Thu, Oct 17, 2013 | 14:43 BST
Hearthstone: it’s a kind of Magic (but exponentially more accessible)
Hearthstone’s doing a decent job of ruining Pat’s life. Find out why inside. Nearly 30 minutes of gameplay video from the beta included.
The stakes rise with the mana, and high-attack beasts mingle with buff and nerf cards in end-play. Hearthstone’s all about attack and defense, winning and losing. Magic’s a little like running a small company; you want to get on with whatever it is you enjoy doing, but you can never fully devote yourself to it because you have to do your accounts.
Hearthstone is a really irritating PC game which consistently spoils my day. Currently in beta, the Blizzard card-fighter takes the “one more go” thing and rams it straight into the middle of my spreadsheets and calendars and writing before showering my barely organised virtual life with lovely art and numbers. It only lasts ten minutes, I say to myself as I click the button and engage in a knife-edge contest with LadyMorganTheUnclean and her stupid bloody druid which lasts for about half an hour and inevitably sees her shoving her muscly green man right up my bottom. As ever, rectal insertions are a difficult habit to break.
In an Appley move, Blizzard has taken the turn-based Magic formula (like, blatantly), and made it better. Magic’s an attractive – and successful – card game. It appeals to me. The cards are beautiful and the play itself is highly tactical; it takes me a while to get bored with each annual release. I’m quite bad at it, mainly because I’m unwilling to invest trillions of hours collecting cards and just “being” better. Magic’s a ponderous, complicated game, consisting of separate play phases tracked with timers, including a blocking phase in which you line up “untapped” combatants to counter the incoming hordes. There are two distinct sections to laying out cards each turn: there’s a “land” phase, in which you’re permitted to play the land cards you need to release creatures and spells from your hand, and a combat phase. Of course, there are various types of land card, and creatures require specific types to make it onto the battlefield. Sometimes they need several land variations, meaning you can only play certain cards from a mixed deck. Land gets “tapped” (used) for each turn depending on the cards you play, and creatures get tapped when they attack, meaning they can’t block the opponent’s next assault.
There’s a lot more to it, but you get the idea. It’s complex, mainly because it’s a computer representation of a robust physical card game, and it can’t deviate from the formula. When you play Magic, you spend a fair chunk of the game watching timers marking various stages for both you and your opponent, and while it’s undoubtedly addictive it is long-winded. Blizzard’s ditched a great deal of this stuff in Hearthstone, making the end result more accessible and, ultimately, more fun.
Hearthstone’s like this. You pick a Warcraft hero from a cast of nine and start on level 0. You beat the other heroes in practice to unlock their decks, and you complete each hero’s basic deck by levelling to 10. There are no phases in play aside from it being your turn or not. There’s no land mechanic. Cards cost mana in Hearthstone, and you get an extra crystal per turn up to a maximum of 10. Blocking is mainly achieved through an ability called “taunt”. If a card has taunt, a shield appears around it when it’s played and the opposing forces are only permitted to attack your hero when all taunt cards have been beaten. That’s pretty much it. The stakes rise with the mana, and high-attack beasts mingle with buff and nerf cards in end-play. Hearthstone’s all about attack and defense, winning and losing. Magic’s a little like running a small company; you want to get on with whatever it is you enjoy doing (fighting), but you can never fully devote yourself to it because you have to do your accounts (land management and blocking).
Anyway. More than a thousand words, and all that. Here’s me playing it. There’s two matches below with some blabbering over the top. Should give you a decent idea of what’s going on. You should give it a shot. It’s good. You can sign up for the beta through Battle.net.