As, arguably, the forefather of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena or MOBA genre, it was only a matter of time before Blizzard got in on the action and released their game that capitalized on the genre’s popularity.
Released only June 2nd of this year, many speculated that Heroes of the Storm would be similar to Defense of the Ancients (DOTA), a mod that would later on be turned into a stand-alone game by Valve and re-released as Dota 2. Dota’s formula for success is undeniable, so much that many similar MOBAs are often referred to as Dota clones. So, who could blame Blizzard for jumping on the bandwagon? As someone who’s invested many years playing different MOBAs, mainly Dota 2 in particular, I came in half-expecting that Heroes of the Storm would be no different from the game that I’ve grown accustomed to.
Five hours and countless quick games later, I couldn’t have been so wrong.
Similar to games like League of Legends and Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm pits two teams of five with the goal of destroying the other team’s base. There are still defensive structures in each one and still, there are waves of non-hero units, referred to here as minions, helping teams push towards their opponent’s base. Heroes still their own unique set of abilities and they still pretty much move or feel the same way, but, that is where the similarities end. Each hero starts with three active abilities and one other passive one. As the hero’s team gains experience, they get additional points to help improve them.
By level 10, players get to choose an Ultimate unique only to their hero and at Level 20, they can choose to upgrade this Ultimate or pick a new one from other powerful abilities. There’s also the lack of inventory, gold, farming and individual experience, which was, admittedly, a bit new to someone like me. Though as I’d soon learn, it is these new gameplay mechanics that actually make the game so interesting. In place of such individualized stats is a system where teams gain experience as a whole based on their kills on opposing units.
Another new thing to me was the drastically different map system. Each map offers different secondary objectives and a third, if you count the mercenaries and altars. When accomplished, they help teams secure a strategic advantage over their opponents and assist them with their main goal of destroying the other team’s base. The different layout of the map and this new map system perfectly capitalizes on the altered gameplay mechanics.
In one map named “Cursed Hollow”, The Raven Lord of the forest demands that teams gather tributes that appear periodically in any one of the 6 spawn points and usually, in a different spawn point each time. If a team secures three, the enemies become cursed and their forts unable to attack, while all their minions are reduced to 1 health. The curse is a huge advantage for a team who manages to secure it, which is why teams playing in “Cursed Hollow” often scramble to secure and defend each Tribute that spawns.
With such an emphasis on frantic gameplay, you could see why many people say that Heroes of the Storm is a different take on the MOBA genre, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Different Isn’t Always a Bad Thing
Whereas opposing teams in Dota 2 or LoL spend much of the first 15 minutes of the game trying to “size each other up” and race to get the most farm as possible, Heroes of the Storm pit opposing teams and their heroes on the get-go. Perhaps, this is why Blizzard prefers their game to be referred to as a “Hero Brawler” because that’s exactly what happens. Add to that the different secondary objectives that each of the seven different maps feature and teams often find themselves scrambling every minute, trying desperately to gain the upper hand against their opponents.
Map control, accomplishing secondary objectives, team work – all these three things are heavily emphasized in Heroes of the Storm, much more so than in any other Moba. Yes, the game loses out in terms of the complexity and creativity that comes with coming up with a new item build and winning with it, which is usually what happens in competitive games. But, in place of that, Heroes of the Storm introduces players to the strategic importance of map control, which is one of the key reasons why many MOBAs are so exciting to watch and even more so to play.
Still, despite what I liked about what Heroes of the Storm had to offer, there were quite a few things that I didn’t like about it.
For starters, Heroes of the Storm being made by Blizzard may be a surefire way to make sure that it gets the exposure it needs. But, it also means that critics and gamers will be expecting a lot from it and somehow, the game does fall short. Graphically, the game is far from Blizzard’s best visual work. It’s not the worst, but it’s easy to see that Blizzard could’ve done better – A WHOLE LOT BETTER. Abilities, also, are rather nerfed too much to the point that you sometimes feel useless and lost as an individual. Though, that’s one thing I do expect to change in the future. Another thing that I really didn’t like about Heroes of the Storm is how eager it is to get both your time and money. Want a new hero? You’d have to grind the necessary gold for it, or if you can’t, you can choose to cough up some cash and buy it!
Of course, there’s the rotation of free heroes, but you can only play so much of Tychus that you eventually get bored of him. And, if you plan on unlocking every talent and skill each character has to offer, as well as each character itself, you’re easily looking at a hundred or so hours of playing and running daily quests to farm the necessary gold for it. Then there’s the ranked play, which takes north of 50 hours to unlock, Heroes of the Storm just tries too hard and too early to get you hooked into the game.
Despite this, I’m comfortable enough to recommend playing Heroes of the Storm. The learning curve is not as steep as what you’d expect in a MOBA, which is perfect for newbies, while at the same time it offers enough depth and potential for it to become truly competitive in the future. It may be a MOBA that tries hard to suck in hours from your daily life, but in truth, you don’t need to. You can play it for a few hours occasionally and you’ll always get something out of it.
Overall, Heroes of the Storm is a fun game play and highly enjoyable, for both newbies and veterans alike.
Written by Ray Ian Ampoloquio
Next read up on our favorite tips and tricks for Hero of the Storm’s newest map, Battlefield of Eternity as well as our preview and ability guide for King Leoric aka the Skeleton King, the latest hero addition to be announced.