Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Free) by Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. is the iPad version of the digital collectible card game that is based off of World of Warcraft. While the game originally came out earlier this month, it was limited to three countries. Now, it is finally available worldwide, so we were finally able to take it for a spin.
If you have been playing the PC/Mac version of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, then there’s some great news — your cards and progress can be accessed right from your iPad! And even if you’ve never played the game before, then don’t fret. Hearthstone makes use of Blizzard’s universal Battle.net sign in system. So you can log in to your existing account or create a new one right from within Hearthstone for iPad.
Before I dive in to the actual game, let’s get this big fact out of the way: Hearthstone is free-to-play. Some of you may groan at this fact, but Blizzard has made it to where it’s actually not terrible. You can earn more cards for each hero type just by leveling them up (you earn experience points whether you win or lose), and after a certain point, you can get “expert packs,” which are basically booster packs of random cards, with the chance to get a rare. You can buy more booster packs from the game’s shop, but you can easily play the game without ever spending a dime. So kudos to Blizzard for that.
Once you log in, you’re greeted with rich and detailed visuals on the game menu. It has the setting of a tavern in the WoW universe, so if you’ve ever played the MMORPG before, then you’ll feel immediately at home. Each game will take place on a virtual tabletop, and there are little elements in each corner of the table that you will recognize from WoW itself, which I thought was a really nice touch. The cards themselves feature fantastic artwork, and all of the animations in the game are smooth and fluid. While I played the game a bit on my computer, I find the touch controls to work just as well. The music, sounds, and voiceovers in Hearthstone are all wonderful to listen to, particularly if you played WoW.
For those who have not played before, you will have to go through a tutorial before you can get into the actual game itself. This will consist of a series of levels to go through, with each one introducing a new gameplay mechanic. You also start out with one of the nine classes available, which will be the Mage. However, you can unlock the other eight class types (Warrior, Shaman, Rogue, Paladin, Hunter, Druid, Warlock, and Priest) by beating them in Practice mode.
The game features two game modes: Play and Practice. The Play mode will pit you against a random opponent that is about equal to your current skill level, or you can challenge any of your Battle.net friends to a duel. Practice is just to hone your skills, and unlock more classes to be available to you. This is also a good opportunity to just get some experience points, unlock more cards, and master the game so you can beat more online foes. There are also quests for you to complete in Play mode, which will get your more cards upon completion, so make sure to try and get those done for the rewards.
Later on, you will get Arena mode, which is great for competitive players. You pay a gold fee (IAP), and get put into a special set of matches where you play continuously until you lose three rounds. After each death, you’ll need to pick a new deck to use, and this will need to be made from predetermined cards in a giant pool. If you’ve played something along the lines of Booster Draft in Magic: the Gathering, then you should understand how the Arena works in Hearthstone.
The gameplay itself is actually pretty simple, and much more streamlined than other card games, such as Magic: the Gathering. Each player will take turns, and you gain one “mana crystal” each turn. The mana crystals will determine what you will be able to play on that turn, as each card will cost a certain number of crystals, as indicated in the top left corner. You can have a maximum of 10 mana crystals.
Hearthstone has a variety of different card types, including minions, spells, and weapons.
Minions should be the backbone of your deck, since you will need them to attack. The number of the left represents their attack power, and the number on the right is their toughness, meaning the amount of damage they can take before they die. Minions can attack the enemy minions to help you clear the field, or you can completely skip them and launch a direct assault on the player themselves. However, the opponent has a minion with the “Taunt” mechanic, you can’t attack anything except that card. If you have a minion with “Charge,” they can attack right away, instead of having summoning sickness (can’t do anything until your next turn). There are also various Battlecry effects on minions, which mean that there is an effect that happens when they enter the field, such as powering up your other minions, dealing direct damage, and much more.
Spells are also important, allowing players to draw more cards during their turn, dealing direct damage to a creature or the opposing player, transforming an enemy minion into a measly sheep, freezing minions, and more. A good deck should be a mix of both minions and spells that help you do what you want to do in order to win.
On top of that, there are weapon cards that can be equipped on the heroes themselves so they can attack the opponent or minion directly. The weapons have a set durability, though, so when it breaks, you’ll need to equip another weapon card. Each hero type will also have their own special power, which can be activated each turn for mana crystals. These powers can be dealing some damage, gaining armor for defense, and more. These abilities can be quite useful in a pinch, so make sure to take advantage of them when you can.
I’ve been playing Hearthstone a bit on my computer, so I love that it is even more portable now on the iPad. The best part is that since it runs on Blizzard’s servers, my progress goes with me wherever I go. The visuals are delightful, and the gameplay itself is refined, much more so than other card games I’ve played in the past. I’m not a big fan of the freemium factor, but I do love how Blizzard handles it by giving everyone the opportunity to get cards for their class just by playing, although you can buy more booster packs if you want to. And if you are the competitive card game player, Blizzard has something for you as well.
If you are a fan of card games, World of Warcraft, or have just been wanting the iPad version of the game since you’ve heard about it, then I recommend picking up Hearthstone for your iPad now. You can get it for free on the App Store. An iPhone version of the game is also in the works, along with an expansion in the future titled Curse of Naxxramas.