This weekend at BlizzCon, Blizzard revealed four new heroes, a new battleground, and a new game mode for Heroes of the Storm. At the convention, three of the new heroes and all the other content was available for us to get our hands on and test out before the official release. In conjunction with the upcoming matchmaking and balance changes it seems like Blizzard is really listening to what the Heroes of the Storm community wants and is finding new ways to make the game fun for everyone.
The Monsterous Cho’gall
No MOBA has ever seen anything like Cho’Gall. Two players controlling a single hero sounds ridiculous, if not impossible, but the Heroes of the Storm developers found a way to pull it off. Although pairing two completely random players together might not work out so well, friends and teammates will quickly get the hang of Cho’Gall and be able to dish out the punishment.
The biggest downfall of Cho’Gall is that he essentially creates a 4vs5 scenario and this limits the rest of a team’s composition. After picking up the two-headed ogre, a team probably doesn’t want to grab Abathur and Murky because the next 3 picks are going to be very important and creating enough lane presence could become a problem. However, this could also be a time for The Lost Vikings to shine, after falling out of the limelight due to multiple nerfs.
In order for Cho’Gall to be viable he has to be at least as powerful as two separate heroes. Overall, his skillset is pretty basic, but it can deal a punishing amount of damage while Cho’Gall has an enormous health pool. The player who controls Cho is responsible for auto-attacks and movement, while Gall is along for the ride and acts as a ranged assassin who doesn’t require mana. Each head also gets three basic abilities and the choice of an ultimate. Furthermore, most of the skills and talents compliment the other head, which can lead to a significant increase in damage and survivability if coordinated properly.
For example, Cho’s Rune Bomb can be detonated by Gall to do significant area-of-effect damage. While Cho is responsible for mounting up, Gall can make the duo sprint for a few seconds similar to The Lost Vikings’ Go Go Go! ability. For talents, Gall has an option at level 7 that increases his Shadowflame damage against target’s inflicted by Cho’s Consuming Flame. The heroic abilities for both heroes are quite powerful. Cho can increase his passive damage and periodically stun enemies or he can suck enemies towards him while slowing and dealing damage. Gall, on the other hand, can launch a barrage of Shadow Bolts or he can slow nearby enemies with Twisting Nether and then detonate it to do massive damage.
Instead of simply adding another hero to the shop, Blizzard has decided to create an entire event around Cho’Gall. Players who attended BlizzCon will receive a code for him and can then spread Cho’Gall to all their friends while earning bonus gold. This new take on hero design is a great way to shake things up a bit and gives everyone the chance to earn him in a really fun way.
Greymane and Lunara
Continuing with the Warcraft theme, the next two heroes unveiled were Greymane and Lunara. While Greymane was taken directly from Warcraft lore, Lunara was simply a Dryad unit that they decided to create a hero for (in similar fashion to Sergeant Hammer). Both Lunara and Greymane start out as ranged assassins, but the latter is the first Heroes of the Storm character that can shapeshift and gain an entirely new set of abilities. After spending a couple of games with each, Lunara definitely seems like the stronger of the two.
Initially, I expected Greymane to be slightly overpowered because units with multiple forms tend to be on the stronger side in MOBAs. Unfortunately, his two forms share the same cooldown timers, which definitely reduces his utility. His ranged form is solid at poking and providing consistent damage, but his kit doesn’t offer much utility and he becomes incredibly vulnerable in Worgen form. If Heroes of the Storm was more laning focused and less reliant on team fights he could be a good solo-laner, but his ranged form simply isn’t on par with other ranged assassins and his Worgen form has almost no maneuverability.
His heroics are kind of interesting, but really lack the bite they need. Marked for the Kill provides 5 seconds of vulnerability and allows Greymane to jump to the target, while Go For the Throat sends Greymane slashing at the target for good damage and it can be cast again if it gets the kill. Neither of these abilities bring anything new to the table and both put Greymane in a vulnerable position if used to their full effectiveness. There’s definitely still time to tweak him before launch, but in his current state he simply felt awkward to play.
