Game Review | Hearthstone
Game summary: a turn-based card game between two opponents, using constructed decks of 30 cards along with a selected hero with a unique power. (Wikipedia)
To begin with, I'll just start off by saying that I'm reviewing this for people either new to Hearthstone, or those thinking about playing it. And why they should turn around, walk away and find another game to play - maybe something that they have more control over.
Hearthstone is a game that I feel has very much lost its way since the game first launched. Or, at the very least, the design decisions have become a lot worse since then, adding new layers of complexity to the actual matches, but never addressing some pretty serious flaws.
Before I do get too critical, I will praise the game's audio-visual aesthetic and how enjoyable and inventive Hearthstone can be at times. This is about as good as a fantasy-themed collectable card game is ever going to look and sound.
The problem is that I don't really have much more praise for the game than that. I can't even give it credit for being free to play, because while that might technically be true, the game will be a lot worse than it has to be if you don't cough up cash.
And that's not even taking into account the time cost. Part of how Hearthstone has changed is how long games are now. Even when the game launched, I wished for a 'lightning' mode that let games finish faster and that is even more so the case now.
Well, it would be if I still played the game with any kind of regularity, but I don't have the spare time to waste these days. And Hearthstone is a waste of time, with a long list of easily fixable problems that the game has had for a long time.
Let's start with the match-making, a core component of a game like this which is primarily player vs player. There are nine classes in the game, so you should have roughly an 11% chance of playing a class in any single game, but that doesn't happen.
Mages are to blame for this - or Blizzard's refusal to do anything about them. First off, they're the tutorial class, meaning they get a head start on other classes for new players. Secondly, they've been an insanely strong class since beta - before the game was officially released!
It's probably been at least a couple of years since they made up less than 25% of my opponents on any given day. Is there any reason for this? Even ignoring the power level of the class, why am I playing mages over twice as often as I should be? There have been multiple occasions in the past six months where I've played mages in five or more consecutive games.
A fix would be easy: re-design the fricking terrible tutorial to avoid giving one class an advantage over the others and actually teach new players all of the gameplay mechanics and card interactions, fix match-making to make it impossible to play the same class in consecutive games, adjust the mage class to make them less powerful, or simply allow people to block a class.
It's not just mages though, the odds of you playing any class in two consecutive games are pretty slim, yet happen very regularly. But that's Hearthstone: things that should occur very rarely actually happen with almost predictable regularity.
I'm not going to run down a full list of the issues I have with this game, because it would end up being a few thousand words long and Hearthstone would be again wasting my time - without me even playing it!
Too much of Hearthstone is random in nature, and your success or failure will depend on how you cope with that randomness. It's especially key when it comes to card draw, well above the random effects some cards can have.
If you've got an average deck and you're up against someone with a top-tier deck, but they get crappy card draw and you get phenomenal card draw to win the game, then you might as well not have played in the first place.
Seriously, that initial rush at your rubbish deck beating your opponent's massively superior deck might be great, but when you realise that your opponent had virtually no chance of winning without you actively trying to lose the game robs that win of any kind of satisfaction.
Losing in Hearthstone doesn't really matter from a gameplay perspective, because there'll be practically nothing you can do about it 95% of the time - you might as well have been playing a coin-flipping game.
But that's why I say Hearthstone is a waste of time, because what's the point of trying to take it seriously when so much of it is out of your hands? I only tend to play gimmick decks that will lose the massive majority of the time, but will make me laugh when I can pull off some stupid combination to win.
To 'succeed' at Hearthstone, you ideally need a lot of money, patience and time - at a minimum, you'll need at least two of these. If you have only one, or none of them, then I would encourage you to avoid this game at all costs unless you're going to treat it the same way as I do: an occasional distraction not really worth committing any great length of time to.
Hearthstone has really plummeted in my estimation over the last two years, and I simply can't recommend it for new players - or even players thinking about coming back to it after any significant time away. Without at least two of the attributes mentioned above, the bar for entry would still be far too high even if there weren't some massive issues with integral game mechanics.
Hearthstone is terrible for new players, and only an occasionally fun distraction for longer term players too. Only commit to it if you have two of time, money and patience, because too many core mechanics are broken to bother with otherwise.