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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft’s


By on 12:33 PM

Easy-to-understand core rules and wealth of free content make Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft’s first impression a fantastic one – something not easily done for a virtual collectible card game. Elaborate, satisfying card animations, excellently-paced unlockables, and developer Blizzard’s trademark polish make it extremely easy to slip into “just one more game…” mode. Eventually, my superficial enjoyment gave way to a deeper appreciation of Hearthstone’s elegant class and card balance - there is more than enough greatness here to drown out my occasional resentment of its random nature. After nearly 1,000 games I’m still hooked, and still discovering clever card interactions and combos.
Hearthstone’s brilliance is that it doesn’t rely on complex, complicated rule interactions to create or sustain skilled play. With a few exceptions (looking at you, Crazed Alchemist), card  and communicate their effects with just a few words.Fireball deals six damage. Assassinate destroys a minion. Chillwind Yeti is a fantastic mid-game minion with 4 attack and 5 health. Its accessibility is enticing: simply play minion and spell cards until your opponent’s health is depleted.
And yet this is not a game where you and your opponent mindlessly smash cards together with the luckier player coming out on top. Even a dead-simple card like Fireball has interesting situational choices to it. Do you attack your opponent’s face to deplete his overall health, or destroy the big minion he just laid? Or do you hold onto it until you can combo it with a card that makes your spells more powerful, or a creature that gets stronger every time you cast a spell? Those layers of thoughtful strategy, timing, and mindgames create a game that's both accessible and has plenty of depth.
Splitting the card pool among nine playable classes, each with their own unique special power, add to this feeling. Each Hearthstone class thematically echoes their World of Warcraft counterpart and a TCG archetype - Warlocks can damage themselves to draw a card, favoring an aggressive playstyle, Priests can heal and favor defense, Mages deal direct damage, and so on. This system smartly (and gently) nudges new players closer to standard deck construction, while still providing plenty of variety and flexibility for experts. This also serves as a great connection to Warcraft lore.
Unlike physical card games like Magic: The Gathering, Blizzard’s willingness to introduce a certain degree of randomness sometimes leaves too many critical moments up to the gods of probability. Unpredictability does add tension, but a random damage card that only has a 10% chance to blow up in your face will sometimes blow up in your face. And you will curse. Drawing the exact card you need to win already feels like chance enough - Hearthstone is a little heavy on random effects.

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