Hearthstone for the iPhone

hearthstone-iphone

Hearthstone released for the iPhone just a couple of days ago, and I’ve already clocked 5+ hours…. all of which may or may not have been during the work day. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not great at Hearthstone. It’s not the deepest or most difficult to understand or even master card game out there, and like all card games you are only as good as the cards in your deck. Since I haven’t been into the idea of playing a lot of Hearthstone on my PC, as I’d rather play on the go, I’ve held off playing and thus haven’t earned cards. So take this review for what it’s worth — not that of a Hearthstone master, but rather an iPhone 6 Plus gaming enthusiast and still a fan of the game.

Hearthstone on my iPhone 6 Plus runs well enough. I have moment of slow-down, and loading times aren’t fantastic. These feel like something that I bet will be patched within a couple of weeks. This delay and often finicky nature of the touch controls has lead to more than one mistaken selection or card placement resulting in my utter defeat. The image above is actually of a match I was playing today. I mistakenly healed myself because the touch control let go when I was dragging it to my minion.

Blizzard’s implemented of the game on the iPhone does, overall, work. A few extra steps like having to click on my hand to bring it up, and touching to hold cards to see what they do adds to the time it takes me to execute my turn, but over time as I learn cards these will be less of an issue. The extra steps are a little annoying, but at the same time I’m willing to put up with them having Hearthstone in my pocket where I go.

What I love most about this whole thing is how integrated the Battle.net experience is, and the fact that I am playing on my phone with people on their computers, tablets, or phones. I have full access to my friends list and can chat, see what everyone is up to, and whatever I do on my iPhone is completely linked to my exact same Hearthstone account anywhere else. Wonderful integration that has, thus far, worked flawlessly.

Yeah, Hearthstone isn’t perfect. As a card game you can rip it apart. It’s pay-to-win, governed by incredible meta game, luck., etc… but it’s hard to beat free, and it’s hard to beat having it on my iPhone. The pay-to-win aspects are no different than the hundreds I’ve spent on MTG cards. I’m just trying to convince myself that a digital version is essentially the same thing when my brain is telling me it’s not. Bottom line, I have to spend money on cards for Hearthstone to realize its full potential.

WildStar’s Next Stop: F2P

Sitting back and watching WildStar's future unfold

If the rumors are true about box recalls, WildStar might be going free-to-play. Having predicated WildStar would be free to play months ago, this change should come as a shock to no one, myself least of all.

Unfortunately, ignorance leads down the path to the dark side F2P. It’s not a subscription keeping players away from WildStar — it’s the one-dimensional content and gameplay. The developers had a myopic vision of what they thought people wanted, and ignored the blatantly obvious signs all around them that such a plan would fail. Playing WildStar simply isn’t fun, and no price can change that.

The relatively small group of players still enjoying WildStar are doing so on a subscription (or CREDD?). Reading the official forums and outlets where real players actually speak out, they don’t want the game to go F2P either. They’ll end up having to pay more for less if it does.

What NCSoft should do is push the game into a B2P model. Going F2P is just as foolish as developing a “hardcore” themepark game. If they go B2P with an optional subscription for added perks (maybe like a DLC season pass, still capable of being funded with CREDD) and actually put PvP and PvE where they should be at, then WildStar can most likely still chug along. All of that is a pipe dream though. Realistically, the community and interest have shrunk so badly that NCSoft is likely to align the China release with a F2P announcement in the West for their quarterly report. They’ll do the F2P conversion, ride it for a year or two at most, then close it down.

[Update: See comments below for a semi-official lead on what might be the direction WildStar is going (B2P).]

ESO: Tamriel Unlimited with Character Copy

eso-character-copy

Last week Graev and I received emails from the ESO team offering us a promotional package to essentially take our characters from the PC version of ESO and move them to the upcoming console version. Included in this promotional offering was a copy of the game for the console of our choice (PS4/Xbox One).

Graev and I were already planning to revisit the now buy-to-play (B2P) ESO. We enjoyed ourselves a fair bit back when we played for a month of so after launch. ESO PvE wasn’t terrible — pretty fun, actually. The PVP sorta sucked, though.

The console version, being a full price game, isn’t worth it. Getting the game for $20 and being able to play it how it was originally meant to be played (with a controller) while sitting on the couch? Yeah, I’ll take it. The characters transfer doesn’t even appeal to me since neither Graev nor I care to pick up where we left off. We’re rolling a different faction, different characters, etc.

We’re going to play the PS4 version. I think the consoles and PC are separate servers, but I’m not sure if the PS4 and Xbox One are separated or play together. Should be a bit of fun.

Nintendo’s Splatoon Won’t Have Voice Chat

Splatoon

Splatoon, Nintendo’s newest and first real entry into the shooter market, will not have integrated voice chat. While some people, like this author at Kotaku, find the decision shortsighted and wrong, I think it’s absolutely the way to go.

