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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft - First Impressions (Beta Preview)

I used to play Magic: The Gathering, the realization that I am spending hundreds of dollars on cardboard was a harsh one. Surely I would just move onto Magic Online which allows me to play Magic the Gathering, but digitally. I guess one of the things I really liked about MTG was the social interaction with other players. I know the misconception for players is that they are basement dwelling recluses but the pre-release and release events were fun, especially Friday Night Magic. My friend and I would always go to one down at the mall and we would play Magic until the mall closed. When I tried to play Magic Online I would get frustrated with the odd gameplay style. Not to mention I could not transfer my current collection to my virtual one. The virtual card game setting didn't work for me.

Hearthstone Screenshots and Art-slide0
Blizzard Entertainment
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Blizzard Entertainment

Why am I talking about Magic the Gathering when the title says Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft - First Impressions? Well I had to establish my experience with a card game first. When I was a kid I never played the Pokemon card game, I just collected the cards. Magic was the first card game I played and I really liked it. I compare all of my card game interactions and standards to MTG simply because it is so successful. When I booted up Hearthstone, I had a stylized menu and a small introduction to what I was getting into.

The game starts you off playing against bots to familiarize yourself with the game. I understand this game is still beta, but the tutorial progressed slowly. It sectioned too many phases and the experience would have been better if I could just play through the game with small snippets of text telling me what to do. For example, if you play the Duels of the Planeswalker titles on console/PC you learn the game in a full game setting rather than in two sections that tell you what to do, then a video telling you what to do, then text showing up reminding you what to do. There was just to much content when all I had to do what click on a card and move it to the board.

The game is based all on Warcraft characters, mythos, lore, and games. Personally, I was only a fan of the RTS Warcraft games and recently DOTA 2. I have never much been a fan of WoW. So personally, my knowledge of Warcraft lore is very minimal. Warcraft diehards will mostly find all the nods to the previous games and stories and get a real kick out of it. The art for Hearthstone is great, just like all the other forms of media. I mean, if you can make a Panda look badass you have some talent.

The basics are like this. You pick from a pool of characters that all have special abilities and card affinities. Some cards only work with that character and other cards can work with everyone and so on. After choosing your character, you can choose to build your deck around that character's affinities. For instance, many cards that involve magic spells like Firestorm only allow you to use that card with the Mage. This allows players to get a familiarity with what they are going up against. Unlike with Magic everything was totally random. If someone is using the Hunter, odds are they will be focusing on creature summoning rather than spells. Deck building is rather simple for seasoned card game players but new players will most likely feel the need to look up decklists. Hell, that is what I did and what many of my friends do. The character system allows for easier deck building because you will have a central theme to follow.

There are a few modes to play in Hearthstone. One of them is Arena. It is similar to MTG's Draft mode where you get a pack of cards, and take one from the set and move onto the next pack. In Hearthstone you choose one of three cards until you have a full deck. All of it is really random, but it is possibly the best mode for players who want an unpredictable match due to the meta being so apparent in ranked “classic” play. This mode has you play with in-game currency that is earned by completing Quests, or by spending real money, just like draft play. The more wins you get in Arena, the better the prize which is crafting materials mostly.

The crafting was something I couldn't get into, it was something that didn't interest me all that much, I just wanted to get packs, and make a good deck. After all this is a card game, but I can see why something like this was included. Since it is a digital card game, it needs something that gets people new cards without spending even more money. It should be noted that Hearthstone is free to play with standard decks you can use. However, buying cards and making your own deck is the most successful way to play the game. Imagine trying to play Pokemon or Magic with the premade decks you could buy for 20 bucks. In a way, the game is engineered for you to pay money, again, this is a card game. But you can buy decks with in-game currency earned by completing quests. These quests range from beating opponents with a certain character or doing a certain amount of damage to opponents over the course of multiple games.

The actual game progression is great and the game is easy to learn. It is simple, but card combos can be complex. Which is something you want in a card game. The game is designed surprisingly well for being a digital card game.

Sadly, I stopped playing Hearthstone because I didn't want to spend 20+ on a digital card game since I already spend so much digitally on Steam, Xbox One, and PSN. In a way, I am a hypocrite in saying that the digital aspect is a hindrance since I use Steam, play League of Legends etc. However, when it comes to a card game, the physicality of having a deck of cards outweighs the convenience. That is purely based on my own opinion and does not injure the game in any way. My experience with Hearthstone was a fun one. The game plays well, it looks nice, and it is accessible to new players. I am sure the kinks will be worked out and a more defined structure will be hammered out upon full release. I mean, that is what people playing a beta is all about right?

Hearthstone is a game not quote for everyone, but I do recommend people try it. If you plan on going anywhere with it, like ranked, be prepared to feel pressured to spend a lot of money on the game or spend your days completing the quests to buy packs one at a time. There is more to Hearthstone than what I talked about in this article so I do advise you to check out the game. It is currently in open beta so anyone can download it. You can find the downloads and information on the website.Welc