A free-to-play collectible card game from the makers of World of Warcraft and Starcraft, Hearthstone debuted in 2014. It uses the lore and mechanics of the World of Warcraft massively multiplayer role-playing game in a format that mirrors that of Magic: The Gathering, the popular physical card game from Wizards of the Coast. Featuring the characters and stories of the Warcraft universe, Hearthstone offers player versus player as well as a kind of player versus environment mode in the form of quests against the computer controlled opponent.
You can download the Window version of Hearthsone by clicking on the Download button at the end of this review. The game, sadly, is not available on Steam but you can also download it from the official site instead. The mobile versions can be downloaded from Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Hearthstone is not to be confused with another downloadable title called Stonehearth which is a city-building strategy. You should know that Hearthsone has up to this day eight expansions, the newest one being The Witchwood. The previous ones are, chronologically, Goblins vs. Gnomes, The Grand Tournament, Whispers of the Old Gods, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, Journey to Un’Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, and Kobolds & Catacombs. There are also four downloadable adventures available. They are Curse of Naxxramas, Blackrock Mountain, League of Explorers, and One Night in Karazhan.
Spanning a myriad of platforms and devices, Hearthstone can be found on PC, Mac, Android, and iOS platforms. Similar to Magic the Gathering: Commander variant, Warcraft tasks players with building a deck of 30 cards under the control of a hero (who comes with a unique ability). As in physical card games, players can build their deck by purchasing virtual packs but also by earning in-game currency through frequent play.
Players expend mana crystals in order to execute the actions they have chosen and can summon an array of minions into battle to help them against an opponent. Players go back and forth attacking one another until one side’s health bar reaches zero at which point a winner of the match is declared. Winning matches earns the aforementioned in-game currency as well as new cards and other awards. While purchasing new card packs will certainly help speed along the process of building a powerhouse set, players can also earn powerful cards (and invaluable experience) playing the game frequently.
The art style is reminiscent of Blizzard’s MMORPG World of Warcraft in that it is colorful and vibrant but less serious and earnest than some of the artwork seen in that game. Employing a more light-hearted approach than WoW, Hearthstone trades in WoW’s epic nature for an accessible game that appeals to multiple age groups.
Naturally, Hearthstone favors players that learn its mechanics and develop innovative strategies to use against their opponents. That said, Hearthstone also prides itself on an element of randomness not often found in card games – that is, a match should never be thought lost until it is truly over. Many players have come back from the brink of certain defeat and others have fallen victim to false confidence only to realize this when the AI fells them in one move. There are single-player matches as well as ranked and player-versus-player matches.
Similar to the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft upon which Hearthstone’s world is based, Hearthstone features expansion packs as well as stories to go along with these expansions. Again, these often mirror the expansions Blizzard releases for WoW but what Hearthstone offers seems to be more appropriate for general audiences. Often highly competitive, Hearthstone attracts players that enjoy physical card games but also love Hearthstone’s randomness. Don’t be fooled – strategy and deck building go a long way, but Hearthstone’s accessibility and vibrant community provide a lot of the lifeblood underpinning the game. One of the most popular online games currently on the market, Hearthstone delivers Blizzard’s trademark quality in a game format that is massively popular in Japan but that has never hit critical mass, until now, in the markets outside of there.