Blizzard’s legendary collectible card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, originally restricted to Windows, OS X and tablets, recently launched on mobile phones (iOS and Android), owing to much celebrations of fans worldwide. Under normal circumstances, a good old game being ported on another device is decent news, but for Hearthstone, its a different story altogether. Since its launch date, Hearthstone has managed to garner a base of almost 30 million registered users, all within a span of less than a year.
Previously just an iOS exclusive (apart from Windows and OS X), Hearthstone was massively requested by Android users to port the game to their OS. Blizzard did launch the game for Android tablets, but it was still limited only to tablets and not phones. Thousands of fans requested in the Blizzard forums for a phone version, and the company finally budged by released the iPhone and Android versions of this massively played game. I use my desktop at home, my Macbook at work and my iPad when on the move to play Hearthstone (yes, I play a hell lot of it), now I also have it installed on my iPhone. Finally, I didn’t need to carry around my iPad, whose sole purpose, to be honest, was just to play Hearthstone. Is the trade-off convincing enough for me to ditch Hearthstone on my iPad and laptop completely? Lets find out.
Firing the game up, it was nice to see the initial introductory animation that I’ve been so used to seeing on my iPad and PC, played out smoothly on my iPhone 5S. What’s even nice is hearing the familiar “Warm yer frozen boots by the fire” phrase with the lively soundtrack. Speaking about the Hearthstone soundtrack, it is truly amazing, and is available as a free download on the official website.
The menu has slightly been adjusted for phone screen sizes, the functionality remains the same. So no harm done here. I still love thumping my index finger on the “Play” button on the iPad. On the iPhone, I “touch” it, just something worth mentioning for those interested. Everything is little on the phone screen.The layout of the heroes and and your custom decks has changed slightly too, again, only as an adjustment for small screen sizes. None of these are functional changes, everything works exactly like how it did on the tablet. Regular players will feel right at home on the mobile versions.
When you start an actual match is where the changes/adjustments will be most evident to you. The small screen size does hinder the experience for someone like me, who’s been used to playing on the larger screen since a while. On the iPad, the cards you hold in our hand are always visible to you. On the iPhone, they’re only slightly visible. To see them fully you have to tap it, which makes them increase their size. You then drag the card you want to play on the battlefield. If you drag a card straight from the minimised view of the deck, there is a chance that unknowingly you dragged the card right next to the one you were actually going to play. This is happened to me couple of times, and has been the reason for making me a handful of ranked games. After a couple of games though, I was well adjusted to the new look and was not making any unintended plays.
There is another slight inconvenience. When the cards in your hand are maximised, they block the view of your hero and your hero’s ability. So first you’ll have to minimise to see if you can play your ability. This calls for extra inputs from the user, not required in the tablet and desktop versions. I guess Blizzard couldn’t find a way to work around this, but then again, they are porting a game meant for larger screens to the mobile phone, a commendable effort in itself. The mana crystals you have for your turn is now displayed just as a number, unless you touch your cards for the proper empty/full mana crystal view.
Hearthstone on mobile phones: Gah those notifications
So now that we have the specific menu and layout changes out of the way, lets talk about the feasibility of playing Hearthstone on your mobile phone. Your mobile phone is, after all, the device you most frequently use to communicate. In between an intense ranked game and you receive a call from your mom/boss, there goes your match. Then, if your phone is a constant recipient of WhatsApp messages, Facebook notifications, Skype calls, Viber calls, phone calls etc., your Hearthstone experience just got all done for, my friend. This one time, I was in between a match and I got a call from a friend. I spoke for 30 seconds and checked back in, I was disconnected from the Hearthstone server. I had to reconnect and the game counted as a loss for me. Good luck in multitasking between apps too, the game disconnects if you don’t check in after a minute, and will make you wait to connect again. This really bugs me. True, even on the iPad you cannot stay away from the app for more than a minute, but I use my iPad majorly to play Hearthstone, so I’m not bothered by it. But the same symptoms won’t cut it for my phone. Sure, this is a case specific to me. Many players will be just fine with playing the game on their mobile phones. The game is perfect, the port is near perfect, it runs smoothly, but this is your mobile phone we’re talking about. You either block everything and play all the matches you want, or you let the onlookers bother you even if they don’t mean to.