Blizzard must be doing something right. Over the years they have developed a number of properties that people are fond of, the biggest MMO out there, an RTS with a huge competitive scene and a dungeon crawler that has spawned many clones. Each with characters that are both loved and hated, and now you can see them all punch each other in the face with their foray into the MOBA scene with Heroes of the Storm. It makes a lot of sense that they would eventually turn to a MOBA after all DOTA originated as a mod in Warcraft III.
The idea behind Heroes of the Storm is the same as all the other big MOBAs out there. Two teams of five are pitted against each other in an arena, usually consisting of three lanes lined with turrets and other defenses. Minions spawn at each team’s base and walk down the lanes, attacking anything from the opposing team that they encounter. Players have to battle their way through their enemy and their defenses in order to reach their core. Destroying the enemy cores will win you the game.
Blizzard did a great job with the selection of heroes so far. Starcraft is represented by most if not all of the game’s big names and Warcraft by some of the favourites. They’ve already added one hero since launch and more are confirmed to come. The variation between heroes seems fairly good as well. I played as both Valla, the demon hunter from Diablo III, and Sylvanas, the faction leader of the undead in Warcraft. Both of them are archers but play differently enough that they feel very unique. I look forward to seeing their next addition.
During a match your team levels up as you kill minions, destroy structures and kill enemy heroes. Every few levels you a presented with a choice of talents. The talents let you customize your hero’s abilities. For example Malfurion, the leader of the druids in Warcraft, is a support hero who can pick talents that improves his healing or ones that improve his damage spells allowing him to take a more offensive roll. I like the diversity that it gives the heroes, it allows you to adapt to how the game is going. If you are losing you can take defensive talents and offensive ones if you’re winning.
Your heroes level up outside of matches as well. You gain experience from every match that you play and as the heroes level up you unlock more talents for the hero, alternate colour pallets and at the highest level a new “master” skin for the hero. It is a nice little way to reward someone for playing a favourite character or playing a lot of the game in general.
Right now the game has seven maps, with at least one more coming, each with its own objective. They range from picking up items off of minions in the lanes to summon giant monsters that help your team to guarding a temple that does big damage to the enemy structures so long as you are in control of it. While this is one of the things that sets Heroes of the Storm apart from other MOBAs it is also one of the things that I like the least about the game. Often the objectives will pop up early on in the game, the first five minutes or so, and the advantage that they give is so great that you need to try and get it before your enemy does. This usually forces team fights very early on and can set the tide of the game right away. Some of the rewards for the map objectives seem unbalanced as well; losing one can completely cripple a team. One in particular the Cursed Hollow map makes it so that your towers will not attack and that all your minions spawn at one health. This allows the team who accomplishes the objective to just run through their opponents defenses while the debuff is active.
Often in games when one team gets ahead they stay ahead. One good team fight can put a team ahead in experience, they get the better talents sooner making future team fights easier and it can just spiral from there. There are games that you can recover and catch up in levels but it isn’t easy and without an option to surrender a match you are forced to play out the end of the hopeless match. Balancing the game and the maps a little more will probably be a lot better but the game is still new and it might take a while before this.
One of the best things about Heroes of the Storm that you don’t see in other MOBA’s is a lack of chat between teams. You can chat with your allies but any cross team conversation is limited to a simple “GG” at the end of a match. Why is this a good thing? Well like most online competitive games there can be a lot of griefing between players in a MOBA. League of Legends is particularly well known for how toxic its players can be. In restricting cross team chat it cuts the number of people who might harass you in half. That isn’t to say your own team can’t be just as bad but at least it is something and it made me feel less intimidated when I was first getting into the game.
Players also are given daily quests in the games main hub, and are able to hold a maximum of three quests at a time. They tend to be simple tasks like win three matches or play three matches as a Diablo character. When you finish with them you are rewarded with gold, the in game currency that allows you to buy other heroes. It is a good way to motivate players to try out other heroes they might otherwise ignore. It works well for Blizzard too, encouraging people to play longer or to outright buy heroes to help them finish quests.
Graphically the game is nothing exciting. It is perfectly fine to look at, it is nice to see some of the characters up close and in decent quality and there is a lot of detail in the maps but it is nothing that would take your breath away. The music is alright as well. Each of the maps has different track to make them unique, but they don’t really stand out all that much. I had to play three matches purposefully trying to listen to the music to be able to say for sure that it is different on each map. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this type of game as you don’t want to be distracted by a sudden swell of the music when you should be paying attention to the team fight you are in.
The best part about sound is the small comments that the heroes make to one another. I often play as a support character so on a regular basis I hear comments from the heroes thanking me for restoring their health. They will comment on other things too, there are even comments that can be made by characters who know each other in the lore of their games. If Sylvanas, mentioned above, defeats Thrall, formerly her boss, she will comment bitterly on something that he did in the lore of the game. It is a nice little addition for fans.
When all is said and done, Heroes of the Storm seems like a pretty good game. It has balancing issues as of right now but it has become my go to when I feel the urge to play a MOBA. If you’re a fan of Blizzard’s games or are new to MOBAs I would definitely recommend it. If you’re not a fan and have another MOBA that you play then I don’t know if there is enough to sway you over.