage everyone to check it out.