Hearthstone: A Casual Player’s Review

As a casual player I wanted to tell you about this excellent card game. I played everything from Table-Top Games, Board Games, Video Games and more. I love Skyrim. Played many hours on World of Warcraft. I game mastered Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play in my 20s and 30s. I get into strategy games and card games like Dawn of War and Magic. But I am not a tournament player. Nope. Just someone who likes to play and design games.

I  consider Blizzard’s games as the standard to follow. World of Warcraft remains the top MMO of all time. I played the game for many years and enjoyed the heck out of it. So I checked out Hearthstone a couple of months ago. I am not dissapointed with this product like Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm or Starcraft 2. This game does everything right for a card game. I plan on playing this game for the foreseeable future. Who knows I might get to Legendary?

For a card game playable by mobile device or PC Hearthstone ranks high on the scale of everything I evaluate games on. Even though they are separate, Hearthstone truly does encapsulate the essence of World of Warcraft into a neat card game. Between World of Warcraft and Hearthstone Blizzard has two great games along with several mediocre games I will review later. (Diablo 3, Starcraft 2 and Heroes of the Storm I will review later on having played all three)  For right now let me describe Hearthstone a bit.

Hearthstone is a Free to Play, micro-transaction financed, turn based, two player, strategy card game with a focus on synergy mechanics, cards that work with other cards. You can play one of nine hero classes at a time, Rogue, Shaman, Warrior, Paladin, Mage, Hunter, Druid, Warlock and Priest. and create nine unique expert decks. Each deck has thirty cards and each class has 1 unique hero power. Players starts off with 30 points of health. The object of the game is to take away your opponent’s health by playing minion or spell cards that hit your opponent directly.

Several modes of game play exist in Hearthstone. In Play mode you go head to head against a live opponent. Play is divided into two areas, Ranked and Casual. Solo Adventures mode is where everyone who plays the game should start out. Practice mode, a link directly under Solo Adventures is the best place to go with two levels of difficulty, Normal and Expert. (Hint, if you play expert mode and defeat all nine classes you get gold!) Three other solo adventures await those with enough gold to buy them (You can earn gold in game but it takes a long time). The Arena mode lets players create a random deck against other players with random decks for 150 gold (or $1.99 USD) for some great prizes. Then there is the weekly Tavern Brawl which introduces new and unique mechanics to the game. I personally love the Unite Against Mechazod! brawl.

UAM

So with that out of the way let us dig into the review.

Fun Factor: 5 out of 5 The enjoyment of watching cards work together is akin to watching dancers choreographed to move on your command. The sheer joy of setting up situations for an advantage is great. There is always something new to learn and enjoy. Whether your card minion does something upon death or when it comes into play, you can watch in glee as you outplay your opponent be it AI or fellow player.

For example: Take a Knife Juggler with Onyxia

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It is hard to set up such a play, but doable. After it goes off you will see something like this.

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Oh wait, when your knife juggler threw all those knifes triggered from the seven minions you laid down, your opponent’s card it grew in size? Now you have one move left. But boy was it awesome watching the cards work together right? Until you get smashed for 192 points of damage.

And so goes the engagement. WARNING!  You can get stressed out. You have to constantly adapt your strategy to your opponent’s play. But in my eyes it makes the game feel alive and brings a thrill to you on an otherwise boring day. Yes you will get frustrated. Just put it down. The game will be there.

Player Engagement: 5 out of 5 The fun factor leads to constant player engagement. Everything from the solo adventures to daily quests keeps the player grinding away without making too much commitment.  I do not play the game all day (lest it consumes me!) but I do the quests every day and I aim to craft more rare, epic and legendary cards. Discovering new cards is part of the joy in this game.If you play on a PC the environment has a ton of small things to click on while you wait for your opponent to think things through. For what it is, there is tons of player engagement. The best part is you can put it down anytime you want and the games only last 5 to 20 minutes max. So budgeting time for Hearthstone is much easier. My only grip is there needs to be more cooperation battles like the Mechazod one for Tavern Brawl.

On an additional note to Player Engagement:

The card game emphasis on random elements and adaptability gives strength to its engagement factor. Players must be able to adapt to situations in the game rapidly. There is a limited amount of time in which you must make your move. Combined with random elements it throws a lot of pressure into the situation which creates brilliant engagement. You could compare the adaptability needed for Hearthstone to any tactical game out there. In fact this game teaches you to be more flexible and adapt to circumstances. Even a basic deck can win against someone with an expert deck but no clue on how to deploy and use their cards. Skill and cards make the game.

