Hearthstone Review: The Return To Blizzard

It’s been a long time since I’ve touched anything from Blizzard Entertainment. But damn, did Hearthstone reel me back in. Ever since the beginning of the open beta, I’ve played nearly every day. It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s free. And despite losing just as much as I win, it’s really fun.

Digital card games are a unique beast. I’m guilty of owning every release of Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers on steam and putting nice chunks of time into all of them. I’ve also briefly enjoyed Might & Magic: Duel of Champions. They’re all fun for a while. Especially if you have friends that like to tactically beat the crap out of each other. But sometimes these games can be exhausting. There’s a lot of investment involved. Not monetarily, but a lot of time and strategizing goes into a single match. Not necessarily so with Hearthstone.

Hearthstone gameplay distills the mechanics of typical card games into more approachable steps. So relative to other digital card games, it’s very easy to pick up. The tutorial does an excellent job of setting up the entire experience. In about 20 minutes, you’ll get a good plunge into the flavor of the Warcraft universe and get a solid grip on how to play. Which is the point of a tutorial, I know. But not long after finishing you should be ready to start playing against real people.

The game is designed to be fast paced and quick. Rather than sitting for hours and hours, you can play a game or two before quitting and still feel satisfied. But if you’re into marathon sessions, it’s still very doable without getting worn-out. And don’t be discouraged by the in-game purchases. With the matching system it doesn’t feel like a pay-to-win game at all. You can gain money for booster packs just by winning against other players or completing daily quests.

If you’ve played Warcraft games before, there’s plenty of nostalgia to be triggered. The class mechanics are exactly as you would expect them to be. Rogues have Sap, Shamans use totems, etc.. There’s also lots of fun details. I laughed out loud the first time I heard the familiar murloc Aaaaaughibbrgubugbugrguburgle. But you don’t need to be well versed in the world of Warcraft (oops.) to enjoy the game. The style is already so incredibly well defined that if you’re new, it’s easy to get immersed and if you’re not-so-new you’ll feel right at home.

Hearthstone has exceeded my expectations. It’s a great addition for Blizzard. Casual without feeling dinky. Completely different from the rest of the Warcraft games without feeling out of place. Don’t expect me to play WoW ever again, but I’m really glad to be playing another Blizzard game.