The collectible card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is already among this year's best video games. But is it possible Blizzard's newest game can get even better?
Originally launched as a free-to-play title for PCs and Macs, Hearthstone makes a tremendous debut on Apple's iPad, delivering the same streamlined approach to card games with impressive touch controls.
In Hearthstone, players choose one of nine heroes, collecting cards and creating decks they'll use in one-on-one combat against computer-controlled enemies or human players. Think of it as a simpler take on the popular card game Magic The Gathering.
Players use mana to summon minions and spells, with the goal of whittling down their opponents' life from 30 points to zero. All minions boast attack and health points, so, for example, when someone casts a 2/1 minion, it's a creature with 2 attack points and 1 health point. Some will boast special abilities, such as Charge (attack on the same turn it is played), Taunt (opponents must attack this minion before any others) and Battlecry (an ability that takes effect when the creature is summoned).
Players also have a range of spells to choose from that perform any task from dealing damage to beefing up a minion's attack or health or returns them back to their owner's hand.
Heroes themselves have their own unique ability available once per turn that can help turn the tide in any match. For example, the Mage can deal 1 point of damage to any character, while the Warlock can sacrifice two Life points to draw a card.
Players take turns casting cards and planning their attacks. The game features a variety of hero-specific cards and neutral cards that any class can use. Each match nets experience points that boost the rank of your hero and unlock more cards. Players also earn gold which they can use to buy card packs or participate in the Arena, where they build a random deck and try to earn as many wins as possible to snag rewards. Players can use real money as well for cards and admission into the Arena.
Naturally, the biggest change in Hearthstone's transition to the tablet are controls. All moves leverage the touchscreen wonderfully, from laying a card on the battlefield to tapping targets of a specific spell. Players may want to hop into Practice Mode first to learn the controls with computer-controlled enemies before encountering human opponents online.
For the most part, Hearthstone performs well on tablet. Using it on an iPad Air, the game chugs along as if it were on a PC. On an older iPad, the game felt a bit more sluggish, although I never ran into severe issues such as the game locking up or suddenly quitting.
Hearthstone has already proven itself as a fantastic free-to-play game for PCs and Macs. It's simple, fascinating and -- once you've built that great deck that wallops enemies with ease -- highly gratifying. Now that it's available on iPad, it's even tougher to put down.
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platform(s): Apple iPad
Price: Free (in-app purchases available)
Release Date: April 16
Score: 4 out of 4