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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Preview

Blizzard’s new game Hearthstone has been in the closed beta stages for some time now and gamers can be delighted in the fact that it proves to be both fun and addictive.

The World of Warcraft Trading Card game is a collectible card game based on World of Warcraft. It was released back in 2006 and has players fight against each other in one on one combat and allowed players to build specific decks of cards with minions spells and other glorious things. It’s no surprise then that Blizzard has launched the trading card genre into an actual game with a number of changes to make it work really well as a computer game.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft can be somewhat loosely compared with Magic the card game. It doesn’t seem to be as complex but is definitely addictive. Players will gain mana crystals each turn, which is the Blizzard equivalent to placing land cards. Players will then start off with a number of cards that they can play based on their mana cost to try and take down their opponents hero by draining all 30 of their points. Each minion card has an attack and health rating with a mana cost while spells will do give you different abilities such as polymorphing an enemy minion into a sheep. When first summoned, most creatures are asleep much like Magic’s summoning sickness, unless they have the Charge ability which will let them attack in the same round. Creatures that have Taunt will need to be attacked first before you can put any damage down on your opponent’s hero.

The fun part comes in when you relate all of the cards and characters to that of the Warcraft universe. As Jaina Proudmoore, the mage (or Crystal Maiden to some), you will be able to summon up Murlocs, polymorph wyrms or deal arcane damage to three different enemy minions. Hearthstone definitely has the depth and can be picked up relatively quickly.

The free-to-play game will have roughly around 300 cards when launched and players can grab booster packs in-game by performing certain acts which will earn them coins to buy the packs. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like grinding away, you can spent real money to buy some packs to give your decks some big advantages.

Players will select a character class when building a deck and from those decks, players can add in class-specific cards or neutral cards to give your deck some punch. Shaman’s will run totems that can be summoned for special abilities while playing while the Warlock will generally sacrifice his own life for some slight advantages.

Currently the beta has three different modes, Practice, Play and Arena. In practice, players can earn 20 different cards for each class by simply playing against the AI. Granted these cards will probably not be anything special, but can definitely diversify your deck as time goes on. In Play, you can play ranked or unranked matches against opponents where players are matched up by skill level using custom or pre-built decks. The Arena mode is fun because you can select one of three randomly generated characters and then build your deck up from a choice of three cards each time. The goal here is to win consecutive games in order to garner bigger rewards with a “lucky” or “cleverly built” deck. Players will then earn rewards for games played and be able to unlock some booster packs as time goes on.

The one issue I can see in Hearthstone if not managed properly, is that the “free to play” model may soon struggle as certain players will pay to get the more effective cards. It all depends on how Blizzard rewards the gamers who play the “free” game as opposed to the “play to win” game.

Visually, the game is exactly what you would expect. There is some great artwork on each of the cards and little animations are played whenever actions or attacks are performed. It’s something that gamers can expect from Blizzard because while it all has the appearance of being quite simple, it has a certain polish that Blizzard is famous for. Hitting an opponent for one damage is somewhat uninspiring when compared to hitting a player for massive damage with screen shaking and an audience bellowing a fury-invoking “ooooh”.

At the moment, the rewards system may need a little bit of work as the daily quests that players are issued with earn them a modicum of gold. You then get rewarded for more games you play but when a pack of cards costs 100 gold and only consists of five different cards, you tend to wonder what the longevity of the game will be for those that don’t want to shell out R15 per pack.

Thankfully the game is still in beta so Blizzard has a chance to look at and review the rewards system in order to make it more fun and more accessible for the gamers who want to be part of Hearthstone. In the same light, I do understand that Blizzard would like to make some money out of it, so perhaps offering rewards when paying would be the way forward to entice those “freemium” gamers for a little bit of money. As of right now though, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a lot of fun and it is very easy to get into and easy to pick up. After a few losses on the ladder you will start putting more thought into your strategies and variety of play but it may have the potential of being unbalanced depending on what card are available to what heroes.

Rob 'GrIdL0cK' Clegg has been in the gaming industry for over 15 years and has competed in both local and international tournaments at the highest level. He is also a respected gaming critic and is Telkom Do Gaming’s editor and lead reviewer.

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