If you’re one of the unlucky few who haven’t played a MOBA, the genre can be intimidatingly obtuse to break into. First person shooters feel easy: here is a gun, here is a bad guy. Shoot the bad guy. But MOBAs like DOTA 2 and League of Legends draw from a vast well of nuance and depth that doesn’t exactly contribute to a game that you can just hop into and figure it out as you go along. Enter Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s bid to carve out a space in the crowded genre by appealing to people exactly in your position. It’s a game that embodies the principle of easy to learn, hard to master.
But as intuitive and easy to pick up as Blizzard would lead you to believe that Heroes of the Storm is, you’re eventually going to hit a wall in your understanding and mastery of the game. That moment can be frustrating, as you begin to feel like you’re doing nothing but spinning your tires in an attempt to climb to the next level.
Each person will be on their own journey, but if you’re just starting out or even quite adept at playing, I’ve rounded up some suggestions on how to take your skill to the next level. These ideas are designed to be flexible rather than technical; focusing on you as a player, rather than the heroes you play as. You might not incorporate all of them into your game, but you’ll certainly see an improvement by using any of them over time.
Begin To Question Every Habit
Mastering Heroes of the Storm can be divided into two categories: technical understanding of the game’s myriad of mechanics and systems, heroes and abilities, and the intuitive understanding of how you engage with each element. The best players in any video game are self-aware, constantly questioning and challenging every one of their decisions they make during the course of the game. You might not want to reach the level of mastery that these players sit at, but who doesn’t want to get better at a game they love?
The trick here is simple: keep your brain engaged during all times of the game and ask questions. Heroes of the Storm, like most video games, lulls you with its slow crawl into familiarity. As you play more and more, you begin to form subconscious habits that will guide you through later rounds. Eventually, without any sort of intervention, you’ll begin to play the game on autopilot, never challenging the status quo of your own formula for how you approach each session.
Getting rid of this complacency is your first objective. It means experimenting, hypothesizing, and observing as much as you can during the course of the game. Question every decision you make and try to understand why you feel inclined to choose one answer over the other. If you find you’re always headed for bottom lane on a certain map, find out why. Is it because you just habitually like bottom? Do you feel more comfortable scouting north than you do south?
Finding the answers to these questions and challenging your habits by forcing yourself to play the game in different ways will always keep you from stagnating. One of the worst things you can do in Heroes of the Storm is allow your engagement with it to become habitual—at least until you begin to understand what good habits are.
Watch your Replays
Depending on your level of involvement, this one might be optional. I get that, after a long day of work, the worst thing in the world would be sitting at your computer and not playing a game. Nobody wants to analyze themselves when they’d rather be playing. But, if you’re serious about stepping up, taking a look at your previous work can provide a new sense of clarity.
When you’re not in the moment, each decision you made will become startlingly obvious. Your mistakes will stand out to you in glaring contrast, making them much easier to rectify than trying to make the same analysis in the heat of battle.
The other massive benefit of watching your own replays is the ability to understand the game as a whole. One of the unique aspects of MOBAs is that they are as much about winning in the moment as they are about winning in the greater scope of the game. Understanding why a team-fight was won or lost can be somewhat easy to identify during the round, but sometimes you need to trace the layers of causality before you understand why your team lost the whole match. Doing this allows you to understand consequences both immediate and cascading.
Watching your replays is beneficial because it allows you to understand Heroes on a much larger scale. You’ll begin to grasp how the opening moments of a fight can influence the end of a match, while also gaining insight afforded by watching yourself play without the immediate emotional investment you experience as you play.
Wait, homework? Yes. If you’re brand new to Heroes of the Storm, one of the best things you can do is read a guide. I know, I know, you’d just rather play the game, but that attitude flies in the face of what this genre is all about. You wouldn’t just sit down to a game of chess and expect to pick it up as you go; you take the time to learn what the pieces are and understand how the game is played.
Fortunately, unlike DOTA 2 or League of Legends, Heroes is a wonderfully intuitive game to understand early on. Jump onto a website like Heroesfire.com while you’re queuing up or waiting for a friend. Pick a hero, find their top rated guide, and quickly breeze through it. Doing so will give you a basic understanding of what a hero is capable of, how to utilize them appropriately, and will likely help you understand latent abilities you didn’t realize you had. Knowing which hero can capture a camp and which one can’t before you’re halfway into an attempt will save you—and your team—a lot of heart break.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to start deviating from them to build your own personal tastes. Look at the talent selections you’ve been making at each level, and try to make an informed decision based on how the round is going. Guides can be fairly comprehensive, but learning when to put them down and make your own decision will make you a more independent, and therefore stronger, player.
Watch the Pros
Ugh, more homework? Yes—but this one is actually way more enjoyable. More often than not, if you read a guide about a certain hero, you will find that the guide was written by a pro player. Watching these people play the game is another great way to give yourself an edge in the game. Seeing a higher level of play is always a sobering experience, because the drastic ocean of difference between your skill and theirs is never more apparent. But fret not, because before long you will begin to understand their methods to madness and learn from them.
The other reason watching professional level games can be beneficial is because it immerses you in the culture of the game, and the commentary will (assuming it’s good) help parse what is happening on screen so that you can begin to understand it and employ it in your own sessions..
These are people who have dedicated a significant portion of their lives to playing this game, so, more often than not, they are also the ones on the bleeding edge of new ideas, meta, and strategy. You don’t need to emulate what they’re doing exactly, but incorporating another players strengths into your own will always make you a better player.
Stop Playing Public Games
Not entirely, mind you, but if all you’re doing is logging in, pumping in a few public matches, and then bailing for the evening, you’re missing out on the true potential of Heroes. Of course, putting in the effort to get a decent team together can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a lot of friends to play with. But if you’re truly serious about stepping up, you need to play with people who will challenge you, critique you, and, most of all, actually play as a team.
Public matches are the cotton candy of Heroes of the Storm, and trying to live off of it alone will eventually burn you out. Find some friends, join a community (Reddit’s own Heroes of the Storm subreddit could be a good place to start) and get involved with the other players on a deeper level. Your understanding of the game will improve just as much as your ability to play it well.
The funny thing is, while this list is geared towards Heroes of the Storm, you can probably salvage a lot of this advice and put it to use in any competitive game. That said, not everyone is looking to become the best, sometimes you just want a fun way to distract yourself for an evening. Heroes of the Storm can certainly do that for you, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a total departure from the game of skill that most MOBAs are.
Knowing what to do and where to be at the right time is important, and, despite what you might think, not that hard to figure out. Taking the time to incorporate only a few of these ideas into your schedule, even an hour a week, will slowly begin to help you grow and evolve as a player, which will only make you enjoy the game all the more.Related: Column, Heroes of the Storm, Listed, MOBA