World of Warcraft

Returning To Hearthstone

Hearthstone Logo via IGN

Hearthstone, the game about the Random Number Generator (RNG) and skill. I remember playing Hearthstone during its beta and thinking how incredible the game was. I wrote a few posts about my excitement at Polygon titled: Hearthstone: Beta Notes and Experience, Hearthstone: The Perks With Arena Mode, and Hearthstone: Top Decking Can Make or Break You. Strangely enough, I have not touched this game since the beta. Reason? To be honest, I was never that good at Hearthstone. However, all of this changed after I understood the meta and strategy behind this wonderful card game.

Meta

After the release of Hearthstone, the word “meta” was thrown around all the time. These concepts (cards) are abstractions (ideas) from the overall concept (cards) of its creation (Hearthstone). As Ben Brode once said, “The metagame is the mix of different decks that players bring… If you know what decks players are bringing, your deck can be especially good against ‘the meta’.”

2013 Hearthstone Meta by Liquidhearth

Ben Brode was referring to the behavior of all the players within Hearthstone. The trending decks, cards and classes create this ‘meta’ or ‘metagame’ that keeps all the players on their toes. Once a powerful deck is created, people tend to notice its potential when their win/loss record is positive. For example, Aggro or Aggressive decks were very popular in the beginning. These decks are meant to be fast-paced where the player destroys their opponent as fast as possible. Part of the strategy was to summon a large number of low-value minions, use direct damage spells and spam the hero powers.

When the Aggro deck was peaking, the opposite side of the spectrum are Control decks. These decks tend to reign victorious in the latter half of the game because it combines cards that remove low-value minions, use excessive taunts and summon powerful cards in the late game. When an Aggro deck faces off with a Control deck, the winner is still undetermined because of RNG. Whoever draws the best cards at the right time with little to no mistakes, will usually win.

To learn more about the history of the ‘meta’, view the video below:

The Learning Curve

It may sound like I know a lot about Hearthstone, and I should, after watching thousands of hours of Twitch and YouTube. The two players I have to thank for all my education is Trump and Kripparrian (aka Kripp). I discovered both of these fine gentleman through Twitch since they always receive the most viewers. I never gave Twitch a chance before these two streamers, and I tend to stay up later and later to watch Hearthstone.

The Mana Curve via GOSU Gamers

Learning Hearthstone is fairly easy when both players compete on opposite sides of the spectrums. Trump normally plays Ranked matches and reaches the top of the Ladder each season. He dabbles in the Arena Mode, but most of his videos and streaming focus on reaching the top. Trump’s nickname is “The Mayor of Value Town.” He obtained this nickname by getting the most value out of every card he plays in Hearthstone which shows how much he respects his cards, their abilities and strategy.

While Kripp does enjoy the occasional Ranked matches, he focuses more heavily on the Arena Mode, crazier meta decks and Tavern Brawl. I try to catch all of his YouTube videos he posts since his streaming times can be too late for me. I find his demeanor quite fascinating because he can go from sheer rage to all smiles with one card draw. I hope to write more about Kripp in a later post, so keep a lookout for that!

Tavern Brawl

Tavern Brawl is the newest game mode in Hearthstone. This weekly event only lasts from Wednesday to Monday, and it is well worth the limited number of days. These brawls are special matches with unique rules that change the games meta. Players may have to create their own decks with specific requirements, use premade decks or even offer abilities to cards at random.

Too Many Portals! via Hearthstone Wiki

Currently, the most popular Tavern Brawl was Too Many Portals! This description made me the most excited since I started playing Hearthstone: “The master mages of Dalaran have gone too far this time, opening up hundreds of portals! Choose a class and use a few spells and a WHOLE lot of portals to defeat your rivals!” The “portals” discussed in the description is the Unstable Portal card. For two mana, players are able to add any random minion to their hand. Plus, it costs three mana less. This is a crazy card that is centered around RNG and all its glory. Not only did both players receive nearly an unlimited amount of Unstable Portals, but they also had pre-made decks with seven randomly selected spells for the class of their choosing.

I thought this would be easy, but I happen to lose most of my games. The RNG was against me in every single game, except for the three that I won. It did feel great to have an opponent rage quit after playing Archmage Antonidas.

