Wow, I’ve been on a blogging tear recently. Maybe I’ve had too much saved up.
It could also be that, while I didn’t blog for six-plus months, I did keep reading and writing. Oh, and playing video games. Lots of them.
But I tried Hearthstone only recently. It’s only in beta right now, but it is an open beta and it’s free. Well, for the most part. More on that in a bit.
Hearthstone is basically an on-line collectible card game based on characters and classes from Blizzard’s Warcraft series (and yes, my nerd cred extends far back enough that I remember playing the original Warcraft game). You play as one of nine characters, each of whom represents a class with their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, you might play as Anduin, a priest who has the innate ability to heal himself. Or Gul’dan, a warlock who can perform powerful spells but at the cost of his own health.
First, players build a deck, using either generic cards that can be used by anyone or class-specific cards that help add flavor to the different characters. Each deck can be made up of thirty cards, so you have to choose wisely, picking cards that will compliment each other.
Then it’s off to battle. At the beginning of the game, the player has one mana crystal and s/he gets an additional crystal for each additional round, up to ten total. The reason for this is that each card has a “cost” to play, from zero to an impressive ten (or, in some cases, more). When a round starts, a player draws a card from their deck and they can then play as many cards out of their hand as they can before they run out of crystals. These cards may be offensive or defensive spells, or are used to summon minions who fight on the player’s behalf. These minions can attack each other or the opposing player. The last player standing wins.
There are three modes of play. In the first, you can practice against the computer, and you have to do that to “earn” the base cards for each class. Then, you can go on-line to play other humans. And, if you have the stomach for it, you can head to the Arena, where you put together a deck in what’s called a “draft,” and then play against other humans until you lose three times. The more games you win, the better the prize you receive at the end.
Not bad for a free game, right? Well, not so fast. While it costs nothing to get play, you almost have to pay if you want to get a good start. The in-game currency is gold. Buying one booster pack of cards costs 100 gold. Entering the Arena costs 150 gold. And there’s the rub. It takes a long time to get that money. You get ten gold for every three matches you win. There are daily quests to complete (such as “Win two games with a mage”) that earns you a bit more. So theoretically, you can save up your gold from wins to buy more cards or get into the Arena, but that can be slow going. Blizzard has created just enough of an incentive to pony up the money to play, since buying booster packs is part of the fun of a collectible card game in real life. And, as much as I stink at the Arena, that can be fun too.
So what’s my final thought on this? This game is dangerous, because there’s the temptation to let it nickle and dime you with microtransactions. Since it is in beta, you can expect to see some odd graphical glitches (i.e. cards hovering over the area of play when they should be in someone’s hand), but by and large, the game is sound a lot of fun. I’m not saying that it might not get old eventually, but for now, it’s a fun distraction.
And if you decide to play, look me up. I’m Scapino1974.