HearthStone, Impressions so far

A week ago I downloaded and started playing HearthStone. For a beta it is solid.There were no graphical glitches, error 37s, or other strange config things going on to hamper getting in straight away to play.

Overall – I’ve now been reminded why I hate “Draw a Card” based games and why I just stayed away from MtG when it was repeatedly offered at game stores and roleplaying tables. The degree of “random” in what powers can be used when is a key issue for how the game plays. That might be a cornerstone of this style of game and a known factor to many players, but for me it is farcical.

The darn game could be renamed “The Frustration of RNG”.

hstoneBannerKnowing that a deck contains a few handy abilities to your current situation and not getting them for turn after turn is way too frustrating. Twelve or so games into the normal Practice modes where you try to unlock the other classes and I was almost screaming at the screen. I certainly thumped the table. I am also consistently frustrated by how often the NPCs is able to pull the “right” move. Kill a taunt empowered card and the NPC drops another straight down. For pity’s sake. The NPCs seem to always have the right card as follow-up. Screw this.

One battle my “Heroic” Mage drew no extra minion cards for 5x rounds – in a game based upon using minions and specials to win! In another game which came down to both heroes being on less that 5 HP at the last turn I’d never seen a Fireball card (4pts cost inflicting 6 damage). ON A MAGE!

I also noticed that there is a certain strategy in not just using cards because you can deploy them. The NPCs in Practice mode seem to hold cards early and then swamp the board later. The NPCs in the tutorial games are softer and seem to have worse luck with cards. I’d like to know if the NPCs are at the same “level” as my hero or am I being challenged by level 10 opponents while tooling around on a level 1-3.

That aside…

  • Too many “click to proceed” things from the time you open the app to the time you are actually about to play. Animations are slow (on my laptop). I think that is by design in HearthStone as WoW plays fine on the same laptop and it cannot be using much in the way of a 3d engine.
  • Overall I’d like it to “play quicker”. Show cards quicker, etc.
  • The initial training fights have the odd “Grom Dar!”, “You will burn”, and other character based emotes and actions, and its funny now but after a few games I started wondering how old that will get.

After the training five or so fights, the player is tasked with defeating the other classes. Some classes seem already freaking cool, and others disadvantaged.

The Mage (starter) has a 2pt special power which delivers 1x damage, and it can be used every turn if you wish. By contrast the Hunter has a 2pt ability which inflicts 2x damage. Why? I note that the Mage can always ping 1pt, but the hunter can sometimes not, but that is a trivial limitation on a game where we usually have other uses for those points.

So far I’ve unlocked the Warrior, Shaman, and Priest so far, and find the Warlocks, Hunters, and Druids darn tough to beat. I’ve heard that Rogues are tough to content with, but both my matches have been down to the wire although I’ve lost both too.

The Warlock’s draw a card power is fantastic, and I am repeatedly fighting and getting trounced by the Warlock because I think that ability will suit how I like to play. Sure it might cost a few health, but a Card per 2pts is trivial if you have only a few cards left in your hand. The Druid being able to directly attack is great. It might only be useful periodically, but it seems hardy and appropriate to the class.

The Monk and Death Knight are not present as classes and I can forgive that given how much diversity there is already in the class mix.

5 thoughts on “HearthStone, Impressions so far

  1. The Hunter can only use their power on the other player, whereas the Mage can use the 1 damage ping on anything on the board, be it players or creatures, hence the distinction and difference in raw power. Honestly, I’d take the Mage’s ability over the Hunter’s, because that kind of flexibility cannot be overstated.

    I’ve used the same tactics in my Shaman deck that you’ve see in the more advanced NPCs, which is to say just because you *can* play it doesn’t mean you should. You have your Hero power available and you should definitely use it. A lot. Because having those extra options in your hand later in the game when you have the Mana to drop 2 or 3 cards in one go is key to a late game victory, but that’s not really any different from any other CCG, honestly.

    The thing about CCGs in general is yes, it’s very RNG what cards you get, but you build your deck on the premise that it reduces the RNG you have to content with. Warlocks have a card that allows you to draw two random demons from your deck (very Dark Tutor, ala Magic of old). Another way is to give yourself more Card Advantage (that is, draw more cards to give you more options). Gnomes, gnomes, and more gnomes is pretty much a requirement unless you’re a Warlock, since most Gnome cards give you a draw when they hit the board. By cycling through your deck faster, you have more chances to get the cards for your combos. It also keeps you from “topdecking”, which is where you run out of cards in your hand and you’re stuck playing with whatever you draw each turn, which is a sure recipe for losing (unless you get lucky).

    You also need to ensure that your deck is very focused on a given two or three combos or a single theme and stick with it. Like flashy mage direct damage spells? Get lots of critters that have +Spell Damage, and lots of direct damage spells like Fireball. Prefer to control the board? Ice Lance, Frost Nova, Frost Elementals, anything that keeps enemy creatures locked down so you can do your thing. By focusing your theme, again, you reduce the RNG element of a given deck because most of the cards in your deck play to that theme.

    Blizzard has done a great job of teaching people the rules of the game, but as to the metagame — deckbuilding — they’ve done a pretty poor job of educating new users to the CCG space. These are all lessons I’ve taken from years of playing Magic, and successfully translating them into the world of Hearthstone.

  2. The skill in Deckbuilding is something I’d love to muck about with, but I’m not sure if there is capacity to do that in Practice mode?

    I’ll look tonight. The game says I keep earning all these nifty cards as I level up, so perhaps I’m nurfing myself by not building a deck and moving away from the default.

  3. I use the Practice mode to test my new decks. Once you make a custom deck, it should show up as something you can pick in Practice mode. It’s not great to see how it does under stress given how dumb the AI is (even on Expert), but it is good to tinker a bit with new ideas and themes though.

  4. Ugh, hit post too soon. Yes, the basic decks as defaults are not very good. They’re straightforward and easy to play, but they’re not that great when you start playing other players, or even some of the classes in Practice mode (friggin’ Hunter >.>).

  5. Hunters and bloody Warlocks. Great powers and as a level 4-7 Mage I was typically brutally defeated. At least I know that defeating them is “intentionally” hard.

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