Last week, staff writer Nick Shively wrote a Versus piece pitting League of Legends against genre newcomer Heroes of the Storm. It was a well-written piece; Nick made a lot of valid points—but I feel the debate could have gone either way. So this week, I’m re-opening the discussion. Here are my thoughts on League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm.
Character Selection – Heroes of the Storm
As Nick pointed out last week, diversity is a major selling point for MOBAs, and with over one hundred playable characters, League of Legends appears—at first glance—to blow Heroes of the Storm away by sheer numbers. Each character has a unique set of abilities and backstory, allowing for a wide range of playstyles. Supports, for example, can choose between tanky CC brawlers like Alistar or Thresh or thin-skinned healers like Sona or Janna. Heroes of the Storm, on the other hand, recycles a handful of nostalgic characters from existing Blizzard IPs—thirty-four, to be exact. But the game’s small champion pool isn’t necessarily a weak point. Only a couple dozen Champions from League’s daunting roster can be used in competitive play. From my (admittedly limited) experience with Heroes of the Storm, most of the Heroes feel solid. There are obviously certain match ups that should be avoided—Nazeebo versus Diablo, for example—but Heroes is much more forgiving than League, resulting in a much more diverse character selection meta.
Graphics – League of Legends
It is hard to compare graphics on these two games—they fill different purposes. Heroes of the Storm is a beautiful game, and it looks great on Ultra settings. It looks better than League of Legends, without a doubt. But League of Legends doesn’t aim to look good on just Ultra settings; it aims to look great on all settings, for all players. I can play League of Legends on almost any computer and consistently hit 60 fps.
This, in my opinion, is one of Riot’s greatest strengths. They make a product that almost anyone with an internet connection can play, and that product looks good on all devices. There is something thrilling about walking into an internet café and seeing everyone playing the same game. This is something no other game on the market can accomplish effectively. My HP laptop can barely run DotA 2, and SMITE never goes above 10 fps on Minimum settings.
When asked to compare a game that looks good on Ultra settings to a game that looks great on all settings, I feel compelled to choose the latter.
Competitive Scene – League of Legends
On this point, I agree with Nick. League of Legends is the biggest game on the Internet. At this point, it has become a household name. I no longer have to explain it to friends and co-workers–they play it. Even my fiancé—whose gaming knowledge consists almost exclusively of Zelda, FFVII, and Pokemon—loves to watch it. Date nights lately have consisted of Twitch streams, notebooks, spreadsheets, and red wine. Our fanaticism rivals that of a typical Red Sox fan. We take part in daily game superstitions, we talk trash, we cheer and chant during big plays, and we take losses personally. For us and many others, League has become a sport. The game boasts 27 million unique daily players, with even more consistent viewers. The 2014 League of Legends World Championship clocked 288 million viewers, a number that exceeds viewership numbers of both the NBA Finals and the MLB World Series.
Heroes of the Storm has yet to build a strong competitive scene, and I’m not sure if it will—not in the same way League of Legends has. But, again, this is not a bad thing. Heroes of the Storm is (and always has been) billed as a casual MOBA. Blizzard isn’t necessarily competing with Riot. Instead, they are aiming to build a light-hearted ‘jump-right-in’ MOBA that caters to everyone, not just a select group of dedicated gamers.
Gameplay – League of Legends
Heroes of the Storm is to League of Legends as Hearthstone is to Magic: the Gathering. Although Heroes and Hearthstone are streamlined versions of their hardcore counterparts, they are not boiled-down copy-cats, by any means. Both games feature an enormous amount of depth and strategy. Heroes focuses less on item builds and farming (there isn’t any) and more on teamwork and PvP. I love the objective system; the Garden Terror, particularly, is a great boss. All in all, Heroes is a fun, well-executed game. In an article for PC Gamer, Chris Thursden discusses why he thinks Heroes of the Storm works well. He writes,
Heroes of the Storm sets out to be entertainment, and it is entertaining in a way that an MMO is entertaining. You level up and get new stuff. You always have something tangible to work towards. You are encouraged to invest deep in a single character, a favourite, and worry about the others only if it suits you.
I agree with Chris, for the most part. Players become invested in their characters because they are compelled to level and improve them. But League of Legends does a much better job unlocking new characters. As Redditor /u/Ralathar44 points out, League of Legends‘ IP system is a much more efficient online currency, averaging 48% less grind to unlock new Champions.
And League‘s gameplay, from item and stat builds to Rune pages and Masteries, is much more fulfilling, in my opinion. I enjoy the early game grind. True, games are often decided within the first fifteen minutes of gameplay, but early game strategy is core to the game. As a Support, I enjoy the early zone meta game; I love pushing enemies out of lane for an early experience advantage.
If League of Legends is chess, Heroes of the Storm is checkers. Both are great. To be frank, it feels unfair to compare the games. Although both are MOBAs, they offer vastly different interpretations of the genre–from character selection and graphics to gameplay and meta game. And I thoroughly enjoy both.
(And for those keeping score, yes, I did omit map selection as a debate point. I had nothing to add to Nick’s argument.)
I call this debate a draw, despite the point spread. What do you think?
For more on League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, and MOBAs, stay tuned to MMOGames.com.Related: Beta, Column, Heroes of the Storm, League of Legends, MOBA, MOBA Monday, Versus