Content and Story: 3 out of  5 There is a lot of cool adventure stories in the solo part of the game. I had a blast playing the latest expansion The League of Explorers This is hopefully the style which more of the expansions will use. Unless you already know the background for Hearthstone by playing World of Warcraft you will get lost playing this game. There is some story here, but Hearthstone focuses more on the game itself. Which some people enjoy. I love to see more of the World of Warcraft lore inside of this game. I believe in a couple of years my rating for content and story will be higher. As it stands this is where it lies.

 

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Possibly I will discuss some tips and tricks on the game in the future. Also I have some decks  I am building slowly. Once I get into lower ranks I will be glad to share some of them with you all.

Until next time.

 

Game Proposal: Giants of Klundynn

Often I will get an idea which totally kicks ass. But I fail to properly conceptualize and write it down. Well now that I have a blog there is no excuse. So here we go.

I present to you the idea: Giants of Klundynn

Yes a novel can be written about this. But first to see if this idea has legs.

The idea is simple enough. Four dominant “fantasy genre” species of giants walk across the world of Klundynn bringing doom and destruction to all who get in their way. In the early times, before civilization these four species dominated the land so much, no other sentient group could thrive, including humans. These titanic monstrosities would destroy whole straw towns in several heartbeats of raw brute force. But times change, with the coming of civilization and iron.

During this current iron age of craftsmanship a relationship formed between the smaller species of Humans, Orcs, Wood Elves and Beastmen with four giant breeds, Ogres, Trolls, Treants and Minotaurs. Small villages, towns and even a few cities rose from this chaos along with several kingdoms. But the urge to go back to darker times grows deep within the giants. Mankind convinced the ogres to work with them and bring about a kinder, gentler age. But for every step forward, a troll will knock you three hundred steps back.

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By Roman Fenix Typhoon More here

In the game, players would take on the role of one of four different types of land walking giants. Each player can(maybe?) control smaller groups of the little races as well to aid them. Much of the game would focus on special abilities mechanics for destroying walls and tearing down built structures. Player goals would be gathering more resources, conquering territory, building up reputation and smashing things down. Emphasis on breaking and beating things down. Players could have their own little village or town which they defend. Or just roam around like nomads harassing the neighbors.

In this world of Klundynn, each giant kin hates the other three types of distant cousins. Sometimes only insults are hurled. Other times small brothers and mother in laws are tossed at the enemy. The only reason war has not engulfed the world once more is due to the smaller species of Humans, Orcs, Wood Elves and Beastmen working out many treaties with each other as they know where the true threat lies (with Giants!). Also the four smaller breeds do their best to keep the larger folk from seeing each other. Everyone knows what happens when an Ogre sees a Troll. So Humans do their best to keep the Ogres occupied with smashing walls while Trolls find themselves fighting savage beasts in Orc gladiator pits. The biggest killer in the lands of Klundynn are bored Giants looking for something to rend asunder.

This game would play out much like a Fantasy Godzilla vs. Mothra with epic battles taking place in every town and city. If a major city came into play, a possible army of organized orcs, humans, wood elves or Beastmen could form. This would only mean more people and things to be broken apart.

For RPG mechanics the new D&D rules could be used. Role-playing a simpleton might have some challenges to it. But it can lead to many nights of hilarity as one ogre tosses the other around in a game of smash dat wall. During the day humans would build the wall only to have it tore down again at night. Special classes would be created just for each giant breed with at least four varieties. A rpg subplot of playing keep away with Giant breeds could be a lot of fun as well.

I believe this type of game could be exploited better if it was made into a 3D MOBA Multiplayer online battle arena. I can see players decimating whole maps with their special abilities. Forming alliances would be key to conquering new territories. Setting it up like an MMO similar to Kingdoms of Camelot could turn out ok. But I would rather have the players knocking stuff over as a major focus of the game. An engine like Warcraft 3 would work really well.

This idea is worth fleshing out. But it might collect dust. I propose this idea and the possibility of collaboration with another party. If you straight rip this idea off, I have buddies who will take care of you in court. If it inspires your own ideas then my hat is off to you. I believe we all have ideas. It is in execution that the true creators come out. I would love to execute this idea with someone.

Ye old World of Warcraft

So I needed to get this out and post about a game I have played in many forms since the 90s. Warcraft. I played the second version of Warcraft. I loved it and played all the way through. Warcraft 3 was hit or miss. I felt that the game did not explain its objectives thoroughly and I was left looking online to figure out how to finish the game.

