Lately I’ve found myself going back to the newish popular game Hearthstone. Hearthstone is a game that I often come back to in intermittent spurts rather than continually playing it, and each time I come back to it, I am rewarded with a feeling very similar to what I felt when I first played it. That feeling is what I like to describe as fun.
Certain games elicit a sense of elation when I first play them, and I find that Hearthstone is one of few that can repeatedly deliver that feeling. Recognizing this, I decided to take some time and delve into what I think really makes Hearthstone so fun.
At its core, Hearthstone is a very simple game, and that simplicity is somewhat unique to collectible card games, which Hearthstone really is. Through various mechanics, a lot of player control is limited, making Hearthstone very easy to get into. Because certain cards can only be drafted by certain classes, a certain degree of customizability is taken away from the player. A warrior will never be able to craft a deck with Flamestrike in it, and a rogue will rarely have the plethora of healing capabilities that a priest enjoys. Furthermore, many of the game’s mechanics are based on random chance. There are an insane amount of cards that have some sort of randomized effect built into them, so much so, in fact, that you can build an entire deck around it.
These design choices generally take some choice away from the player. While that sounds like a terrible idea when put that way, being led through the game makes it very easy for new players to get into, which makes their first experiences more enjoyable. For people, like me, who have tried numerous other collectible card games but failed to grasp how to build a deck effectively, this is just what we needed. The lack of in-depth choice makes it easier to understand deck-building concepts, which eliminates certain frustrations that can result in dropping the game altogether. Since we’re not dropping the game, we also end up learning how to play the game effectively as well as how to prepare for it.
The biggest drawback is that it makes the game feel stale after playing it for a long time. It’s super fun when you’re first starting out, but the lack of options can get boring pretty quick.
One of the biggest flaws with traditional collectible card games is that it can be a serious pain in the ass to find a place to start. Smaller towns are less likely to have card shops, and even in larger cities, they rarely stand out. Most of them look about as exciting as a second-rate Radio Shack to the uninitiated. That doesn’t even account for the awkward phase of walking into one for your very first time, only to be overwhelmed by all of these crazy cards, comics, board games, and other such things.
Hearthstone is lucky enough to not have those types of issues. Hearthstone is a game that you can download online on your computer and now even on your phone. Also, since you’re playing online, it’s easier to find people to play against.
As a Blizzard game, it comes to no surprise that Hearthstone is an exceedingly well-polished game. The sheer quality of all of the sounds, special effects, and little silly things you can see and do just add to the overall experience.
Every card has a different voice-over for summoning and attacking. You can use fun little pre-recorded and fully-voiced messages to taunt you opponent. There are multiple different game boards chosen randomly for you to play on, giving each game you play a unique flavor. Each of the game boards also come with little knick-knacks that you can interact with, such as loading up a catapult and launching it toward your opponent or making a mess of a little version of Stormwind. The different audio and video effects that play when you smash your opponent in the face feel extremely satisfying.
There are several other really cool things about Hearthstone, and I’ll probably go over some of them in more detail in the future. There are also a fair amount of problems in the game, especially as you begin to really delve into it, which I’m looking forward to exploring with all of you as well. So if you’ve been playing Hearthstone for a while, I look forward to seeing you at the table, and if you haven’t, well then pull up a chair. There’s always room for another.