Quick on the Draw

While dealing with my Hearthstone addiction over the past few months, I’ve reflected on the gaps in my nerdy consciousness, and atop the heap of birthdate defining lapses is the revered trading card game Magic: The Gathering. Hearthstone is special in its ability to satiate the yearning for people like me to submerge ourselves into a world of deck building, coexistence with the Meta and community, with a few notable benefits that will attract Magic enthusiasts and new players alike.

Familiar Fights

Every card in Hearthstone is based on the ridiculously popular Warcraft property. This helps to make some connection between the cards and their link to the lore as mechanics are introduced. The main goal of any match of Hearthstone is the use of a mana pool that increases each turn to summon minions to the field and use spells to eliminate the enemy player by reducing their life points to 0. It sounds pretty simple, but the beauty of the game-play is the choice to either stay at a surface level or delve deeper and deeper. This choice is super important for maintaining an equally happy player-base that supports all skill levels.

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You don’t need to go all-in

Hearthstone’s multi-layered approachability is at the centre of its appeal. Most importantly, the free to play model is non-intrusive and seems fair above all else. In-game currency can be earned from completing quests, like winning enough games with a certain champion and can be spent in 100 gold increments for a 5 card pack containing at least one rare card, and 150 gold can be spent for a chance to participate in the Arena with an impromptu deck, and the opportunity to get more back in return for bigger win-streaks.

“Hearthstone’s multilayered approachability is at the centre of its appeal.”

Alternatively you can pay real money for these services, but in my experience I was never told I couldn’t play the game, or I wouldn’t have good enough cards to compete given a relatively small dedication of time. On top of this, after completing the tutorials, which are tremendously helpful in teaching the highly intuitive controls and mechanics, every player will have basic cards and the opportunity to get more with no option for real payment. Talking about the financial side may seem boring to some, but with a free to play game it can either make or break the experience as a whole. And thanks to Blizzard, it definitely makes Hearthstone.

Choose your level of competitiveness

So we know that Hearthstone is far nicer than Magic when it comes to the burning hole in people’s wallets, but the game-play itself is more simplistic and less bloated with years of introducing mechanics and significant changes to the core of the game. This could bore very dedicated, serious players; but within the monthly ranked seasons mode there is plenty of competition and strategizing behind deck building and playing with the Meta to keep those players satisfied; whereas more casual players can challenge each other and play the normal matchmaking mode without the risk of losing ranks, or gold.

Forcibly necessary online

While there are bots to practice with before challenging real players, the game is online only, with a battle.net account needed to play, which you may already have from World of Warcraft or other Blizzard games. This hard stance has become increasingly popular with developers, but with the benefits of an online focused game, certain advances have been made, and despite the spotty reputations of games like Diablo 3, Hearthstone is rarely unstable.

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Unique Cross-platform capabilities

During the long closed and then open beta period, Hearthstone was PC only, but now with the full release there is an IPad version that transfers your profile, cards and progress seamlessly between platforms. You could be in the middle of an Arena run at home, take your IPad and continue playing elsewhere, and then return back to PC. Players on both platforms can even challenge and play against people on the opposite platform. This could only be done with a constantly saving online environment. The game-play itself has not suffered from the platform jump either. The controls are once again intuitive, proving that using a touchscreen works just as well as a mouse. The only issue I had was a low, but still playable frame rate using a second generation IPad. Write in the comments about your experiences with the IPad version, and what platform you’ll be playing Hearthstone on most of the time.

Community Spirit

Hearthstone is perfect for constructing a positive community. You may not have direct communication with others during a match, but the forums and other sites that are dedicated to sharing experiences and showing off strategies and guides will be very helpful for new players as you learn the ropes. This is especially true if you’re clueless about deck building. Finally, get your friends to come and play with you. There’s no financial barrier to entry, and Hearthstone is
surprisingly good at reeling in people unexpectedly.

If you’re interested in challenging me to a match, you can add me on battle.net with the name: hawk9664#1921

Developer: Blizzard
Publisher: Blizzard
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), iPad

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