Hearthstone, I finally decided to download it and see what all the talk was about. And I must say that I was pretty impressed.
First of all, I love the fact that there is so much to do initially that doesn't cost you a thing. Honestly, I expected that anything beyond a tutorial was going to require me to put down at least a token amount of cash to continue. But now having invested around four hours in the game, I still have yet to give Blizzard a dime.
Second, the production values are pretty good. While I felt the over-enthusiastic dwarven innkeeper was a bit over-the-top, it fits the overall tone and atmosphere of the game fairly well. Now, I haven't played in the Warcraft universe since Warcraft 3, but I immediately felt right at home amidst the various characters and card art. The interface is clean, different options are right where you would expect them to be, and I have yet to find myself wondering how to do something. Hearthstone pays attention to all the little details, and it shows.
Third, the gameplay is fast-paced and intuitive, with just the right mix of simplicity and complexity. After all my frustration with the mana system of Magic Online, it's nice to have a game where you don't ever get mana-screwed. The basic cards are simple, but it was apparent pretty quickly that synergy and card-advantage were going to be just as important as they are in Magic. Most of my matches against the AI lasted less than 10 minutes, and the few games I've logged against human opponents are about double that.
Fourth, the option to play against the computer is a nice touch, even if the AI isn't superb. The tutorial and Normal-mode AIs never really posed any difficulty for
me, and it wasn't until I had unlocked all the heroes and played my
first Expert AI that I ever lost a single game. Even then, it was simply a matter of actually building my own deck (as opposed to using the terrible starter decks that are the default) before I could readily beat even the Expert AI most of the time.
Now, I haven't yet tried the Arena, or cracking packs, or almost anything beyond gaining all the Basic cards and building a custom deck with the Mage. But at this point the game has proven quite enjoyable, to the point where I could even see myself eventually investing money into the game. Granted, it seems like the daily quests may be sufficient to keep me from having to resort to that for some time to come.
Since the game is free and available on multiple platforms, there is very little reason not to try it out. While it doesn't have quite the same depth as Magic the Gathering, it still scratches that same itch. You should try it if you haven't.
Next week, I'll follow up with a discussion on what Wizards should learn from Hearthstone as they move forward with Magic Online.
Finally, don't forget that tomorrow at 11:59pm EST registration for Multicolor Mayhem will close. Be sure to register on Gatherling, input your decklist, and send me an E-mail. Get all the details here.
So what do you think of Hearthstone? Let me know in the comments below.