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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Preview

If you value your place of work, time with family and general good health then stop right now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Hearthstone is a horrible, horrible black hole in this existence we call life and should be banned.

Still reading? Very well, prepare for Blizzard to swallow your soul and consume all form of time from you once again.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a new online trading card game developed by a small team at Blizzard. Why are they making a trading card game when they already have a successful and well established TCG for quite some time? Because Blizzard, that's why.

Developed in the Unity 3D engine, Hearthstone captures the essence of most online TCG's and tweaks them in a way only Blizzard know how, to create a compelling and extremely fun end product. Set in the Warcraft universe, you'll be playing cards of recognisable characters from the lore and playing as key figures from the franchise.

The premise is very simple, you face one opponent, have a small selection of cards to begin with and there is a coin flip to determine who goes first. You may select cards to swap out before the game starts, if your opening hand sucks. Also if the coin toss lands on the mana gem, you're granted an extra card, which upon use enables an additional mana crystal in order to draw a card to compensate for going second.

To start you out, you're given control of Jaina Proudmoore the mage, a limited selection of cards and set on a five stage tutorial quest in order for you to learn how the mechanics of Hearthstone work. Both heroes start with 30 health and you battle it out with your cards and hero powers until someone hits zero health and the game is over. On each turn you draw a card and gain an additional mana crystal to use, starting at one mana and reaching a maximum of 10 mana per turn to use.

Your cards have a mana cost assigned to them, visible in the top left corner of the card, along with their health and attack power on the bottom of the cards. Additionally cards may also have modifiers indicated in the card text below the portrait if applicable.

It may seem a little daunting after reading the passage above, but once you get in the game, it has to be one of the most simple to pick up card games ever created. You take alternate turns and slap your cards down, drag and drop gameplay at its finest I would say.

Now as you progress through your tutorial, you will face harder opponents while trying out the different mechanics of the game, additionally you unlock more cards for the mage deck as you progress.

Once you have completed the tutorial you're then able to enter practice mode. Here you face AI controlled opponents which you have to defeat.Once you have overpowered these combatants, you gain the use of that class and their respective starter deck.

Alternatively you can stick with the mage deck and head straight into play mode where you are randomly matched with an opponent of similar skill to duel online in ranked or unranked mode. You still get to level up and unlock more starter deck cards, however, it is highly advised to practice first to enable all nine heroes the game has in store for you.

These nine heroes represent the nine classes that were initially available during the early days of World of Warcraft. Mage, Hunter, Warrior, Paladin, Shaman, Rogue, Priest, Warlock and Druid.

Each class is then represented by a well known character from the lore of Warcraft. As previously mentioned Jaina is the mage, so allow me to run down each of our heroes for you:

  • Garrosh Hellscream - Warrior - Current warchief of the Horde and insane dictator that is set to be toppled in the 5.4 WoW patch, Siege of Orgrimmar.
  • Uther Lightbringer - Paladin - Tutor of Prince Arthas, yet sadly betrayed by his pupil whom later became the Lich King.
  • Malfurion Stormrage - Druid - The first Night Elf Druid under the tutelage of Cenarius and brother to Illidan Stormrage, the betrayer.
  • Thrall, Son of Durotan - Shaman - Previous warchief of the Horde until he passed this honor to Garrosh. Became the Earth Warder during the Cataclysm and helped the aspects defeat Deathwing.
  • Valeera Sanguinar - Rogue - Once bodyguard to King Varian and Anduin Wrynn, this rogue holds no allegiance to the Alliance nor Horde.
  • Rexxar - Hunter - This half-ogre, half-orc towering warrior was instrumental in saving Orgrimmar from a much hated enemy. Champion of the Horde now resides in Blade's Edge Mountains looking for more of his kin.
  • Gul'dan - Warlock - Former shaman, Gul'dan became one of the first orcish warlocks yet betrayed his people and fell in league with Kil'jaeden for personal gains and more power.
  • Anduin Wrynn - Priest - Heir to the throne of Stormwind, Anduin came into his own during the Mists of Pandaria. Captured by General Nazgrim's forces, he befriended the black Prince after confronting Garrosh at the Mogu'shan Vaults.

Each hero has their own card deck which is representative of their class including spells and abilities. As you play and gain experience, you unlock more class specific cards. Also when you win games in play mode you earn gold which in turn can be used to purchase expert level card packs which also increases your overall deck size; not only for your class but neutral class cards that any hero can use.

Cards also vary in terms of rarity, using the classic WoW loot system, common cards are white, rares are blue, epics are purple and of course legendary cards are orange, symbolised by a tear drop like gem in the centre of the card.

Now you do not have to spend a single penny in this game, you can quite happily grind your gold up in order to get your cards and buy your entry into the arena; the arena being another online multiplayer variant where you select a hero from three options then select your cards from a random draft. The more wins in the arena, the higher your end prize will be with the maximum wins being nine.

However, Hearthstone, at its core, is a free to play game which means there are microtransactions in. You may spend a couple of quid/bucks/funny monopoly euros on two expert decks up to around 35 pounds or equivalent of for a whopping 40 expert decks to boost your card count. The arena will cost you 1.99 of your local currency in order to participate.

But to reiterate a point, you do not have to spend a single penny, 100 gold coins will get you one expert card pack containing five cards, one of which is guaranteed to be rare quality or higher while 150 coins will gain arena access. The game also gives you daily quests to perform in order to gain gold. Five wins in play mode also nets you a small amount of gold so there are plenty of ways to build up your balance over time in order to get the goodies.

Once you get sucked into the simplistic gameplay and overall Blizzard polish, which is evident in huge amounts even though we're in beta, you will lose all concept of time and end up playing this till the wee hours of the morning, suffering from one more game syndrome. Couple this problem with the planned act of bringing this to iPad with cross platform multiplayer support, the masses will be too engrossed in this game. God help the working world.

Wedgeh | 10th September, 2013
Maggy's picture
damn you and your beta access..
Wedgeh's picture
it's sooooo bloody addictive

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