Today, Blizzard’s Hearthstone iOS app properly made its ‘worldwide’ appearance, reaching the UK App Store. Before it has still been boasting that it was available globally but with European players like myself still itching to play on one of the most anticipated tablet card games available. For a while, the publicity felt a little like this. Fortunately, Hearthstone does not disappoint.
Apart from Magic 2014 I cannot think of any instantly notable card games for iOS. Hearthstone, therefore, does not have much competition and warms my heart to see that this has not resulted in a substandard game. The design is nice, adhering to the old mantra of “simple, but effective”, and the gameplay is balanced well. Sort of.
Love With All My Hearth
Mechanics wise, Hearthstone is very similar to Yu-Gi-Oh Bam (seriously Konami, when are you going to release Yu-Gi-Oh onto the App/Play store?). The player has to summon various monsters, each with an attack and health stat, and battles their opponent through (to continue the Yu-Gi-Oh analogy) spells, traps (called ‘secrets’) and monster cards. Each player also has a ‘Hero Ability’ that varies based on the character they chose to duel as: Mage, Warrior, Hunter, Grumpy, Bashful, Dancer, Prancer, and so on (a few of those might be made up).
The difficulty balance is also quite nice – there is enough variety in the Practice mode for new players like myself to get to grips with the game before trying the online competition, and the limit on the variety of cards means that those players that want to pay-to-win aren’t majorly overpowered (especially as the game tries to pair you up with players of equal skill).
The Hearthstone In My Shoe
If I have one complaint about the game, its that the limiting of the cards is quite hindering when you want to vary a play style, and does not allow for very creative strategies; beneficial for new players, a little constricting for those that have played Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic or Duel Masters before (and I imagine Hearthstone will share much of that audience).
Also, the guys and girls at Blizzard must have some sort of time machine, because the game was filled with lag on my iPad 2, and the only explanation I can think of is that they’re testing the game on a tablet from 2050.
Overall though, the game is solid. I’m looking forward to any updates they put out after players have had a chance to get use to it, but for now, it’s a free game you should at least spend 20 minutes taking a look at.