On the other hand, Lunara feels like a top tier ranged assassin. Her burst damage is definitely lacking, but the more she attacks and lands abilities on enemies the more poison she adds. Her auto attacks, heroic abilities, and Noxious Blossom ability add up to 9 seconds of poison. Her second ability, Crippling Spores, further increases the duration of poison on all targets and slows them.
A good Lunara will be able to spread poison to the entire enemy team and cause substantial damage over long team fights. She’ll need a strong front line to pull this off, but there are only a handful of healers that can deal with her damage. Kharazim and Brightwing will probably be hard counters to her insane amounts of poison damage, but single target healers will have a tough time keeping their teammates alive.
In addition to having a kit focused on toxins, Lunara also has access to a very unique ability: Wisp. Every 45 seconds she can summon a wisp to scout the battlefield wherever she wants. It lasts until killed, or 45 seconds are up, but her level 4 talents provide an array of upgrades ranging from a shorter cooldown to splitting into multiple Wisps. Vision is key in Heroes of the Storm and being able to scout the entire map without putting your team in a vulnerable position is invaluable.
Both of Lunara’s heroic abilities seem viable and offer a different approach to her play style. Thornwood Vine holds 3 charges that will damage and poison all enemies in a line, which is great for poking enemies and building poison stacks in a sniper-style build. Leaping Strike jumps over an enemy while poisoning and slowing them and can be upgraded to target allies as well. This would allow Lunara to easily reposition in team fights, allowing her to make much riskier plays. Her biggest downfalls are a lack of escape mechanism and any real burst damage, but it’s likely she’ll do amazing things with the right team behind her.
Doom and Gloom
For the first time ever, Blizzard has introduced a battleground that doesn’t allow either team to directly attack the enemy’s Core. In Towers of Doom there are still 3 lanes to push, but capturing objectives causes direct damage to the Core and the more forts controlled, the more damage caused. Also, instead of a standard health bar, each Core can take a set number of shots before it’s destroyed.
Although it’s nice to see something completely different, the map feels really awkward to play on. First, it doesn’t seem that rewarding to take the enemy’s forts. They’re almost directly next to the enemy’s base, which is heavily defended by invincible cannons, so they’re not hard to reclaim and they only provide a small boost to damage from the objectives. Instead, it’s much more efficient to focus on winning objectives and killing the neutral boss, which also does direct damage to the enemy’s core.
The inability to directly attack enemy Keeps or the Core also deters a lot of unique play styles. Split pushing combinations like Murky and Abathur, or Stage Dive E.T.C., will definitely not have a place on Towers of Doom and the entire focus is going to be on winning team fights. Players can deny damage by taking enemy forts, but it’s nearly impossible to hold every fort on the map unless you’re already completely dominating the game. The entire battleground just feels constricted and limiting in options. This will likely make it an uncommon choice among competitive players unless they develop a very specific strategy around it that would throw off opponents.
While Towers of Doom leaves a bit to be desired, the new Arena game mode for Heroes of the Storm is a blast. The game mode condenses an existing map into a very small stage with only a handful of objectives in very close proximity. I ended up landing on Sky Temple, which had one shrine in the middle that was always active and a few others that randomly unlocked on top.
What makes Arena so interesting is that every player gets a choice of 3 random hero selections, which can lead to really crazy stuff. I saw multiple murky players on the same team, four Sergeant Hammers in a match, and all kinds of weird combinations. The whole atmosphere is very casual, but still focused on brutal PvP, which emphasizes the fun aspects of the game while minimizing pressure and toxic attitudes.
Overall, the upcoming content for Heroes of the Storm is sure to mix things up and give players a lot more content to enjoy. If nothing else, getting to see Cho’Gall carry his own mount is priceless.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Blizzcon, Column, Heroes of the Storm, MOBA, MOBA Monday