Tuesday, September 16, 2014

HearthStone Review

Hearthstone Review

      Kid Safe: Very High (8.5 / 10)    Game Quality: Very High (8.5 / 10)

Genre: Strategy Card Game
-          This title focuses on a play style similar to things like Magic the Gathering or the original Pokémon Card game. Players will collect a number of different cards, each with specific abilities and strengths, and then use this deck to defeat their opponents. A variety of things come into play including luck of the draw, but a large deal of winning has to do with how a player strategically picks and utilizes their cards against their opponent.

Internet Requirements: Very High
-          Being a PC Title linked to developer Blizzard's Battle.net, players are required to stay connected to the internet at all times. Whether they are playing alone or against other players, an internet connection is required at all times.

Story Summary:
-          Hearthstone presents an entertaining issue from a story summary. Being a card game, you are not presented with a "story" per say. However, players are able to purchase and play in scenarios (the currently released one being called Naxxramas) which has a progression of enemies and creatures you to get through until you beat the boss. Theoretically, the game is set inside the World of Warcraft video game where the beloved heroes of THAT title are playing against each other with trading cards.

Kid Safe: Very High (8.5 / 10)

-          Foul Language: None
o   From what we have seen, Hearthstone does not contain any amount of Foul Language. Silly accents a plenty...but no foul language.

o   Special Note: While playing online, players have a chat option available to them. Use discretion while letting your player online as they are able to send and receive foul language via the chat function.

-          Violence and Gore: Low
o   Being a card game, you can naturally presume that Hearthstone has a limited amount of violence and gore. Regarding violence, players will be able to use certain attacks and abilities against each other. Things like arrows, vials of acid, magic spells, fireballs, etc. can be seen flying from one side of the board to the other. Players might then have a small splash of animated blood which emanates from the picture of their character, although no real physical damage or injuries are shown. Additionally, players will have access to "weapon" cards which look just as such: weapons. These cards will represent bow and arrows, daggers, axes, and more and are used to "attack" their opponent. Finally, most particularly in the new Naxxramas content, players will be able to see a number of undead monster cards which represent zombies and monsters. While not particularly grotesque, they are by definition walking corpses.

-          Sexually-Related Content: Very Low
o   Hearthstone, being a card game does not contain any notable amount of sexually related content. However, we do feel it noteworthy to mention that there are several female characters who are dressed in slightly revealing or scantily clad attire. While no nudity is present, a fair amount of cleavage may be.

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: None
o   To the best of the reviewer's knowledge, the game does not contain any amount of drug or alcohol usage.

o   Please note, with the constant addition of new content and cards, there is a possibility that cards referencing these items (most likely alcohol in the form of rum, whiskey, ale, etc.) may come into play, however at this time we did not find anything.

Game Quality:  Very High (8.5 / 10)

-          Graphics / Visuals: High
o   The Graphics and Visuals in Hearthstone do the game justice. You might imagine that there would be very little to do graphically for a card game, however you'd be surprised. While they don't go for photorealism, the comic-book style artwork is fantastic. Every card is unique in its design and appearance. Each card interacts with the board and the players differently. The different graphics for attacks like fireballs whizzing at players, cards exploding, ice spraying across the board, and more all make the game feel alive and interesting when in actuality, they're just cards.

o   On top of this, the player will get to experience a whole slew of different boards to fight on. This may not sound very interesting, however it adds just that much more fun and depth to the gameplay. The boards all represent different special locations from the World of Warcraft video game and can be fully interacted with. I think my favorite board to play on has a large catapult resting in the bottom right half of the screen that can actually be loaded with rocks, fired off, and reloaded. It's small details like these that keep the visuals interesting.

-          Audio: High
o   Again, Audio is another one that you might not think overly important or interesting for a card-game, but Hearthstone did it well. Utilizing a very simple soundtrack of gentle instrumental music to fill in the gaps, Hearthstone instead focuses its efforts towards sound effects and voice acting. Every hero that players utilize has a unique feel and sound to them. They all have different sayings that add personality without ever giving them live expressions or movements. Everything about the character that you would need to know comes through just through the way they speak to their opponent. Even better, a lot of the back and forth between the virtual card players can prove hilarious. I think one of my favorite lines from the Naxxramas line was with the mage versus the boss.
§  "You asked for it!" - Mage
§  "I most certainly did NOT!  You barged into MY floating necropolis!"

o   Aside from the voice acting, the sound effects added to the cards allow for an extra "oomph" to the gameplay. What fun is it to just "throw a fireball" if it just clicks off someone's defense points? Much better when that roaring ball of flame flashes over with a satisfying BOOM! when it hits. Overall, they did a great job in an area that could have been easily brushed over.

-          Gameplay / Playability: High
o   The question of Gameplay and Playability was a hard one for me to figure out. The reason for this is because the Game MIGHT not be for everyone. I'll explain. Being such a well made card game, it's definitely fun to play around with, but at the end of the day, it's still a card game. The attraction that draws many people to it is the idea of perfecting one's cards and strategies to such a finite point that you will always win against your opponents. This will only happen if you have the determination to play nearly endless games against other players. You will be rewarded by going up in ranking against other players as well as earning additional gold and cards, but at the end of the day; you're just playing the same decks over and over with the goal of being the best. For those that enjoy trying for perfection, fantastic...for those looking for more of a story arc... well.

o   On the flipside, and what made me decide to rate it higher, was because Blizzard HAS done something about this problem. With the introduction of the Naxxramas gameplay that I've mentioned before, Blizzard attempted to add more of a single story line that players can play through. While you might often still have to go back and tweak your cards and your strategies a few times to get through the storyline, it's at least something more to follow than simply trying to be the best of the other players.

o   Finally, playability. Have you ever heard of the phrase "Easy to learn but hard to master?" That sums up Hearthstone perfectly. They walk you through a nice, smooth tutorial at the beginning of the game, introducing every concept of play from timing to cards, to how to play them, what they do, etc. On top of that, once you are done with the tutorial, there are endless practice rounds that you can play to get a better mastery of certain heroes and their cards and even unlock new cards. However, once you start playing ranked games against other players is where it truly becomes difficult. Absolute blast of a game, but expect to put in a lot of time if you want to be great at it.
-          Dollar-Value: Very High
o   Overall, at least for the time being, I have to say that Hearthstone has a very high dollar value. To start off: it's free! Now, now, you might be saying to yourself, that doesn't mean anything...I heard there are in-game purchases. Well, you'd be right. Much like some other free games these days, Hearthstone allows you to purchase things in game. However, you don't have to do so in order to enjoy the game. Players will unlock gold as they play which can be used to unlock special gameplay modes called Arena fights, unlock more cards, and even gain access to the Naxxramas content without ever spending a penny. A little money out of your pocket might make things easier, but it's never required.



  •  Hearthstone is truly a fantastic card-game adventure. If you are looking to explore the world it came from, I would check out World of Warcraft. It's another PC game and you can actually access it and play it for free up til level 20 through the same system you can play Hearthstone (Battle.net). If you are looking for more card-game fun, I would check out Magic The Gathering. There are actual trading card versions of this available, but I caution you that it can get very expensive VERY fast. If you're interested, check out the digital version of the game through Xbox, PC, or even your Android phone.