Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Last week I finally received a Hearthstone beta invitation. I've been cautiously optimistic about the game since the announcement, maintaining a deliberate aloofness to Blizzard's attempts at building excitement for this game within a demographic that doesn't seem sure whether to care about online TCGs. But I also have a very clear understanding that Blizzard does not make bad games, and also that I'm the kind of person who really enjoys that specific kind of game.

Hearthstone is a clone of Magic The Gathering (or whichever game invented that genre) but with much better rules. While Magic is a really great game, there are just so many counterintuitive or obtuse rules, like responding on other players' turns that, with the benefit of hindsight, Hearthstone has been able to design around.

The behaviourist vibe I get from this game is powerful. Hearthstone's interface and art style feels like every "social" game I've ever played. Opening a booster pack stands out as a very deliberate ritual; you drag the the leather-bound wallet into the centre of your screen, where it explodes into fireworks to reveal five floating face-down cards, which you then need to click one by one to reveal.

They're already accepting real money for these booster packs, with the promise that although all beta cards will be wiped, the value of any money you spend in beta will be refunded as in-game currency when the game is properly released. To me that seems like pretty good value, since you'll get twice as much card-opening (which I now understand is the important part) for your money.

All that said, the game is spectacular. Blizzard has once again proven that you don't need complex rules to create gameplay depth. I feel like I need to dedicate more words to expressing how good it is, but I just don't think superlatives are that useful past the first one. You either have played it, and know exactly what I mean; or you haven't played it, in which case you now have my highest recommendation.

http://us.battle.net/hearthstone/en/ is the link to register for beta access.