First Impressions: Heroes of the Storm(Closed Beta)
With Multiplayer Online Battle Arena or MOBA games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, Heroes of Newarth, Smite and so on filling the market and attracting gamers with their fast paced action, free to play system and challenging game play.
Originally the MOBA begin with DOTA, which was a mod off of Warcraft 3 that grew in massive popularity over time. For any gamers out there who have never played a MOBA, it features ten players typically that are split into teams of five. Each hero has unique abilities, roles and various options to help increase certain stats in the battle. Riot Games later capitalized on the success of DOTA by releasing League of Legends in October 27 of 2009. Since it’s launch the game has exploded with players. Every year the world tournaments grew in audience as well as stadium size. Many of their community came from World of Warcraft players discontent with the expansion at the time, Cataclysm. Finding forty minute matches, unique champions and the incredible range of item combinations refreshing from the huge time investment that WoW required from it’s players. To this day it remains one of the most popular games to play and also watch on various streaming websites such as Twitch.tv.
It was not long before Blizzard Entertainment entered the genre with a game of their own. This game is Heroes of the Storm.
Whether you love Blizzard Entertainment or loathe them, we can all agree that that this titan of a company has the resources and experience in game design to create a game of worth. As images and videos released to the public on gameplay and features it seemed to be a mix of league of legends mixed with various Blizzard lore. However, over time they’ve made changes to the overall design that has now thrown Heroes of the Storm in a sub genre of it’s own. I will remind you that at the time of writing this article, the game is still in closed beta and even more changes may occur before it’s launch.
With 30 heroes currently available, each one feels unique with it’s own seven tiers of talents and four original abilities while still filling one of the three main roles: Support, Tank and Damage. Although this is standard in the MOBA world, some games like Dota 2 have much more loose characters that can be somewhat hard to pin down.
The characters are diverse and all from Blizzard lore and will even speak to another character that had a major influence in their backstory. These small details always draw me in and being a huge WoW geek, I loved it even more. Seeing Diablo fight off against Thrall is quite the sight especially when a siege tank and a paladin come in to support their allies. It’s a great change from the strict fantasy based settings we’ve seen.
When I first heard that Heroes of the Storm was going to be item less, I worried quite a bit. Mainly because the fun of other Mobas is being able to change your champion into a weapon of your choice. Granted the meta demands you to buy a specific set of items in a certain order, however if you wanted to have some fun and turn that weak support champion into a death machine, you could by buying the correct items! Having those options removed seemed like a step in the wrong direction.
After playing the game for multiple matches, I quickly found that this was not such a bad change after all. They’ve replaced the items with seven tiers of talents and four choices in each tier. Within the tiers are options for being able to enhance your offensive, defensive or utility abilities. Allowing you to still turn that support hero into a death machine in it’s own right. However, the great side of this is that no longer will you have team mates who become lack luster due to not buying the correct items. Instead, they are forced to choose talents that help their character in battle guaranteed. Which leads me into my next topic…
Heroes of the Storm is so much easier to learn than it’s competitors such as League of Legends and Dota 2. With the talent trees offering great options, the ability to mount up allows new players to explore the map and join in on team fights or escape with ease. Levels are shared among teams, making it a bit more difficult to snowball matches. even a player with little knowledge of the game will be able to contribute to the battle instead of falling behind in levels and gold, essentially turning into a sack of gold with legs.
The game also forces players to play with a hero multiple times before unlocking every possible talent option so they become familiar with the champion.
The game design is set up to be like world of warcraft, keeping things cartoonish while still being somewhat realistic. They spared no expense on the beauty and detail as everything from the farmers and animal NPCs are always moving around and doing one thing or another. the skins for the heroes are also wonderful, offering original concepts and even twist of fate skins such as Shan’Do Illidan.
Personally I think it rivals League of Legends in looks and beats Dota 2 by a long shot.
The actual gameplay of Heroes of the Storm is addictive, fast and fun. The standard League or Dota 2 match is around 30-40minutes long. In HotS, matches run anywhere from 20-30 minutes, which is a good change due to being able to get in and out of bad matches so much faster. Any Moba player will tell you horror stories of matches lasting an hour long only to lose.
The maps of HotS are more objective based than the regular push lanes and destroy the base. I actually find this enjoyable as well because it adds even more ways to win the match. As far as strategy goes, the objectives have the ability to give you the advantage against a team that you were previously losing against, or they can distract the enemy team long enough to allow for your team to back door to win the game.
This is another huge difference, the towers feel so much weaker than other Mobas. Even at level one you can survive multiple hits and, if you don’t have much resistance, even destroy a tower and gate before the enemy team wisens up.
The only bad side about the game is that it still feels a bit awkward. I can’t quite put my finger on it but something just feels off. Matches that my team should have lost quickly changed by a simple tower rush. I would attempt to stick to my lane and get punished for not wandering the map, support champs feel so much more like combat first, medic second. These changes might be what makes HotS addictive because everyone can participate in battle and you never know who is going to win due to the tide turning so frequently and so very fast.
Overall, I am actually very impressed with the direction Heroes of the Storm is going in. I now find myself playing it more so than any other Moba. Whether this is because the game is fresh and new or if it is legitimately fun and addictive, I’ll have to see over time.
For now however, it’s wicked fun!