As a kid, I was pretty big into collecting trading cards. I was pretty big into Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon. I recall having binders full of these cards, and I played with them a ton, especially with friends that shared the same interest. However as I got older, my passion for trading cards started to dwindle and I soon found myself selling the cards or giving them away to the younger folk.
I was big into the physical trading cards, but I never found myself playing trading card video games. The only game I can remember playing is Yu-Gi-Oh: Forbidden Memories, an old Playstation One game that came out a while back. I had a lot of memories from that game, and none particularly good. The game was pretty challenging and soon became a grind.
Then comes Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a free-to-play trading card game from Blizzard, the makers of the massively popular Warcraft and Starcraft franchises. Who would have thought that they would make a trading card game. They do have a lot of lore to pull from when you consider the entirety of the Warcraft series, but it was still hard to imagine that they would make a trading card game.
At first I was a little skeptical of the game. It was a while since I played a trading card game and I doubted that I could ever get back into another one. It it wasn’t for the free-to-play aspect of the game, I probably would never have given the game a look. But since it wouldn’t cost me a cent, I started to poke around with the game and see what was happening.
The game prides itself at being deceptively simple and a lot of fun. I started by picking a mage deck and I started to blast through the tutorials. The first thing that I noticed was how simple the game was to pick up, just like they advertised. The cards have two stats on them, attack and defense. Some other cards have some special effects that can alter your play-styles. Another stat that you have to keep track of is your mana. Mana is what allows you to play cards. For example, if a card has four mana, you need four mana crystals to play it on the field of play. You get one mana crystal added before each turn to prevent players from playing their best cards in the beginning. It’s almost like there is a constant build-up in each match.
As you level up your decks, you get access to more cards with a wider range of abilities and you also gain weapon cards that allow the player to attack without any cards. There are also special powers that cost two mana that are specific to each class. The object of each match is to lower your opponents defense to zero. The premise was pretty simple and easy to get into but there is a degree of strategy that allows for a more complex experience, and that usually comes through deck building.
I have not gotten too far into the deck building experience, but it becomes a vital skill to have if you want to get anywhere in online play. The beginners decks that are given you can win you matches if your lucky, but having your own strategy-infused deck is where the wins are at. The deck building seemed pretty daunting at first. I had to use a lot of online help from various websites to build a deck that was acceptable and able to win. There are a ton of cards featured in the game and in order to build a good deck, you need to utilize all of their abilities to your advantage. I’ve only build one deck on my own, and it has been doing alright. But this leads me to a complaint about the game…it’s steep online difficulty curve.
The minute I started getting into online play, whether it be the regular matches or Arena matches (I’ll get into those in a little bit), I noticed how much I suck at the game. I was losing battle after battle and I didn’t know where I was going wrong. At first I thought it was bad luck but I then noticed it was probably the deck I was using. In order for you to win, you generally want to have a ton of cards on the battlefield. It was only through deck building that I could accomplish this.
In Arena play, you can really start to upgrade your collection of cards. The thing about Arena mode is that you have to build a new deck every time you enter. You will choose from three random cards until you get a full size deck. You then take this deck into the arena against online opponents and you will want to get as much wins as you can before you get three losses. The more wins you get, the better the prizes you will win from completing the mode. The first entry into the arena was free, but then it cost gold for subsequent entries. This is where the free-to-play element of the game rears its head.
If you want to advance quickly in the game and get more powerful cards to stack up against the tough online competition, you will most likely have to drop some cash into the game to get gold. There are daily challenges that you can complete to get a meager amount of coins, but if you go down the route of not paying a cent, the game will slowly turn into a grind, just like I thought it would. This isn’t my biggest complaint about the game, but it is something that will probably detract from the experience.
I can easily see a lot of people putting in fifty dollars into the game, because that is how much this game is probably worth. Even though the game can turn into a grind, there is still a lot of content for you to mess around with for a zero dollar price tag. I enjoyed the time that I spent with the game and I will probably continue on in the game to see what awaits me. There are legendary cards and the ranked matches that will most likely keep a lot of people playing for a long time.