Why I keep coming back to Hearthstone
Watch/listen to the video on YouTube or read the article below:
I've been playing Hearthstone since the end of the open beta for the game before it released in March 2014. I still regularly watch gameplay from popular streamers on a regular basis. After all this time playing the game and watching top players, I have to admit that I'm terrible at the game, and that's Ok. I've never gotten a rank above 12 and rarely get above 4 wins in an Area run.
First I wanted to mention the good things about the game that have me logging in each week. The design of the game is so simple and accessible that anyone can play. Blizzard took the genre of card games, that tend to be complex and more time consuming to fully understand the rules, to something you can enjoy for 5-10 minutes at a time. This is similar to how Blizzard with WoW took the fantasy MMORPG and attracted millions of people who didn't even know the lore of the Warcraft universe. Blizzard's way of accessibility and polish is even seen in its most recent release of Overwatch, easy to get into but hard to master. However, there are many gamers that enjoy the more traditional card games like Magic the Gathering, or most recently Gwent that may have deeper mechanics but not as new player friendly.
What I don't like about the game is the seemingly larger emphasis on chance and RNG that plays into each match. I recognize that this game does take a good amount of skill to play, and like any card game, there is an inherent amount of luck due to card draw. Just like in poker where professionals that are more skilled and know how to play their odds will lose to those who push all in with a weaker hand. Looking at Hearthstone specifically, recently with new updates there are many cards that draw you random cards from your opponent or other classes, which make it impossible to play around an opponents hand. This element of randomness is something that others have discussed already, but it adds more variety and allows for more comebacks/upsets that are exciting when people are watching in a tournament setting, which makes sense because Blizzard is trying to promote Hearthstone and its other games as an eSport.
Another thing that I need to discuss is the game's free to play model. I love the idea of not needing to spend any money on the game, and instead earning gold to buy card packs online. But in reality, if you want to be competitive you will need to spend a lot of money, or a lot of time, to build good decks that can climb the ladder and become Legend rank. Top decks require around 10k Arcane Dust to create, that may become obsolete after major patches or meta changes. With a pack costing 100 gold or $1.50, you would get 40 Dust (by disenchanting 4 common cards and at least 1 rare card). Of course, that is the minimum, and you will eventually open epic or legendary cards, as well as golden cards, that can be disenchanted for significantly more Dust. According to the Pitytracker.com if you bought 100 packs which cost $120 you would get about 75% of the available cards for the current expansion set.
I personally have only spent $20 on the game after all this time, so I'm not complaining that you need to spend money to have fun. Also, there are many people building free (check our Trump's free to play series) to low-cost decks, that can get high into the ladder, but most people would end up paying more than a full priced game each time a new expansion set comes out. So if you look at this game like an MMO and don't mind paying $15+ a month, then you won't feel restricted when needing that one or two cards to complete your deck. However, with the discussion on other major titles and loot boxes, I completely side with those that say loot boxes are basically gambling and a game's focus on micro-transactions are ruining franchises.
In Hearthstone sometimes you'll get lucky and open that legendary card, bursting open with a flash of light and sounds, enticing you to open just a few more packs. Blizzard does a great job of making games fun with a sense of progression and game design that is addicting. If your an adult, I don't judge on how you spend your money, I enjoy slot machines and would go to a casino all the time if I didn't have to drive more than an hour and a half each way. But when I see those pre-loaded game cards at department stores, and remembering when I needed to ask my parents to buy a subscription for WoW when it first came out, I know that I lot of kids are playing this game too. With more children growing up on mobile games that are designed to get kids hooked on games and buying virtual currency, I still consider Blizzard is doing it in a better way, but I would prefer if micro-transactions didn't exist at all.
Thinking back on my childhood, I don't know how or why my parents spent so much money to buy games for me. Being black Friday recently, I'm reminded of how expensive gaming can be, even when it's on sale. Anyway, I'm grateful that I have time to play video games and complain about 1st world problems.
Thanks for making it to the end! I'd like to hear from you all too! Leave a comment if you still play the game. And let me know what other free to play games do you play that are worth checking out?