Hearthstone — 4.5/5 Stars
Hearthstone is a free-to-play, digital, collectible card game (CCG) developed by Blizzard Entertainment. Hearthstone features cross-platform play on both computers and mobile devices. First released in 2014, the game is now a mainstay of “Esport” competitive gaming.
Hearthstone offers a slick user interface on both computers and mobile devices, with cards and game animations appearing crisp—even on low-end devices. Each card features unique art by a large variety of artists, adding real beauty to the gameplay.
Gameplay in Hearthstone consists of two-player matches where each player uses a custom-built deck to attempt to win by reducing their opponent’s life total from 30 to zero. In addition to their deck, each player plays as one of nine “hero” characters with a unique ability, ranging from drawing extra cards to shooting fireballs.
Hearthstone is similar to other popular card games such as Magic: The Gathering, but features two distinct differences. First, players’ turns aren’t split up into phases. Players can take as many actions as they want on their turn in whatever order they want, so long as they have the resources to do so. Sequencing your plays takes on a heightened importance. Secondly, players can’t take actions during their opponent’s turn. This lack of interaction favors aggressive strategies because players completely dictate the direction of the match during their own turn.
Hearthstone features gameplay mechanics that could only exist in a digital game. A card might say “Transform your minions into random minions that cost one more,” and the result will be truly random. Sometimes a match will be decided less by skill than by chance. High variance gameplay can be exciting or frustrating; it’s largely a matter of personal preference. Just know that sometimes in Hearthstone you will play skillfully and still lose to pure randomness.
One of the best aspects of Hearthstone is that it is truly free to play. The game itself, and every card in it, is available without spending a cent. Players can earn “gold,” the in-game currency, by winning matches and completing quests. This essentially means that time is money. With enough time invested, you won’t need to buy anything, though the option to spend money and get things quicker is always there.
Matches in Hearthstone are relatively quick—each lasting about 10 minutes. This makes the game ideal for playing on your phone during a lunch break or during your commute.
The randomness and aggression-slanted gameplay can be frustrating at times, but aren’t enough to stand in the way of an exciting, strategic card-game experience that can be enjoyed on-the-go. If you enjoy card games, or are looking for something fun and quick, I would recommend giving Hearthstone a try.
Chris Clark | Portland | Northern New England