Blizzard Entertainment is no stranger to making high quality games of all types, from action RPGs like the Diablo franchise all the way to the most successful MMORPG to date, World of Warcraft. Blizzard also has games in other genres like first-person shooters, racing games, and strategy games. One of the most recent genres that Blizzard has decided to cater to is the digital collectible card genre with Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
Originally for PC, Hearthstone has since been adapted for play on the iPad, Android tablets, and as of yesterday iPhone and Android smartphones. I played Hearthstone on my PC about a year ago, but quit after a while. With the game now conveniently available on the device that I happen to carry with me at all times, I decided to download the game and revisit it.
Before I ever played Hearthstone, I think it’s important to mention that I had never played a collectible card game nor had I played a whole lot of World of Warcraft. At best, I was vaguely familiar with the characters and not at all with the rules of the game; in the end, I still enjoyed myself. While I’m not saying people who have never had an interest in card games or played World of Warcraft will ultimately like the game, I am saying that it’s totally possible.
So, without further ado, let’s play!
When you load up Hearthstone on your iPhone or Android device, you’re prompted to either log in with your Blizzard.net account or create a new one. One of the positives of this game is that your Hearthstone progress is saved to your account, so if you have previous Hearthstone progress you can simply log in here and pick up where you last left off. You also have access to your Battle.net friends for challenging and chats. Since it had been about a year since I last played, I decided to say I was new so I could give myself a refresh through trials.
In a trial called “The Journey Begins”, your mission is to defeat 5 “normal” opponents (played by a computer, not a real person) and then one boss at the end. The first 5 opponents teach you most of the basics you need to know to help you defeat the boss. The basics of the game is that you play cards that have different powers and attacks; each card cost a certain amount of “mana crystals”, which reset and gain one each turn to a maximum of 10 mana crystals for a game. (It is confusing if you’ve never played, but you quickly learn what all of that means).
You automatically start out as the mage, Jaina Proudmoore. There’s a lot of dialogue, empty threats, and sketchy references. I didn’t find any of the 5 initial challenges to be very hard, but it was at least entertaining with the dialogue added in.
Then you get to the boss, Illidan Stormrage. Immediately you are informed that the fight is totally unfair.
Then Illidan himself confirms this prefaced warning, just in case you didn't get the memo:
So here I was, completely prepared to lose - but (plot twist) I actually ended up winning. I’m not really that great at Hearthstone, so I was pleasantly surprised. After you defeat Illidan, you are then instructed to create a new account (alternatively, you can log in with an old account at this point as well). Since I was somewhat refreshed at this point, I decided to log into my old account so I could jump right in by challenging people online.
You can choose from 9 different classes to play a deck with: mage, rogue, paladin, warrior, priest, hunter, druid, warlock, and shaman. Each class has different strengths and weaknesses. You can play all of them, some of them, or just one of them if you want. I like to choose just one and then build on that class through gameplay. When I last played, I had built a deck based around the mage.
You can build your decks by using coins earned in-game or by paying real-life money to purchase card packs, each of which come with 5 cards, one of which is always a rare. You can earn coins through quests and winning games. You can also unlock cards by playing Adventure modes and practicing computer opponents, and deconstructing cards you don’t need and creating new ones through the crafting system. It sounds complex, but once you get the hang of it the game becomes pretty easy.
From the lobby, there are three modes to play in: Play, Solo Adventures, and Arena. I’ve only ever done Play mode as I haven’t unlocked Solo Adventures (purchased with real-life money or coins earned in the game) or had the guts to enter the Arena yet.
In Play mode, you can either practice or challenge players online. Since I just did 5 missions with the trial, I decided to use whatever deck I had created for my mage and jump right in to see what I could do. I went to ranked play and was matched up with another mage named Korky.
The nice thing about ranked play is that you’re always matched with somebody as the same rank as you. The more you play, the more skilled you get, the higher ranks you get, and the more complex the gameplay becomes. It’s a pretty solid system in my opinion. But back to me and Korky.
Korky put up a good fight and seemed to be friendly by frequently saying "Hello" (you have a limited set of dialogue you can use by clicking on your character and selecting one of the options). I would say the fight was pretty even, but I hit him pretty hard with a card that I had crafted a while ago that did 10 damage. When you only start off with 30 health, knocking out 1/3 of that is pretty devastating. I apologized first, so I’d like to think Korky and I are still on good terms. It was a good game and it didn’t take too long, which is one of the reasons I like Hearthstone so much in the first place.
I was rewarded one star for my victory and 10 gold for having 3 wins in a row (I guess it remembers matches from a year ago, so that's neat). Two stars are needed to get to the next rank at this point. I believe the amount of stars needed to increase rank later increase. You can also lose stars if you lose matches.
At this point I decided to call it quits for the night. I had played for about an hour and a half. My iPhone 5s was at 67% when I was done, so it’s a bit of a battery drainer for my phone. It didn’t seem to drain much data, with this graphic from Disguised Toast stating that it’s only about 150kb used per game on average.
At the end of the day, here’s my initial thoughts on Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft for mobile:
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a really fun game to play when you have time to spare. It takes strategy so it’s not completely mindless, it’s not pay-to-win (but you can pay if you want to) and it’s cross-platform so your progress is saved no matter where you choose to play from. Since it’s free for all of the platforms it’s available on, you don’t have to worry about losing any investments you’ve made. I highly recommend this game for anybody looking for a new game to play on their phone.