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After months of frantically scavenging forums and giveaways for a closed beta key, Hearthstone is now officially in open beta! Blizzard is set not to disappoint with this new title, and thousands upon thousands of people are already downloading the game and watching others play it on Twitch.
Hearthstone is completely free to download and play right now, but don’t jump in too quickly. Let me help introduce you to the game with these five things that you should take in to consideration before setting up your first game of Hearthstone.
Hearthstone is a Pay-to-Win Game to Some Degree
This is an argument that goes ’round and ’round the YouTube comments, forum posts, and Reddit comments. As someone who has played the game for 100+ hours, I will give you my honest opinion. If someone tells you that Hearthstone is a completely pay-to-win game, they are lying. If someone tells you that you can be the best player in the game just by being more skilled than everyone around you, they are lying.
Either you are going to need to spend a bit of money (40 packs being $50, which includes 200 cards and a minimum of 40 cards of at least the Rare level), or you are going to have to spend a lot of time. Let’s draw a comparison to another huge game: League of Legends. It’s a free game that you’ll never have to drop a dime on to play and enjoy. However, some characters are naturally stronger than others. To unlock these characters, you either have to play a lot and purchase them with currency you obtain through playing games, or you can pay real money and unlock them that way.
The Arena is arguably the most exciting play mode in Hearthstone. In this mode, it doesn’t matter how much time or money you’ve spent. You are given random cards from the entire pool to build a deck from, and you compete with others who have done the same. If you want to play Ranked matches outside the Arena and be successful, you need high-level cards.
It’s Not Nearly as Hard as you Probably Think it is
I jumped into Hearthstone without reading a single article about it or even watching a YouTube video, and so can you.
However, it’s not crazy to think you can understand most of the basics of this game just by watching a single YouTube video of a Hearthstone match. When you first launch Hearthstone, you are immediately forced through a tutorial that consists of six AI matches. Through these six matches, I’d estimate you learn around 90% of what is important to know about the game. It doesn’t educate you on the mechanics of some of the more complex cards, but I came out of the tutorial and went straight to Casual with a feeling of confidence.
Ranked Play is Kind of Bad Right Now
If you’re starving to play a CCG game like Hearthstone in an extremely competitive and balanced ladder, the Ranked Play mode on Hearthstone might not satisfy you.
In Ranked Play, there are 25 total ranks (or icons, medals, whatever you’ll call it). These ranks consist of sub-levels in the form of stars. Acquire enough stars and you advance to the next rank. Lose those stars and you drop back down a rank.
Here are my three issues:
- Ranked Play is set to reset every month, which is far too frequent in my opinion.
- At ranks 25-21, losses don’t matter. You literally can’t drop back down to rank 22 after you’ve hit 21.
- At ranks 25-6, you are rewarded by being given additional stars if you are on a win streak. If you are on a losing streak, you are not penalized.
In summary, Ranked Play is designed for you to progress and feel good about yourself. It’s soft, and doesn’t even become interesting until you reach rank 5. At rank 5, you are no longer rewarded for your win streaks. At rank 1, you can progress further into a special Legend rank. This rank cannot be lost. The number in the middle of this rank is your overall rank in your region.
The Replayability is Huge
CCGs (collectible card games) attract a special type of gamer. One of the best things about a CCG is that new cards are constantly being released and the game is always evolving. Hearthstone has done an amazing job of keeping content fresh and giving the player a whole slew of things to work towards and achieve in the game.
There are a lot of things to accomplish in Hearthstone. First, there’s unlocking every class (which requires you to beat it at least once). Next, reaching level 10 with each class unlocks all 20/20 of the basic cards. Each class caps at level 60, and past level 10 you are rewarded golden versions of basic existing cards.
Golden cards can be disenchanted to give you Arcane Dust. Enough Arcane Dust allows you to craft your own cards. Keep in mind that throughout all of this, you’re playing through daily quests and earning gold per every three wins. The ranking system, tiered levels, and currency in Heartstone make it a game that you’ll never be finished playing. You can always collect more cards. You can always earn more gold and dust. You can always build a better deck.
It is in an Open Beta State
Although Heartstone is already accepting real money for microtransactions, the game is not complete.
When I first launched my installation of Hearthstone, I attempted to play and the screen just went blank with nothing happening for a few minutes. After about two minutes, the tutorial loaded. I was also having issues with menu buttons responding very slowly to my cursor interactions. These problems all went away after I finished the tutorial, but some visual bugs still persist (especially if you play in windowed mode).
Give it a little time and Blizzard will take care of these things. Appreciate that such an awesome game is now open, because everyone was eager to get in on the closed beta!