Currently Playing: Hearthstone

Part review, part diary, all Cactus – in Currently Playing I share what has been going on in my gaming life lately!

currentlyplayingGaming, like every form of entertainment in my life such as reading and watching TV, has it’s ups and downs. Some weeks I might not boot a game at all, while others I cannot be torn away from my screen. One game, however, has been pretty constantly played by me throughout the last year – Hearthstone. This card game by Blizzard, featuring various characters from the Warcraft franchise is one of the coolest casual games I’ve had the pleasure of playing.

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First, let me tell you a bit more about the game. One of the best things about it is that it is completely free. No purchase necessary. Just add it to your Battle.net account (or create a new one), and you’re ready to go. Everything in the game can be unlocked through playing it – though you can support it by buying packs of cards or arena entrances or PvE adventures with real money. I like that even if you spend a lot of money on the game, that doesn’t guarantee you actually winning a lot. You can’t buy specific cards, only packs with random ones. I personally just prefer the achievement of unlocking new fancy cards through playing rather than handing over some cash, and Hearthstone allows this well.

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Let’s take a quick tour through the main menu. Through play you will be matched up with other people around the world, either casual or ranked. Solo adventures is a place where you can play against the computer – the expansions of Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain both go here. These adventures can be unlocked with gold, the main currency of the game, or money. The Arena gives you the opportunity to create a semi-random deck which will be pitted against other players with semi-random decks. Tavern Brawl is a recently added feature, which is only opened for a few days at a time, and allows you to play against others with funny rules or other pre-created decks. All of these game modes reward gold, card packs, or specific cards, depending on what you’re playing. Below that you see the Shop (buy stuff with money or gold), Quests (a new task every day, rewards gold), Open Packs (if you have any), and My Collection (see all of your cards), and the teeny tiny Friends button, your Gold, and Settings.

What I really like in Hearthstone is that it’s so easy to get into it. With complex card games like Magic: The Gathering it can take a very long time until you fully understand all rules and priorities – Hearthstone has a short introduction and it’s enough to get the hang of it. There is still much to learn, and the healthy pro-scene shows that the game has plenty of depth, but it’s also incredible accessible.

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This (or some variation of this) is your playing field. I love how it’s very organized, yet isn’t clinical looking. The lady on the top is my opponent, the big orc dude is me. The sandy area is the board, and we’re both holding four cards, with our decks on the right. I love how this is all visualized, and the controls are very intuitive. You just drag a card to the board and you’ll play it. Drag a minion to another minion, and it’ll attack. What’s also really cool is that Hearthstone works very well with touch screens (and on phones and tablets). I happen to have a laptop with a touch screen, and when I’m sitting on the couch instead of behind my desk, I like to use it playing Hearthstone.

What makes this the perfect casual game for me is that the rounds are short – a game takes around ten minutes, the length of a perfect little break. It doesn’t require you to play all day every day at all, and unlike all other online games, is flame-free. There is no chat function while duelling another player. You can only use some pre-set emotes like “Oops”, “Sorry”, “Thank you”, or “Greetings”. I can’t express my gratitude towards the makers for this enough. Sometimes you just want to play a game without the cussing, meanness, flaming, trolling, etcetera. Completing the daily quests makes me want to return to the game again and again, and while I sometimes take a break from it, it hasn’t bored me yet.

What are you currently playing?

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