Blizzard's multiplayer card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft's open beta is now live. You can now download and play the PC and Mac game for no charge.
"It’s been a crazy past few months for all of us on the Hearthstone team," Blizzard says. "We announced Hearthstone at PAX East back in March, began the Closed Beta Test in August, had a great Hearthstone event at BlizzCon with the Innkeeper’s Invitational along with our announcements for Android and iPhone support, and now we’re ready to unleash the awesomeness of Hearthstone to you with Open Beta!"
The open beta is restricted to North America at the moment. However, open testing should begin in other territories across the world in a matter of days.
Hearthstone allows players to collect cards featuring characters, abilities and items from Warcraft lore. They must then assemble decks based around one of nine characters from the franchise. Each character possesses different abilities. For example, Thrall can summon magical totems to assist in battle while Jaina wields elemental spells.
Players can face off in 1v1 ranked or unranked battles. Arena mode allows them to face off against other players with a randomized deck. The game also features a training mode where beginners can test their decks against bot opponents.
Anyone who didn't get into the closed beta can download the game now by heading to PlayHearthstone.com. Existing players will be unaffected by the transition to open beta. Their card collections won't be wiped now or at the game's official launch down the road.
As open beta is still a beta phase, we will be closely monitoring many aspects of the game to ensure a positive play experience for everyone. Please be aware that if smoke starts curling out of our servers due to unexpectedly high demand to play Hearthstone, we may have to temporarily disable open beta account activations for a time until we’re ready to take on more players.
I played Hearthstone a bunch during closed beta and came away impressed. The sale of booster packs and Arena passes for real-world money irked me a bit but I still had fun without spending money. You can read more of my thoughts in my preview.