HearthStone: Heroes of Warcraft is Blizzard Entertainment's newest title scheduled to be released sometime before 2014. It’s an incredibly well developed CCG based in the Warcraft universe, that's receiving astounding reviews even during its limited closed beta.
As a broadcaster I was lucky enough to get early access after scrounging every contact I had until, finally, someone gave in and presented me with the almighty glory that was an 18 digit code in my email. I will not hesitate to say: I’m addicted to Hearthstone. It’s gameplay is very intense, Blizzard has gone as far as adding special animations for almost everything you do, whether it’s a massive *THUD* as your biggest minion hits the board, or an impressive swirling wave of fire as a Legendary minion is played, clearing the entire board to pave its way to victory.
Hearthstone has incredible potential to be one of Blizzard’s next big titles. I have no doubt in my mind that there is anyone who owns a Blizzard title currently, doesn’t know about this game. It’s being played by streamers on Twitch.tv, It’s being showcased on podcasts, YouTube, video game review sites, and Twitter has exploded with #Hearthstone. Although Blizzard has done an incredible job for the game only being in closed beta, I’m still here today to ask the question; What’s Wrong with Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft?
Hearthstone features three modes on play: there's practice mode, that you are presented with after beating the first five “tutorial” levels that are presented to you in an impressive manner. After you’ve bested all nine champions of each class in practice mode, you are allowed to use the play feature and the arena feature. Play mode presents you with the option to choose between a card deck that you’ve built yourself or a preset deck, and rush right into a match with another player online. The big daddy of all modes is in the Arena, that you pay a dollar ninety-nine fee to get in… tax applicable, or 150 gold. That’s right, you have to pay to face others in arena combat.
Arena mode gives you 3 random heroes to choose from; you then have to build a deck out of a constant string of 3 cards, only being able to select 1 card at a time, until you reach your maximum cards. After you’ve filled your deck with these random, yet carefully chosen cards, you go into battle to fight other players and see how long you last. You see, you can only stay in the arena for 3 losses, after that you’re out! You are, however rewarded with plenty of goodies for each opponent to beat, which leaves the goal extremely clear; get as much out of that $1.99 you can.
It’s arguably one of the smartest business decisions to charge someone to access the most important part of your game, if you are thinking about making as much money as possible. Granted, they do let you in for free your first time and let you experience it, but you might not stay long if you’re a relatively new player to the game, or card games in general.
The rewards from the Arena can include: gold, disenchantment dust and card packs; clearly it’s obvious where this is going, win as many matches as you can before you have to leave and try to get enough gold to enter the arena again to rinse and repeat the system. The fatal flaw is earning that gold outside of the arena. When you’re only earning 5 gold every 5 matches you’ve won in Play mode, and you have the chance to get 40 gold every day from a “daily” quest you’re given, and as it costs 150 gold to enter the arena, you have to play at least one hundred and ten matches a day, and win, or pay the toll.
Alright, so maybe two small ones isn’t essentially the biggest problem in the game, it will however anger and infuriate some players that are competitive yet have other financial responsibilities. There is just one more problem however… Like any card game, the game obviously revolves around cards, how many you have, and how many are extremely overpowered. Now Blizzard has claimed that their game is extremely balanced and even so it may be true, I personally watched someone who had spent almost $500 on the game get beaten by someone with a starter basic deck.
Yes, you heard that with your proverbial ears right: five-hundred big ones. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft offers this great system where you may buy card packs for set prices. You can purchase 1 pack containing 5 cards for 100 gold, or spend up to fifty dollars for a pack of 40 cards. It’s very clear what most people are doing, especially with how difficult it is to earn gold. Now of course it’s a card game, and like any card game virtual or physical, you need to buy cards. Those prices are probably cheaper than most physical card games like Magic: The Gathering, but do you need to spend five-hundred dollars on it to be a decent player at the game?
While I am seeing people all over the various available streaming sites get their butts whooped with their extremely expensive decks and their seven legendary cards just waiting to be used, I’ve played card games before, meaning I may lose a few times! But I know how the game works, I’ll continue playing. But how does a new player feel? It worries me that a new player might pick this game up in the next months to come when it releases unto the internet as a Free-To-Play game, and they face the hundreds of people that had access to all the juicy card decks because they have a fatter wallet. Interestingly enough there seems to be a “SKILL” gauging system, where it will match you up with a player of equal SKILL. It doesn’t seem to be working now as I personally always get “Worthy Opponent”, but maybe one day someone new and fresh to the game will get those “Worst Player Ever” rolls and get a quick victory.
Blizzard has been kind enough to implement a crafting system of sorts to create your own cards, assuming you have enough patience to do so. You may disenchant any card that you have a double of, due to the nature of it being a virtual game, you have no need to have more than 2 of any card in the game. There is a very efficient disenchantment system that will auto detect all cards you have more than a couple of, and destroy them for some nifty consumable dust to create more powerful and stronger cards that would otherwise be unreachable without buying a deck from the store or winning one.
The biggest flaw in the system is that you NEED to win packs or buy them to even get the cards to disenchant in the first place. You may only disenchant expert cards and above, meaning the basic cards that are won during the preliminary “tutorial” phases of the game cannot be disenchanted even if you will never use them. The main focus of the crafting is the expert cards and legendary cards. It can cost up to 1600 of the consumable disenchantment dust to create a legendary card, and rightfully so. This leaves problems however, when half of the cards you’ll be disenchanting will only be worth five dust a piece, do the math and figure out how long that one takes.
At the end of the day Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a fantastic game.. It has its clear flaws that may drive away new players in frustration but who cares, they can go back to Wizard 101. Maybe one of these times I’ll try to enter the arena again, and see what goodies I can leave with. Hopefully it’ll be worth my $1.99.