The Masked Ball

The Masked Ball Menu Screen via Hearthstone Wiki

The last Tavern Brawl was called The Masked Ball. The description reads: “At the SI:7 mansion in Stormwind they have a grand masked ball every year. Everyone is in disguise! When a minion dies, its disguise is revealed, showing the minion to actually be a different random minion that costs two mana less and ready for another fight!” When I first read this, I was confused. I was given the chance to create my deck. I chose to create a crappy Druid deck with whatever cards I had.

Note: I am missing tons of cards within the game. I have not paid real-money for Hearthstone card packs, wings or challenges. Any cards I have are from gold earned in the game.

When my first match started, I was surprised to see that my one mana minions did not trigger a Deathrattle that spawns another minion that is two mana or less. After watching my opponent’s two mana minion die and saw a minion appear, I finally understood the fundamentals. I was still able to pull out a win against my opponent, but changed my deck to include more two mana minions.

My strategy and basic deck was nearly perfect. I was able to win four out of my five matches with this free-to-play deck. RNG and skill were on my side since my plan was to kill my opponent as fast as possible (much like an Aggro deck). I am very proud of my deck and posted it below:

Created on GOSU Gamers

Created on GOSU Gamers

What’s Next?

The New Expansion via Hearthstone Wiki

With the new addition of Tavern Brawl and new expansion just around the corner, I have dedicated more time towards Hearthstone. I am having fun instead of competing to be the best. I want to thank both Trump and Kripp for showing me how to have fun with Hearthstone while making smart decisions with my cards. I respect my cards and believe each one is valuable no matter their abilities.

I am continuously earning gold and saving up for the new expansion that will add more meta to the game than ever before. My goal is to have fun and play casually in my spare time.

Guinness World Record Time via Kotaku

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Early Impressions: The Destiny Beta

The Destiny Beta by Destiny Wikia

Since its release for the Xbox One, I have played the new Destiny Beta at every opportunity because I am still unsure if it is worth buying. You would think that after Bungie created one of my favorite video game series of all time, Halo, that I would trust their creativity and upcoming video games, but that is not the case with Destiny. After over eight hours of playtime, I still harbor some doubts. I wanted to share my positive and negative opinions about Destiny. Again, this is only the beta.

Destiny functions like an Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) video game and gives nods to some of the great games that have come before it. Bungie can deny this all they want, but I intend to present evidence to prove this otherwise. Destiny is being compared to other video games, but that is not necessarily troublesome. Before I start, you need to know a little background about the Destiny beta. There are currently two places where you can explore: the Tower and Earth. The Tower is a wonderful “one-stop-shop” for all your needs, while all of your missions play out on Earth. Additionally, there was a special event that included one more mission available on the Moon for two hours on July 26 which added more gameplay.

Halo Easter Egg by Halo Wikia

The Halo Feeling

This game looks and acts like the Halo franchise that put Bungie on the map. The aesthetics are incredible. I love the environments and character visualizations. I do wish that we were able to see our face without a helmet when we travel to Earth, but that is not my primary concern. The problem is that I view Destiny as Halo, and I do not think I am supposed to do that. There are too many similarities that make it hard to differentiate the two. On one hand, Destiny has the potential to become as successful as the Halo franchise, but, in my opinion, this could be far out of its “Reach” (Halo pun intended). I understand that Bungie has said that this game is not Halo, but the striking resemblances imply otherwise. While playing the beta, I noticed one weapon that reminds me of Halo: the shotgun. (Not that it is a bad thing, since the shotgun in Halo was brilliant.)

Call of Duty and Borderlands Livelihood

Like it or not, Destiny gameplay reminds me of Call of Duty, while the exploration, loot and weaponry remind me of Borderlands. First, take a look at this clip that I captured from the beta:

See anything similar to Call of Duty? If I wanted to, I could literally play this game like the Call of Duty franchise where I aim down my sights too often, wait for enemies to appear and either hold down the trigger or shoot in bursts. Call of Duty did not invent this type of gameplay, but with the weapon sights in Destiny, it reminds me a lot like Call of Duty. Hopefully, this will not be the only way I play since the powers in Destiny are pretty great.

