Unforunately, hopes were a bit quashed when 10:00 came and it was announced that their new title would be Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a free to play online collectible card game. This may turn people off, but after having actually played the game, it has a good amount of promise. A gamer who has played a collectible card game in the past will feel right at home with Hearthstone, and it’s pretty easy to compare it to Magic: The Gathering, the benchmark of collectible card games. The main difference is that there is no land/mana system. Cards are cast and used with mana crystals. Each player starts a round with one, and gets an additional crystal with each additional turn, so each player gets one crystal the first turn, two during the second turn and three on the third turn. Crystals do not roll over, so the emphasis on the game is placed on card selection and use, rather than having a bad stream of luck where the player draws no lands, or only lands. Of course, there are cards that confer additional mana crystals.
Hearthstone will be free to play, with players able to play with pre-constructed decks immediately. Additional cards can be acquired either through battling A.I. opponents or online opponents, and booster packs will be available for purchase as well. Each booster pack guarantees a rare card for the player, and in an interesting wrinkle, Blizzard has created a crafting system with its cards – should a player purchase a card that they already own, they can disenchant the card into materials that then can be used to either upgrade existing cards or create new epic cards.
Actually playing the game was fun. The fundamentals were easy to pick up and some of the subtleties became clear in the middle of the first game without much guidance from the devs. My only regret was that my opponent figured them out before I did. With an initial library of 300 cards, how can you go wrong with free to play?
Blizzard is looking to turn this around to its fans quickly, with a beta available this summer and a release by the end of the year.
Hearthstone will be available on PC, Mac and iOS.