Once upon a time I wrote about my Football Manager addiction, admitting that I put more hours into that game than is healthy. However, the truth is that FM is not my only video game vice. While other games come and go, Football Manager and Hearthstone remain.
If you’re unaware, Hearthstone is an online card game created by Blizzard and featuring characters from the World of Warcraft universe. I’ve never played WOW. It has no appeal to me. I am a huge fantasy fan, but nothing has ever convinced me to launch myself into that particular world. Yet, ever since Hearthstone was released in March of last year, I’ve not been able to stop playing. It’s not like I’m a huge card game fan, a few hands of poker aside I’ve got no interest in it, yet Hearthstone has gripped me.
Which might actually be why it got it’s claws into me. I’ve heard people who have infinite more knowledge about these kind of things, point to all of Hearthstone’s flaws. While even I realise it could never work in a physical form. There is too much randomness involved. Yet for simpletons like me, Hearthstone is so easy to pick up. The mechanics are simple and while the masters of the game spend hours plotting decks, I can just jump in for half an hour each day without having to think too hard about it.
A fact that does mean I’m not actually that good at the game. In ladder mode, where you create your own deck and work your way up twenty-five levels playing against other players online, I rarely get out of the teens and my highest ranking was ten. While Arena, where you draft a deck of random cards and play until you either win 12 games or lose 3, I regularly don’t even manage a win. Quite simply, I suck. Unlike FM, where my hours have led to an increase in skill, I don’t actually seem to get better at Hearthstone. I just float along at my level.
So why do I keep coming back? It can’t just be the simplicity, Solitaire is simple and I rarely play that. No, the truth is that Hearthstone is just really nice to play. Blizzard may not have created the perfect card game, but my god they’ve made it look pretty. Every card has its own unique sounds and some even their own animations. When you play King Krush, essentially a T-Rex , his footsteps boom out and the board shakes before he comes crashing down. While Twisting Nether, a Warlock card which destroys all the minions on the board, sucks them into the ground, never to be seen again. These moments make playing Heartstone fun, even when you are losing.
The biggest stick used to beat Hearthstone is its free to play aspects. While the game will cost you nothing, to actually get every card in it you will have to shell out a fair bit. Card’s vary in rarity, with the rarest being legends, and you could open a hundred packs and only pick up a couple of those. Packs can be purchased with in-game gold, mainly gained through Arena or by completing challenges, or can be bought with real world money. The best decks, or at the least the ones which reign supreme on ladder, are often littered with legendary cards. Yet, I’ve spent nothing on the game and it doesn’t bother me at all. The crafting system in the game, which allows you to get rid of cards in exchange for dust which can then be used to create other cards, means that with a bit of luck I’ve managed to get some of the games better legendaries and while I can’t craft the most expensive decks. I can get by.
But the truth is that being the best isn’t why I play Hearthstone. I’m sure if I went online and found the best deck in the current meta, I could spend a few hours every day playing and shoot up the rankings. But where would the fun be? Hearthstone is best enjoyed by experimenting. Creating decks filled with ridiculous combos that you’re only going to be able to pull off once in a blue moon. Or figuring out how much fun can be had by combining cards just to see what happens. It’s a game that has it’s best moments when you are pissing about and its lack of a chat system means you don’t have to worry about some cunt telling you that he’s shagged your ma.
Hearthstone may cause purists to turn up their nose and even I would never claim the game is perfect. But for people like me, who just want a fun card game to play for half an hour each day, it’s perfect. While I sink hours into Football Manager tweaking tactics and scouting young players, I can sink hours into Hearthstone doing little but mucking about, losing more often than I win. Blizzard have created a game which is as exciting to a rookie like me as I assume it is to a pro and over a year after its release, it just keeps getting better.