It’s hard to find a Blizzard Entertainment game, from any era, that isn’t incredibly well-polished and unique in its own way. Now that Heroes of the Storm is in open beta, everyone has the opportunity to see if this latest MOBA lives up to all the hype. It’s definitely not the game for everyone, but it does bring about some interesting changes and adaptations to the genre. One of its biggest assets is how well players are going to connect to the characters when transitioning from StarCraft, Diablo, Warcraft or other Blizzard titles; there’s nothing quite like reading interesting lore about a character and then getting to play them on the battlefield. Furthermore, Heroes of the Storm brings an unprecedented amount of map variations and some of the best graphics a MOBA has ever seen.
One of the biggest problems new MOBAs have is that players don’t feel any sort of connection to the in-game characters. This isn’t an issue for many other genres because they can build new characters up through story progression, but MOBAs don’t have that luxury. Very few games in the genre actually try to tell a coherent story, only Strife comes to mind, and instead try to focus on good battle mechanics. However, if there’s already a connection before the game even comes out then players are more likely to continue to play characters they were previous interested in. I’ve personally been intrigued by Illidan since Warcraft 3 and found myself instantly drawn to his distinct, mobile character in Heroes of the Storm.
In addition to already having created a character bond with players, Blizzard has a great resource with which to add to the hero pool. Although properly building characters and testing them out will take some time, the amount of options they have to implement new heroes is in the hundreds. So while other games will be producing cookie-cutter characters, Heroes of the Storm is going to be pulling unique heroes from timeless lore. Moreover, Blizzard has already shown that they’re even willing to come up with new characters based on in-game units from their franchises such as Sergeant Hammer, the siege tank, even if many fans argue that it should have been Edmund Duke instead.
If you think you’re going to carry in Heroes of the Storm then you’re wrong; this isn’t Summoner’s Rift. With seven unique maps, Heroes of the Storm has almost more variety than every other major MOBA put together. Each of these battlegrounds has at least one major map-specific objective that requires precise teamwork to pull off. Some are more forgiving than others such as Blackheart’s Bay, which fires cannonballs at the enemy base when enough coins are turned in, while neglecting to collect tributes on Cursed Hallow can be devastating as it disables all enemy structures. Every map has multiple strategies and counter-strategies that create much more depth than a simple three-lane map with static objectives.
While most maps do still focus on three main lanes they’re not as static as they are in most other MOBAs. For example, in League of Legends there’s almost always one player in top lane, middle and jungle, and there are two players in the bottom lane. In Heroes of the Storm there can be a wide variety of compositions in every single battleground. There are even some unique instances where no heroes are technically in lanes because three or four members are constantly roaming in order to gank enemy heroes. Dragon Shire is an excellent map for utilizing a four-man gank squad between middle and bottom lanes. This large map variety promotes an excellent amount of diverse styles of gameplay.
STILL A BETA
Although Heroes of the Storm might look quite pretty, it still suffers from the occasional bug and sometimes they’re nearly game-breaking. In this last patch alone there was a major issue that gave Li Li an unexpected overpowered amount of healing, and she wasn’t even tweaked in the patch notes. Issues are to be expected in a beta, but with the official launch so close Blizzard should be more on top of problems. It’s not the initial issue that causes the most concern, but instead the fact that it took nearly a week to fix it when the problem arose immediately.
Speed has never been a top priority of Blizzard and that’s something that could have a negative impact on Heroes of the Storm overall. When it comes to game-impacting bugs, MOBAs tend to be much more sensitive than other genres because of the volatility of competitive play. Losing a decent amount of rating points is much more adverse than lagging out and dying to a monster in World of Warcraft. In fact, it more closely resembles losing a hardcore character in Diablo III, and character restorations are not something Blizzard tends to hand out lightly. Conversely, Riot has no problem shutting down, or restarting, League of Legends servers if something needs to be fixed. There have been multiple times where I’ve been online and ranked mode was simply shutoff due to a new bug or mechanic exploitation. Reacting quicker to problems is simply something Blizzard needs to do in order to succeed.
I started playing DOTA when it first came out for Warcraft III and the thing I hated most was grinding for gold. This was supposed to be a battle arena, but instead I was farming creeps for half an hour to prepare for a few deciding fights. These mainstream mechanics have overflowed into almost every other MOBA that’s been created, until now. Characters in Heroes of the Storm rely solely on experience, which is shared between all players, and gain traits as they progress instead of items. This puts more emphasis on the team as a whole, less on farming for the late game, and it encourages smaller skirmishes in order to deny enemies lane experience. This goes back to the diverse map objectives and how every player on the team needs to do their job in order to succeed and not rely on others to carry them.
Overall, Heroes of the Storm is shaping up to be an exciting new take on the MOBA genre by bringing back memorable characters and putting an emphasis on team-based objectives. It’s not going to be the game for everyone, but it’s one that every MOBA fan should at least try out. Now that it’s in open beta you don’t even have to take my word for it.Related: Beta, Blizzard Entertainment, Heroes of the Storm, Open Beta, Preview