Voice chat in online games is toxic. It’s full of belittlement, vulgarity, and trash talking. While I agree that voice chat contributes to cooperative play, and can be fun and in many ways a great tool, it’s not necessary — especially in a game like Splatoon where the goal is to cover a map in ink and introduce people to a competitive yet docile ‘shooter-esque’ game.

Serious competitors, should there be any in Splatoon (I’m goin’ all out, personally) can find other means of communicating. Skype and other voice chat options are prevalent, and even our phones these days have wifi enabled voice apps. There are ways to work around the lack of integrated chat.

A few ideas that might help to improve the experience would be if Nintendo allowed friends who have friended each other to communicate with voice. Another option is for Nintendo to integrate voice chat into the Wii U itself so that we can communicate via an app running behind the scenes. Players needn’t be forced to disable it or be exposed to that kind of unnecessary stuff in any game.

I applaud Nintendo for doing things their way. They know their brand and what they want.

LEGO Dimensions – Skylanders & Disney Infinity Meet LEGO

Yep, this happened.

It was only a matter of time before one of the most expensive games mashed with one of the most expensive toys to create the most expensive thing EVER.

The reveal trailer actually doesn’t do a great job of explaining what the game is all about. Here’s the official press release copy, then we’ll dive into some real info for the parents who will be crying come Christmas time, and the man-children ::raises his hand:: who can’t afford it.

For the first time in any LEGO videogame, characters from iconic entertainment franchises join forces and battle in worlds outside of their own. In addition to the game, the LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack will include the LEGO Toy Pad, which allows players to transport special LEGO minifigures and other LEGO objects into the game, bricks to build the LEGO Gateway, three LEGO Minifigures, including LEGO BatmanTM from DC Comics, LEGO Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings and Wyldstyle from The LEGO Movie, plus the LEGO BatmobileTM.

How many ™ can one possibly fit into a game?!

Have you ever played Skylanders or Disney Infinity? You essentially take a toy/figure and place it onto a platform which utilizes some kind of microchip thingy in the toy to scan your figure into the video game. That little chip holds data about your character so that you can pick up where you left off and continue to progress that toy’s abilities and strength regardless of where you use that toy (your house, a friend’s etc.) The videos themselves are typically platformers where you’re trying to beat a level by accomplishing some task.

LEGO games have long been a huge success in the Keen and Graev household. We’ve played every one of them from Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Avengers, Lord of the Rings, Batman, and LEGO Undercover. We love them. Now, take those crazy bit-collecting platformers and mashup the bazillion properties together into a Skylanders/Disney Infinity game? Brilliant, and not even a stretch from where the current LEGO games are at if you think about swapping characters as a feature which is already built into every LEGO game.

The cost of LEGO Dimensions will single-handedly keep me out for some time. The only reason we’ve been able to keep up with Skylanders is due to Activision hooking us up all the time. So let’s take a look at what we can look forward to never being able to afford:

LEGO Dimensions Starter Kit

LEGO Dimensions Starter Kit

LEGO Dimensions Back to the Future Level Pack

Back to the Future Level Pack

Coming in at $99.99 for the STARTER SET you’ll get:

  • LEGO Dimensions videogame
  • LEGO Toy Pad
  • LEGO Gateway building bricks
  • 3 LEGO minifigures (Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle)
  • LEGO Batmobile vehicle

Additional purchases you’ll want need to make for characters, vehicles, gadgets, and content:

  • Level Packs – $29.99
  • Team Packs – $24.99
  • Fun Packs – $14.99

From the official press release:

A small sample of packs available in 2015 include the Back to the Future Level Pack with a LEGO Marty McFly minifigure, a LEGO Ninjago Team Pack with Kai and Cole minifigures, three Ninjago Fun Packs with Jay, Nya and Zane minifigures, two DC Comics Fun Packs with Wonder Woman and Cyborg minifigures, three The Lord of the Rings Fun Packs with LEGO Gollum, LEGO Gimli and LEGO Legolas minifigures, four The LEGO Movie Fun packs with Emmet, Bad Cop, Benny and Unikitty characters, and a The Wizard of Oz Fun Pack with a LEGO Wicked Witch of the West minifigure. Additional packs to round out the 2015 assortment will be announced in the months leading to launch. Further waves of expansion packs will be released regularly following the launch of the game and into 2016.

Have you been keeping score? If you want all of the LEGO Dimensions content and characters announced in the first wave it will cost you roughly $350 before taxes give or take $50 for Team Pack/Fun pack mixing and matching.

LEGO Dimensions will undoubtedly be a blast. I think I know what’s going on my Christmas list this year.