For my next clip, watch how easy it is to pick off some of these enemies:

This is me nitpicking, but it does still bother me. I remember when I played Borderlands and pulled off easy kills like this. It was not a major problem, but it did get boring after awhile. I could say the same thing about Halo, but that game was not based on the characters level. Destiny and Borderlands have the same mechanics that end up being mundane after hours of playing. In all honesty, Destiny is what I wanted Borderlands to become, but that did not happen. Instead of considering Destiny at face value, I feel the need to compare the two, which could make it difficult for me to purchase this game.

Loot, Loot and More Loot

The loot in Destiny reminds me of Borderlands, but instead, I would rather compare it to the Diablo franchise. I love loot. It is addicting and fun. When I was exploring in Destiny for fun and finding chests, I was fascinated. I never knew what I would find. Because this is the beta, most of the players are still a low level, so most of the weapons, armor and loot were unusable, but it was still fun. I like how the game will have normal, uncommon and rare items. Also, I had to identify some loot at the Tower before the stats for the loot were revealed to me, like how it is in Diablo, which makes the loot even more of a mystery. One thing that was upsetting about the Destiny beta was the fact I cannot trade loot with another player, but I read online they are working on making this a possibility.

A Loot Chest in Destiny by IGN

More Optimism

I absolutely love the Hover Bikes. Here is a clip of me driving one around “Earth”:

It is fast and very easy to control. Plus, I hated all the running I had to do in Borderlands. Once the “Moon” was open on the Destiny beta, I was able to try out the other Hover Bike that had weaponry. I really hope there are more types of bikes because it is really fun and useful to move around so easily. The Tower is another great area. Instead of doing everything in menus, I had a place where I set up shop to purchase new items and ships, identify loot, dye my armor, and more. It takes a little getting used to, but overall, I like this. Another thing I am excited about is some of the weapons. For instance, the Semi-Auto Rifle feels great and shoots incredibly well from a long distances, but my favorite weapon is the Fusion gun. This thing packs a punch and can disintegrate enemies. The first time I used it, I was amazed. Here is a clip of me using the Fusion gun:

Negativity for Nancy

This is not deal breaker, but I felt like the character customization was lacking. Compared to the insanely detailed customization available in Wildstar, I realize how limited I was when creating my Warlock in Destiny. I made a pretty cool cat (he looks just like Cable from the comics), but I wish I could have done more. Another troubling aspect of the Destiny beta was the incredibly slow loading time between missions and going to the Tower. Load times need to be fixed by launch. I am sure they will not be as long as they were in the beta, but really, waiting for a level to load usually took a few minutes which threw off the pacing. The troubles do not end here…

Character Customization in the Destiny beta by She Attack

Questing like World of Warcraft

One scary thought came to my mind: Destiny is just like World of Warcraft. The questing upon questing could easily overshadow any interest I have in my other games, which does not make this game very appealing to me. I am not a fan of MMOs and never have been keen on the endless questing. If I was to buy this game, I would lose interest quickly like I did with World of Warcraft. However, if MMOs are your favorite style of game, then the Destiny beta might be right for you.

Call Me Guardian

My biggest issue with this game is being a nobody in the wide world of Destiny. I was called a “Guardian.” Everyone in the entire game is called a “Guardian.” I want a name. At least in Halo, I was called Chief or Master Chief which made me feel like someone important. In Destiny, I feel so disconnected from my character that there is nothing to distinguish me from any of the other players. One of the best parts about playing an MMO is being an individual with a real connection to the character, and Non-Playing Characters (NPCs) call players by their screen name. I would be happy even if they made me choose from a list of names, but I feel like “Guardian” is just a title and my character is just a character. I have no attachment like I did in other games similar to Destiny.

My Warlock from Destiny Beta

My Warlock from Destiny Beta

Conclusions

I believe this game will be a big deal when it releases, but it may not be right for me. It has lots of positives, but I am still on the fence. There are some great things that this game hits, however it misses opportunities for me. I will say this, if you set up attacks, they make for some really amazing scenes and excellent gameplay. I will leave you with one more clip that made me really want to buy this game. When you get into firefights like the one I show below, the game feels refreshing and fun. Bungie is creating a Destiny that I might want to be a part of.