Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft. © Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard Entertainment has developed and published some of the most iconic games of the decade, with several of them centered on the Warcraft universe. Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft brings together some of the most popular characters of these games, just like Heroes of the Storm, in a highly engaging online collectible card game. The game can be played for free but there are optional purchases for those who want to have more cards at their disposal and improve their chances to win.

The game was released on March 11, 2014 and it can now be played on both computers and mobile devices, powered by iOS and Android operating systems. Blizzard Entertainment releases new Hearthstone content which is also free to play and can be downloaded using the game client.

Hearthstone The Grand Tournament. © Blizzard Entertainment
Hearthstone The Grand Tournament. © Blizzard Entertainment

Key facts about Hearthstone

  • Hearthstone is a compendium of heroes and memorable characters from the Warcraft universe, brought together in a user-friendly collectible card game.
  • Players are supposed to implement deep strategy, but the learning curve is silky smooth.
  • Hearthstone players who purchase cards with real money have a better chance at winning fights compared to their counterparts who stick to the free to play concept.
  • By the end of 2015, there were more than 40 million registered accounts, making Hearthstone one of the most popular games produced by Blizzard Entertainment.
  • Hearthstone gameplay is perfectly balanced and the game offers some of the best visuals and sound effects to be found in any collectible card games.
  • Hearthstone has over half a million followers on Twitter.
Screenshot of Hearthstone's Twitter page.
Screenshot of Hearthstone's Twitter page.

The Hearthstone games

Hearthstone has five distinct game modes for players, with the most popular one being the Play Mode. These are played against real opponents and participants can compete in solitary games or be a part of the ranked play hierarchy featuring 26 tiers. Each victory and every defeat has an impact, with players gradually improving their position as they accumulate points. The best case scenario is to become a Legend, a rank that won’t be lost until the end of the regular season.

Those who prefer a single player adventure can shift to the Solo Adventures, which will pit them against opponents controlled by the AI. Hearthstone will send players in different missions, with the first truly engaging adventure being the Curse of Naxxramas. The name is borrowed from the World of Warcraft raid and players will cruise their way through five different wings. They can use gold or real currency to access various wings but they can only move from one to the other after clearing the current wing.

The competitive side of Hearthstone

Arena is a popular Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft game in which players spend real money or gold on a deck of 30 cards. For each game, they will choose three such cards and try to make the most of them as they compete against other real opponents. Constructed decks have certain limits, with game developers imposing them in an attempt to maintain the balance of the game.

Duels are commonly referred to as Friendly Play and just as the name suggests, they pit players against their friends. The outcome of the games is less important, because there are no rewards offered to those who win duels, but at the same time nothing is lost. It is the best way of learning the basic game mechanics, before moving on to more competitive Hearthstone games.

Last but definitely not least, Tavern Brawl follows the basic principles of Duels, yet players are supposed to overcome a preset list of challenges. Once again they compete against friends from their list, but they can also be pit against random players.

What is Hearthstone?

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft is the latest games released by Blizzard Entertainment, an online collectible card game featuring popular heroes. Players who are familiar with the Warcraft lore will discover plenty of the characters from that universe, some of them bearing the original abilities. Free to play, Hearthstone is available on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets as well as computers running on iOS and Microsoft Windows.

Gameplay of Hearthstone

Hearthstone is a successful combination between a classic collectible card game and a turn-based strategy game played between two players. At the beginning, both players have plenty of basic cards and as the game advances, they earn more powerful ones. The process is straightforward, as the odds of discovering better cards improves as you purchase more decks or receive rewards for completing quests.

Screenshot of Heathstone's gameboard.
Screenshot of Heathstone's gameboard. © Blizzard Entertainment

Hearthstone games can be played against friends or strangers, but not all matches trigger a reward. A smart way to accumulate gold and unlock bonuses is by completing the daily quests and participating in most of the ongoing promotions. Blizzard Entertainment has kept the game free to play but it is still supported by micropayments, as players have the option of purchasing booster packs with real cash. Branded merchandise and entries to various adventures can also be bought with money like in League of Legends of Heroes of the Storm.

There is no free market for collectible cards in Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft as the games developers wanted to prevent high fluctuations in price. The competitive gameplay encourages players to spend long hours trying to unlock exclusive content, but also presents them with the alternative of speeding up the process with real money purchases.

Plot of Hearthstone

In the absence of a fully fledged single player campaign, Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft presents players with the option of embarking on Solo Adventures. With nearly 800 collectible cards available and many more to be introduced in a not so distant future, the game encourages players to use increasingly complex strategies.

Those who prefer to play against AI controlled opponents will discover that there are three distinct adventures and two major expansions. Even though the game draws inspiration from the Warcraft world and all the heroes are based on the characters in those games, Hearthstone doesn’t have a storyline or plot.

Development of Hearthstone

Hearthstone began as a side project for Blizzard developers with roughly a dozen members working on its development in 2008. The team remains relatively low despite the fact that the popularity of the online collectible game increased a lot over the last couple of years. The game was supposed to be played exclusively over the Internet, while still capturing the very fragrance of physical card games.

The visuals are outstanding and cards leap across the board when the game begins, to attack opponents. Those who enjoy playing Heroes of Might and Magic will find several similarities, between these turn-based strategy games. During development, Blizzard Entertainment successfully conducted a match between players using different devices and platforms, yet the feature was not released after all. Cross-platform play is only available for single player game modes since 2014

Where can I download Hearthstone?

Hearthstone cards can be purchased with real currency, but the game itself is free to play and Blizzard has no intention to change this. Anyone can download the game from the official website and those who have the Blizzard game client on their computer can use it as a gateway to all their games.

What are others saying about Hearthstone?

Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft was well received by the critics, not only because of its sheer quality but also the low expectations. Few expected the game to grow into something truly special and when the game hit the stores, everyone was pleasantly surprised. The fact that new content was released often and players who chose the free play format were not at a clear disadvantage also contributed to its success.

Hearthstone tournaments

Hearthstone’s popularity grew so much that Blizzard Entertainment decided to start hosting tournaments in late 2013 and the first one was The Innkeeper's Invitational. Initially only famous players were able to attend these tournament, but throughout 2014 and 2015 the number of Hearthstone tournaments increased rapidly.

The Chinese community is rapidly growing and there are now Hearthstone tournaments aimed exclusively at this audience. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, there are leagues for North and South America and also international competitions, such as Major League Gaming, ESL and ZOTAC CUP. The first Hearthstone World Championship took place in 2014 and some of the best players in the world qualified online. James "Firebat" Kostesich emerged victorious and claimed a $100,000 first prize.

My rating of Hearthstone

Being a Blizzard Entertainment fan-boy makes me highly susceptible to all the games they produce, even if they are not necessarily my type. I took Hearthstone with a pinch of salt but played nevertheless and I can honestly say that it was among the best decisions I made recently. Despite lacking the complexity and story driven intensity of both Starcraft Legacy of the Void and Warcraft games, Hearthstone is immensely entertaining. 9/10 is a fair score for a game that can provide quality entertainment even if you have only a few minutes to play.

Overall Score