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What we love and what we hate about the Hearthstone beta

It's no secret that your friendly neighborhood WoW Insider writers have been playing Hearthstone lately -- and, for the most part, enjoying it. Like all of our favorite games, it's the sort of game you can enjoy playing so much that you lose track of time... sometimes dangerously. (And the addictive, clicky, "one more fight" nature of the game is definitely something we both love and hate about Hearthstone's gameplay.)

But despite our enthusiasm, the game is definitely in beta -- which is to say it's not without its flaws. So Team WoW Insider got together to discuss what we liked most and what we liked least in the Hearthstone beta so far, and after a lot of excited chatter that primarily consisted of babbling about our favorite cards (Flamestrike with +spell power minions, Equality with Consecration, anything with taunt), we had a pretty good discussion about Hearthstone's mechanics. So without further ado, read on for our greatest likes and dislikes about the world of Hearthstone.

What we love and what we hate about the Hearthstone beta
What we love about Hearthstone
  • Collecting new cards. We love, love, love getting new cards and integrating them into our Hearthstone decks in clever ways. We're constantly tweaking our decks and battle strategies as we collect new cards and learn more about how the game plays.
  • How easy it is to pick up and get started. Though there's a bit of a learning curve, the tutorial is a great walkthrough that lets you dive immediately into gameplay while learning all you need to know about how the game functions. You never feel like you're in a tutorial at all: you're just playing.
  • How much the classes in Hearthstone feel like the classes in World of Warcraft. Though gameplay is tremendously different, each of the classes feels familiar.
  • Games go at a great pace. Matches are designed to be quick which means they never get dull: there's no dallying or wars of attrition. You can only spend so long considering your move each turn before it's ended automatically and if you drag a battle out until you're out of cards, you take extra damage each round -- all of which serves to keep the game moving at a good clip.
  • The interactive maps. This is a silly feature, but a fun one, where the maps you play on have their own animations and reactions when you click things.
  • The music is great. The game's soundtrack is quality stuff, done in the style of World of Warcraft's inn music -- but it would be nice if there were more variety to it. The sounds are great, too: each card you play says things when you play it, which adds a lot of personality and character to gameplay.
What we love and what we hate about the Hearthstone beta
What we hate about Hearthstone
  • Lack of avatar variety. Right now, there's one avatar you can choose to play per class. If you want to play a warrior but don't care for Garrosh, well, you're stuck with Garrosh: he's the only warrior in the game. After the tutorial, where there was a lot of variety in who you got to play against, you suddenly find yourself in the game where there are only nine options to choose from. We'd love to see more variety represented in the heroes we can play.
  • Not being able to counter abilities, spells, or enchantments. Once a mage Polymorphs your biggest minion, there's absolutely nothing you can do about it: it's a sheep until it dies. Similarly, if a paladin casts Blessing of Kings to give one of their minions +4 attack and +4 health, there's no way for you to get rid of it except by killing the minion. With no ability to dispel or counterspell, this makes these types of enchantments awfully powerful... and awfully frustrating when you're on the receiving end. Edit: Silence is your friend, kids!
  • Lack of interactivity. There's nothing you can do when it isn't your turn: the game has no concept of counters or interrupts that can challenge an opponents' moves while they're making them. While gameplay does have a lot of depth, the lack of this traditional CCG mechanic keeps it from having as much depth as it could. Addendum: Though Hearthstone doesn't have interrupt-style spells, it does have secret cards which you play and then have an effect when your opponent does something, like Noble Sacrifice or Ice Barrier. As we encounter and collect more secret cards, perhaps this complaint will become moot.
  • Cost. $3 for 10 digital cards that you can't trade or resell seems high to us -- even though you can disenchant cards you don't like to craft cards you do like. Similarly, the entry fee of $2 for the Arena -- where you build a deck on the fly to compete with opponents -- seems high. For that cash you get at least three matches, but if you lose them all, you get nothing. It would be nice if we could at least keep some of the random cards you used to construct your Arena deck. Edit: You're in the arena until you lose three matches, but even if you lose three matches in a row, you'll walk away with a some reward, whether arcane dust, gold, or even a booster pack. However, the better you do, the better the reward.
  • Not having any cards in our hands. You start with a hand of three cards and then draw one each turn from there -- or more if you have spells or abilities that let you. However, this can mean that the first few rounds you have a lot of cards and by the end of the game you only have the card you drew this round in your hand. Just having one card to play doesn't leave much room for strategy... or fun. Addendum: This is, in part, a deckbuilding problem. There are cards you can add to your deck that let you draw additional cards, and it can be tricky to balance your deck with the right mix of draw power to keep your options open throughout the game.
  • It's slow to earn gold. If you want to get new packs by playing rather than by paying, it's slow. Very slow. Three days' of daily quest will give you enough to buy a new pack of 5 cards, and if you go at it at that speed, it will take an awfully long time to collect anything of interest.
  • The "job done!" sound when there's nothing more to do in your turn. We hate it. We really, really, really hate it. Presumably it's there to remind you to click the "end turn" button, which is also a nuisance... though something of a necessity with the game's turn-based structure. But if the game know there's no more actions we can take this turn -- to the point where it plays a sound that cheerfully tells you "job done!" -- shouldn't it also know enough to complete the turn without needing you to click a button?
For all of its annoyances, Hearthstone is a fun game that shows a ton of promise -- and many of us are enjoying playing it on a daily basis even in this beta stage. We look forward to seeing Hearthstone grow (and finding out what surprises Blizzard has in store for us). Want to join us? Check out Blizzard's beta key giveaway for a chance to get your own beta key!

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