I play mobile games quite a bit. I think it's the nature of anyone who spends a lot of time on their phone. The overlapping concern with most mobile games is that they tend to get stale over time. This is especially true in the case of “freemium” games. I'm going to be using the word freemium several times in this review, so I'll give a short definition for those who don't know the term. Freemium means the game is free to play, but at a reduced functionality without making various purchases. Whether it be in game currency or expansions, these games offer their premium content at a cost in an otherwise free game. Thus, the label freemium.
Hearthstone is a 1-on-1 card battling game featuring widely customizable decks. Each deck has various deck leaders with specific abilities and card sets that provide uniqueness to each matchup. What may work against one opponent may fail miserably against another. Hearthstone will encourage you to switch your strategy as needed for specific opponents. I had a lot of fun trying out different decks and developing a play style that suited me. I've been playing trading card style games most of my life, so I had little trouble developing combos within decks that yield nasty results. Opening packs is a fun mechanic that adds some variety to the game. You get at least one rare card per pack, and they can be leader specific, or available to all classes. I've opened probably 20 packs or so, and have gained some powerful cards from them. It's a cool portion of the game that hearkens back to my days opening card packs as a kid. Hearthstone also has an intuitive and fun tutorial that lays down the groundwork for mechanics and gameplay while still being engaging to the player. I picked the game up extremely quickly and was on my way to carving out my own path.
Hearthstone offers several game types, all of which serve different purposes. You can play the computer at varying levels of difficulty, which offers XP for your deck leaders, but no challenge gold or prizes. Beyond that, you can play online in both ranked and unranked matches against other players in real time. It's through this mechanic that the game rewards you with gold and daily quest objectives. Finally, there is the Arena mode, which allows you to draft a one-time use deck from randomly selected cards. You then compete against other players and win various prizes depending on how many wins you amass.
Of all the game types, I found the Arena to be most engaging. It forced me to forge strategy on the fly, and I had access to cards I was otherwise missing. The battles were also more engaging because my opponents were put through the same situation. Unfortunately, the randomness of card choice sometimes made it difficult to advance, since some players were afforded multiple Epic or Legendary level cards per draft, which makes them hard to beat even if you have superior strategy. I know that they gained these cards simply by chance, but it becomes a bit disheartening when I haven't obtained a single card of this level in over 40 hours of play.
The sound and graphics are well done for the platform, even offering little interactive portions of the playing field. Each creature card has their own battle cry, and the background music is entertaining and inoffensive. Additionally, the menus are clean and easy to navigate.
One drawback to the game, and it's rather large, is the freemium elements. I've played many games with this type of feature, where you can technically earn purchasable items, but in such a ridiculous amount of time that it becomes nearly unobtainable. Hearthstone is no different from any other game in this regard. The amount of gold you earn for quests and victories is a pittance compared to what you spend on card packs and Arena entries. I've played many games that are stingy with their in-game currency, and Hearthstone is among the worst. I understand that Bllizzard is trying to make a buck, but the earning of gold is a bit of a slap in the face. Which leads us to Hearthstone's other form of premium content. Hearthstone currently offers two single player expansion packs that can be purchased for $25. Per expansion. Each expansion gets you a mere five chapters. I'm not sure where they created this figure, but I didn't purchase either, and I never will at that price point. I honestly don't mind spending money on mobile games. I do it all the time. But this kind of investment demands one hell of a return that should exceed five chapters of missions.
Overall, Hearthstone (Android/iOS) is a good time. Building decks is fun, and you can spend hours playing or just jump on for a quick game here and there. Hearthstone's biggest strength is it’s undeniable replayability. After full consideration, I give Hearthstone for Android/iOS a Coolguy Jones on the Game Awry Review Scale. I've enjoyed my many hours of playtime on Hearthstone and I encourage everyone to check it out. You may even be lucky enough to get a beatdown by yours truly. - Mike Burdette