First Impressions: Hearthstone

Last night I received a magical email inviting me to participate in the Hearthstone beta test. I quickly signed in to the site and downloaded the new client. That small download didn’t work properly when I started it. A quick visit to the forums let me know that I needed to update either Starcrat 2 or World of Warcraft, which would update the files already on my machine, then run the Hearthstone installer. That seemed to work and I started the 1.3GB download of Hearthstone itself. It’s a beta, so I’m ok with that little hiccup.

Note that this isn’t a review – I’ve only played for about 20 minutes and haven’t even completed the tutorial. This is more of a “first impressions” type post that I’m writing because I had an unexpected response to the first little bit of the game. Assuming I play it more over the next several days I’ll likely write up something closer to a review, but for now you get something that has very little to do with the actual gameplay. Enjoy 🙂

After the download was complete (at full speed – good on you Blizzard) I finished up my Borderlands 2 session and fired it up. The new launcher looks nice and worked as advertised. The client started up and the cinematic started. The voiceover was done by (I think) Chris Metzen, a member of the Blizzard staff that voices Thrall. Whether it was him or not isn’t important – it sounded decidedly World of Warcraft. This is where my first surprise (and biggest gripe) from Hearthstone reared it’s ugly head.

Hearthstone is a Warcraft “property.” It’s based on all things Warcraft, and more specifically World of Warcraft. I played World of Warcraft almost exclusively for 6 or 7 years and while I had a great deal of fun with that game, I consider it my “dark period” with regards to gaming. I missed a TON of awesome games because I didn’t play anything else, and that has created a gaming bucket list so long that I’ll likely never get through it all. I played WoW through the second major patch to Mists of Pandaria, at which point I just couldn’t handle dailies, reputation grinds (which involved dailies) and raiding with 9 other people and quit for good. I haven’t had a desire to go back to it since.

When Hearthstone started up, I heard a lot of familiar sounds that I hadn’t heard in some time. Many memories came rushing back, and I can’t say they were entirely positive. In fact, I almost didn’t even want to start playing at all. I was so excited to play Hearthstone – I haven’t played a “card” game since Magic: The Gathering, and the last time I played that was 13 years ago in college – and yet the sounds and lore and imagry were so World of Warcraft that I almost turned it off.

I did press on and played 4 or 5 of the tutorial matches. During the tutorial, you play as Jaina and fight enemies like Millhouse Manastorm and a murloc. All the sounds and art come right from World of Warcraft (“YOU NO TAKE CANDLE!”). It’s dripping with the theme, style and essense of World of Warcraft. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

The client itself is super-mega-polished, in typical Blizzard fashion. The visuals are actually pretty incredible – each action is satisfying, which is saying quite a bit for a game where there’s no 3D modeled baddies fighting and throwing spells at each other (for the most part). The mechanics seem good enough for a card game (though I’m sure I haven’t seen everything it has to offer). In short, everything is great – except the theme. Hopefully I can muscle through it because it seems like there’s a pretty great game buried down beneith the WoWness, and I’d hate to miss out on it because I don’t want to hear Garrosh yell at me. I wonder how many other people will have the same reaction that I did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Current ye@r *