Then I was wandering around Iraq as a contractor and decided to try something in my off time. We had a satellite connection and sometimes the work did not come in steady. So to kill some time and wait for a real gaming group, I played World of Warcraft the first version in 2005. I got hooked but it was reluctant at first.

I am one of those who loves table top RPGs. I would rather flex my mind more than my fingers. But to do a table-top game right, you needed friends. This game allowed me to explore a world on my own without my friends. It killed the time. Jobs came and went. This filled the void left by my isolation and lack of gaming group.

Now I have been playing it since then on and off. Sure I stopped. I quit for a year twice. This time I came back and now I am playing with just a free to play account. I do not want to pay for the services (but I do miss my level 100 shadow priest).

I played arena, did many, many battlegrounds. PVP was and still is my favorite part of the game. I did lots of quests and many achievements. I have some pretty unique items. But something will not let me commit to such a huge time sink again.

First off the game misses the spark it had in Vanilla (version 1). What is this spark? Simple. The fear of getting destroyed by creatures (mobs) or ganked by fellow players. With flying and the ability to pretty much melt the face of anyone in the world it gets old. This is primal. We want to collect things like our ancestors and we want to feel that fight or fight adrenaline rush again. Even PVE players want a zone they cannot master. Many players including myself feel the expansion Wrath of the Lich King was their height. I feel Wrath was great but personally I am a fan of Burning Crusades. Zangramarsh is still an amazing zone aesthetically.

PVP servers really do not feel like PVP zones. During the expansions only the Timeless Isle (MoP) sort of captured that spirit in a limited area. The newer content in Warlords of Draenor became stale very quickly due to people getting tired of building a fort and doing these mini quests. Garrisons are nice when you can share it with someone. The new areas are great but people burned out very quickly. Heck you can level up a character now on a PVP server with no guild or group at all. Nobody bothers with the whole experience of world pvp anymore. This is a shame as it is an element sorely missing in the game.

Several tries and failures have been made to capture the true spirit of PVP like in Vanilla when Tarren Mill Horde went up against Southshore Alliance. This was the epic battle of the week. I still have many memories of doing battle with my friends in this low player zone. If they could capture this spirit again it would revitalize their flagging game. I doubt they will.

Second, the model of free to play games changed expectations of everyone who plays. Subscriptions cannot sustain a company. Subscriptions are just one of many revenues a game company must use in order to survive.  World of Warcraft has not changed their model and reluctantly put a few items up in the store for people to purchase.

If World of Warcraft went Free to Play, they would gain a lot of their audience back. Combined with more dangerous places to visit and more in store purchases along with a few quality ads they could rise up to the top.

But again, their top management probably does not like these ideas. For such a rip off of a concept fantasy idea, they slowly transformed it with lore and background to a truly solid concept. This world is ripe to not only keep making movies but continue on as THE ONLINE MMO game to play.

But they need to capture the spirit of old. When fighting a battle with friends was fun. When you wanted your character to survive passing through a zone. And a newer model of generating revenue needs to be implemented FULLY. Not just half assed.

More than likely I will pick up my subscription again only to put it aside for possibly better MMOs. A review on Warframe will be coming soon along with Wildstar.

For this review I will do a current state of the game review.

Fun Factor 3 out 5 stars The fun gets stale really quick. In Vanilla up to Wrath I would bring this up to 5. It dipped down to 3 during Mists of Pandera and Cataclysm. Currently with the introduction of Garrisons and the new content some of the fun is back. But they can do better. Less is more and this is where you can only collect so much junk to be happy. Increasing the diversity of player engagement would bring the fun factor up.

Player Engagement 4 out of 5 stars. So many thing to do. The Garrison keeps one busy and the other content breaks up the grind. But honestly I want more organic, player created content. So much of our imagination is not being used. If they want to break the barrier and get more gamers to play their game they need to take a page out of Minecraft and allow players to build, create and bring on their own events. If the Alliance takes over Orgrimmar it should be an epic event which should be part of the game. Instead it is back to the way things were. Gamers want to impact the world, not just be by-standards.

Content and Story 5 out of 5 stars. What was a weakness back in the 90s is now their greatest strength. The world is vast and filled with many stories and several characters now have solid personalities.

Overall this is still a great game. I will not deny that. But I have a feeling games like Wildstar might take their spot. Right now in MMOs the crown of MMO King is Blizzard’s to lose and it looks as if the crown is slipping off.

Oh and a reminder, other games will be reviewed such as Unknown Armies (table-top game which I am playing now via Skype) and Arkham Horror (a board game I love).

And books too. I will post a review on a collection of short stories by Phillip K. Dick this month.