Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft Review (iOS)
Last year, Blizzard entered the card battle game arena with Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft to great success. The developer's Warcraft franchise has been a massive hit for years, and a creating a Magic: The Gathering-esque experience based in that world made total sense. While Hearthstone's success in the computer space was unquestionable, there was still a huge market out there for Blizzard to capture: mobile. Porting games to mobile can sometimes lead to a diminished experience, but with Hearthstone, Blizzard has faithfully ported its CCG, providing an almost identical experience.
While the license itself will likely draw even more players into the fold, it's Hearthstone's gameplay that will keep them coming back for more. Play is deceptively simple to learn, but there's an incredible amount of depth to strategy and deck-building for those card players looking for more substance. That shouldn't turn newcomers off however, as the great thing about Hearthstone is how easy it is to pick up and play. The tutorials work well, and introduce the tactics and rules in a way that's clear without being condescending. The only aspect of the game that could have used a bit more explanation is the crafting, wherein you can destroy several cards to create a better new one. World of Warcraft players already have somewhat of a grasp on how that mechanic works, but experimentation is really the only way to understand for people just joining up.
After you learn the ropes playing against the various computer characters to unlock the specific character decks, you can test your mettle against human opponents in either casual, ranked or Arena competitive modes. Each class has a number of specific cards that can only be used in that deck, while there are hundreds available to use between classes. Casual versus games are best for discovering the best cards to keep in your 30-card deck. Experimenting in ranked matches will almost always lead to a quick finish, and you won't be able to see the full potential of your hand. While ranked matches can be played whenever you want, it's definitely best to wait until you've leveled up a bit (say level 10) by winning elsewhere and built up a strong enough deck to compete.
Arena is slightly different, and offers a twist on the popular deck-building genre. You'll be presented with a variety of cards with which to craft a deck, with virtually no restrictions. Normally, you'd only be able to hold up to two of each card, save for legendaries, of which you can only have one per deck. Once you're ready to go, you'll be thrown into a series of matches against other human players. You earn a victory by winning 12 matches, and thus retiring your deck, and you are eliminated from the Arena when you've lost three times. Your first time through is free, but Arena play will cost you 150 in-game gold (or $2) every time after that. The rewards are worth it though, as you'll be granted with increasingly better purses the farther you get and the longer you can keep winning.
While Hearthstone is a free-to-play game, it doesn't succumb to the typical trappings of the model. You can buy new packs of cards (each contains five cards, with a guarantee for at least one rare) for a fee, but you can also buy them with in-game gold earned through regular play. There are no wait limits for mana to build back up, and you aren't set to a number of matches you can play in a given day. You almost never have to buy anything, but the curious collector will likely spend a few dollars to get a few packs to start a proper foundation of cards. Like any good CCG, there's a range of common, rare, epic and legendary cards to uncover. You can win with any combination, but there are some truly powerful cards to hunt down if you're willing.
What truly allows the iOS version of Hearthstone to stand out however, is the seamless play between platforms. Most ported games only allow you to enjoy playing against others on the same mobile device. Hearthstone pits iOS players against anyone and everyone else on Battle.net, giving you a massive base of friends (and foes) to enjoy battling against. Even better, you'll never know how or where someone is playing because the game runs so incredibly smoothly. The only real difference is the lack of a keyboard for text chat, but even then, the cross-platform play is easily among the best we've ever encountered.
To say the Hearthstone experience translated perfectly does a disservice to just how well the game functions on iOS. Blizzard has done a tremendous job providing an entry point for newcomers shy about leaping onto PCs to play, and has given longtime players a way to enjoy Hearthstone without having to sit idly at their computers. It's fantastic, fun and highly addictive, and there's no reason you shouldn't be playing Hearthstone right now.
This review was completed with a downloaded copy of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft for iOS. Blizzard provided us with codes for two additional card packs.
App Store Link: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft for iPad | By Blizzard Entertainment I Price: Free | Version: 1.0 | 480 MB| Rating 12+