We look at Hearthstone's current expansion and the evolution of the card battler over the past two years.
When Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft was originally released for PC in 2014, it was very well received by critics and players, Gamereactor included (here's our glowing review). But the game has evolved since then, with Blizzard making a tremendous effort to improve it and keep it fresh. One of the most important steps was launching the game for iOS and Android, since all three versions include cross-play and are fully compatible. Simply connect with the same account and have access to all your decks and content on any platform. You can even play or communicate with friends across different systems.
Blizzard has been busy over the past two years, releasing three adventures (Curse of Naxxramas, Blackrock Mountain, and League of Explorers) and three expansions (Goblins vs Gnomes, The Grand Tournament, and now Whispers of the Old Gods).
The adventures offer a solo mode whereby the player faces bosses controlled by the artificial intelligence. Each adventure is divided into five wings and each wing includes at least three bosses, two challenges, and various cards that players can win by eliminating said bosses and by conquering the challenges. There's also a hard mode which will test even the best players. Each wings costs 700 gold coins or £4.99 / €5.99, while the full adventure can be purchased for £17.49 / €21.99.
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The expansions are completely different, as they are added on top of the existing game. Each expansion injects something like 130 or 150 new cards into Hearthstone, and these can be aquired in packs of cards that cost exactly the same as the basic package - 100 gold coins or £ 1.99 (€ 2.69) for two packages. Altogether there are now 877 cards that players can collect, although not all are available in the main mode (more on that later).
Other new features Blizzard has introduced over the past 24 months include a spectator mode that allows you to watch friends matches, plus several new game mechanics like Inspire and Joust.
Whispers of the Gods Olds
This is the latest Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft's expansion, which introduces 134 collectible cards, but also one of the biggest changes to the game since launch - the Standard and Wild modes. The first one has become the main alternative for those who play online ranked matches, and for the most part it works as it did previously, with the exception that it limits card use. Only cards from the current year or the previous year can be used in Standard mode, in addition to the original cards. This means that all of the cards from the Curse of Naxxramas adventures, and the Gnomes vs. Goblins expansion cannot be used in the Standard mode. It's a practice widely used in card games, which both helps maintain balance and (obviously) encourages players to buy new cards. If you prefer to play without any card restrictions, you can go to the new Wild mode.
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The new game mechanics introduced by Whispers of the Old Gods come in the form of a legendary card, C'Thun, which is offered to all players that buy a Whispers of the Old Gods pack. C'Thun is a 6/6 creature that costs 10 mana crystals, and deals damage among enemies equal to his attack as it enters the board. What really makes C'Thun unique is that he is buffed, and buffs other cards. Many of the new creatures are servants of C'Thun, and when they come into play they increase both C'Thun's attack and defence permanently for the remainder of the game, regardless of where the card is in the game (even if it's dead). On the other hand, some cards benefit from C'Thun, like Ancient Shieldbearer Warrior, which gives the player 10 armour points if C'Thun's attack is higher than 10.
This means that much of the game can circle around the Old God, even if he doesn't come into play. That said, not all new cards revolve around C'Thun, and it's perfectly possible to win games without using the Old God or his servants. One of the strongest points of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is the tremendous balance that exists between the characters and the cards, with one or two exceptions, but Blizzard tends to be aware of this kind of situation and moves swiftly to resolve any problems that emerge.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft was a fantastic game when it was released. It's extremely simple and accessible for beginners, but hides an astonishing amount of depth. The superb ranking and matchmaking system means you will always battle someone on your skill level, be that on PC, iOS, or Android. It also helps that the game offers all the attention to detail and polish we've come to expect from Blizzard. With the launch of the respective adventures and expansions, Hearthstone has become even better over time, and with over 50 million registered players, we don't see Blizzard slowing down. If you have a mobile phone, a tablet, or a computer capable of running the game, try it. It's free! But be warned - it can suck hours from your life and you'll be tempted to buy packs, lots of them.
10 / 10
Simple and user-friendly gameplay and interface, Lots of deck combinations, Excellent free-to-play model, PC, iOS and Android cross-play, It's bursting with personality.