iOS Review: Do Flashy Graphics Save This Behemoth?

Hearthstone_LogoLok’tar! Greetings, friends! Way back in the day I wrote a post on World of Warcraft. I did a lot of raiding, and led the “Tee Shirt Ninjas” Guild’s Red Team on the Black Dragonflight realm for many years before handing it off, returning, and then leaving again. I played all of the original Warcrafts, Starcrafts, and currently I’m smashing my way through the hardcore mode of Diablo 3.

I think it’s fairly safe to say I’m familiar with just about every Blizzard Entertainment title (yeah, even Rock n’ Roll Racing and Blackthorne). Because of this, I’ve given in and had to try out Hearthstone, a free trading card game for Mac, PC, and the iPad. Will it hold up for someone who plays a lot of Magic: The Gathering? Let’s find out!

Nope, this isn’t the Necronomicon. Sadly, I’d rather open that.

Nope, this isn’t the Necronomicon. Sadly, I’d rather open that.

Put simply: No. No, it didn’t exactly hold up. Well, the game is mediocre, but I’m not sold on it. I played quite a few matches, and have yet to lose. The game is silly and easy. My current strategy of smashing the enemy hero, and letting them attack my minions seems to work out much better than it really should. I have a good feeling that its issue lies in how the game handles minion health.

For example, I summon a creature that has 2 attack and 1 health. The enemy has a creature that is 4 attack and 2 health. I punch the hero, he retaliates by attacking my creature. Whoa, hold up. Re-evaluate those values. So, my 2/1 hits his hero for 2 damage, and then his 4/2 hits my 2/1. In combat both creatures deal damage to each other, so they will both die. So my choices are this: Hit the hero (killing the hero wins the game), or hit the creature. If I hit the hero I get 2 points of damage on them, and then our creatures die during his turn. Or, I kill the creature, and my own this turn, and nothing happens in regards to them next turn. Well the obvious play is to attack the hero.

Hearth2

Oh look a 10/10 creature, let me just ignore it and win. I swear, this game….

Sure this sounds like a simple thing that would be erased over the course of the game, as more difficult mechanics and cards are added. Maybe. Honestly I haven’t gotten THAT far into the game yet, but I did play a lot of player vs. player matches, and the strategy worked just fine. Summon things, hit the hero, and wipe their creatures out with spells that hit all creatures.

I suppose the saving grace of this game is the presentation. Out of all the games I’ve played recently, I think this one has the best user interface and overall feel to the game. From the constant voice over taunts from both players and AI alike, to the wonderful animated playing fields, Hearthstone does a fabulous job of drawing you in. And that’s no surprise – it’s a Blizzard game. In fact, I’d be concerned if it didn’t.

So the issue of this sort of a card game vs. say, Magic: The Gathering, is that creatures do not regenerate their health after the turns end. In Magic, a creature with 4 attack, 6 health, is pretty annoying and hard to get rid of. In Hearthstone, it’s a guarantee he will be removed. At some point you’ll do a total of 6 damage, the threat of this large creature is really nullified and “Nerfed” in my eyes.

It’s cards like this that win the games. Since you can’t cast things in response.

It’s cards like this that win the games. Since you can’t cast things in response.

Graphics: Rating-Bar5

SO PRETTY. But sadly that doesn’t make it a great game. The character artwork, the card portraits, even the user interface are all absolutely flawless. There wasn’t a single thing I could give a good reason to change. Blizzard did a fantastic job on the art for Hearthstone.

Gameplay:Rating-Bar2

As with all the Blizzard games as of late, someone clearly walked around with a Nerf bat, and beat the challenge out of everything. World Of Warcraft is currently suffering from the same problem. The game designers are stripping out half the games spells, because it was deemed “too many buttons” and that’s “confusing and not fun”. You know what’s not fun? Mindlessly playing cards from my hand, because it rarely matters what I cast in what order. While the game has enough to keep me playing, I’m not entirely pleased.

Audio: Rating-Bar5

As with all of Blizzard’s games, they hire some top-notch voice actors. All of the voices are made of win and smothered in awesome sauce. I don’t want to come off as a Blizzard fan boy, but they rarely, RARELY screw up this category.

Innovation: Rating-Bar2

Oh look, it’s a card game. ANNND you made it super easy. ANNNNND it has a lot less strategy vs. other games in its genre. If you place your ear to the monitor you can hear me clapping really slowly.

Overall: Rating-Bar3

Ugh, my hopes were set very high for this title. I was super excited to have a game to play in bed before passing out for the evening that allowed me to still be social and communicate with my friends (it has full support for battle.net chat). What that turned into was my playing Hearthstone and getting 300 messages about when I’m coming back to World Of Warcraft. If any of you read this blog, allow me to answer you all at once : I WOULDN’T GO BACK TO WOW, IF BLIZZARD PAID ME IN HOT POCKETS AND GOLD COINS. While Hearthstone has a good draw to it, and yeah, it’s fun, I think there are a lot of things it could have done better. I really wanted a fun, hard, challenging card game. Oh wait, it’s Blizzard! What was I thinking expecting a challenge? Guess it’s time to play more League of Legends and get out of this bronze-tier baddie-box.


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