|Pardon the dust!
This page includes some jargon that hasn't been added to the site's glossary yet. I'll be around to fix this later, but sorry for the inconvenience in the meantime.
At a Glance
|ESRB Rating:||T - Teenagers|
|My Rating:||Ages 10 and up|
|License:||Free to Play|
|Review Published On:||May 15th, 2018|
Your progress is saved after a match ends.
This is a competitive card game, with the matches depicting battles between fantasy characters. Thus, you have card depicting violent acts, magic, and various fictional demons. Some of the cards also feature suggestive imagery, though this is isn't very common.
Like the real world counterparts, Hearthstone is based around the concept of collecting cards, strategically grouping them into decks, and "battling" other players. Speaking of which, Hearthstone is primarily played against other players rather than an AI opponent. When you go to start a game, the server will search for another player of similar skill. Since there's almost always someone out there looking for a quick game, I've never had to wait more than a few seconds for a match to start.
I can see why this game is so popular. Aside from being run and promoted by one of the largest online gaming companies out there, the basic rules are simple (at least as far as CCGs go), and casual gamers can enjoy the game without being driven away by the more hardcore fans. Additionally, while this game does revolve around the lore of the Warcraft universe, it doesn't depend on the player knowing about it. Thus, you could use Hearthstone as an abridged introduction to the World of Warcraft franchise (which might actually be the idea behind the game).
Keep in mind though, while the game is free to play, collectible card games are notorious for being money sinks. Play responsibly.
To begin playing a game, you select your character and the deck you want to use. The game will then either pair you with a random person, or you'll begin to play against the AI you've selected. Each of you chooses three random cards from their deck, and the match begins. The goal of these matches is to use your cards to defeat the opposing player by reducing their character to zero (or less) health before they do the same to you.
Most of the time, your character won't be attacking directly. Instead, you'll be playing cards that summon minions into the arena and have them do the fighting for you. Minions are typically asleep when they are first summoned, so the other player has a chance to prepare for their attacks.
Of course, minions can do more than just attack the player and each other. Minions with the Taunt ability are effectively defenders, as the opponent must defeat them before they can attack other minions or the other player's character. Others provide healing, increase the abilities of other minions, and so on. Thus, it's important to choose your minions carefully, as it's not always about who has the largest sword.
There are two other rules to keep in mind. Each turn, the player receives up to ten mana crystals. Using your character's hero power spends two crystals, while how many crystals are required to play a card varies. Generally speaking, the more powerful a minion or spell is, the more crystals required to unleash it. Once you're out of mana crystals, you can't play any more cards during that turn. Using a minion that has already been played does not use any crystals, however.
The other rule you need to remember is that there is a time limit. If you're taking too long to make a decision, a fuse will appear on the battlefield and begin burning. Once it reaches the End Turn button, your turn will automatically end.
Points of Interest
The Tavern Brawl is a scheduled event that's only available some of the time, but it might well be worth it. In this mode, the rules that govern how the game is played are changed around. You might be required to use specific decks or characters, the core gameplay rules might be altered dramatically, or you may have a chance to use cards that aren't normally usable by players.
The Arena on the other hand, is less forgiving. You'll be battling other players with decks you've created on the fly with cards drawn from a pool of possible choices, and the fights continue until you've either lost three rounds or won twelve games. There are greater prizes up for grabs in this mode, and the more you win, the richer the rewards. The catch is that there is an entry fee of 150 gold (or $1.99) to compete in the Arena.
The good news here is that even if you lose the game, you'll still get experience, and if you're rank 25 or lower, you don't lose your progress towards the next rank. Other modes still give something out even if you utterly fail. So, don't be afraid to lose occasionally; you'll still get some sort of reward just for trying.
These challenges usually reward you with gold that can be used to buy things, such as additional booster packs, in the in-game shop.
Additionally, standard play restricts players to cards from the classic set or from recently released sets. This means that your non-classic cards have a shelf life of about two years, after which they can only be used in wild games.
Concerns and Issues
Hearthstone is a virtual CCG, but it works exactly the same way. There is the option of using gold to buy cards rather than real money, but while this can allow you to amass a powerful deck for free, getting enough gold is slow and often difficult, so if you're not patient, this still doesn't help much. On the other hand, you can discard unwanted cards for what are effectively credits. These credits can then be spent on the specific cards you actually want. Doing something similar with a real CCG is rather difficult (if not impossible), as you'll typically need to trade cards with someone else.
On a side note, if you do want to spend money on this game, you can purchase gift cards at various stores and use these instead of directly using a credit card. You're still spending money, but now there's a physical barrier between your wallet and your game. If you run out of money from the gift card, you can't spend any more until you go out and buy another gift card. Sadly, the smallest Hearthstone gift card is $20.
A word of hope though: after playing regularly for a few months, I was able to acquire enough cards to complete one of the more powerful deck recipes for my favorite class. I had to discard nearly everything else I had, but I proved that it can be done without spending a dime.
Even the really violent events, like the spell that bathes the battlefield in a hellish inferno, just show a neat graphical effect followed by the portraits bursting. There's no blood, nor gore, in the battle itself.
This is important to keep in mind, as some of the terms used in the game sound horrific without context. For example, minions can enter the field with a "battlecry" (an ability that activates when the minion enters the fray), or they may possess a "deathrattle" (an ability that triggers when the minion is defeated).
That said, a rare few of the cards also depict women in revealing outfits. The most obvious example is the Succubus, who is also likely to be the most revealing of them all, considering that a succubus is a female sex demon. Even then, the card is just barely risque enough to be considered PG-13, since everything is still covered in one way or another, sort of like the costumes worn by heroines in comic books. Of course, using this card is optional, and since this card is also class-restricted, it's only an option for the Warlock hero.