Is Heroes Of The Storm The Wrong Move For Blizzard?
When Blizzard does something, you have to sit up and take note.
MOBAs are ten-a-penny these days, but there’s always an air of intrigue whenever Blizzard gets involved. And with Heroes Of The Storm, its answer to the MOBA genre has a particularly complex set of questions.
We’ve had access to the alpha for a little while now, and though our experience with Heroes Of The Storm is limited at the moment it’s difficult to know if Blizzard’s approach will be the right one.
It’s impossible to go into any new MOBA without using the likes of League Of Legends or Dota 2 as a yardstick to measure it by, but perhaps doing so with Heroes Of The Storm was the wrong approach.
The Differences With Heroes Of The Storm
Early impressions for experienced MOBA players won’t be good.
See, the biggest feature of Heroes Of The Storm – or lack of, in this case – is the fact that there is no item purchasing as part of the game.
It’s been a genre staple for years, but Blizzard has decided that it doesn’t want to employ that focus on creep score, on carefully learning when to return to base or memorising a long list of possible purchases.
There is no gold, in fact, and initially it can make fighting minions feel redundant – but that’s mostly due to the hardwired reliance on farming in MOBAs.
Of course the minions are there to provide protection from enemy towers, but more than that the experience advantage you’ll gain for killing minions quicker will help out your team as a whole.
Experience is shared, after all, which gives a game a particularly aggressive pace – unlike League Of Legends or Dota 2, where early on in a game it’s better to restrict your minions from pushing too heavily.
Everything is designed to keep you in lane for as long as possible. It means death can feel fairly insignificant – there is no gold advantage for the enemy team – but should you die it does mean that the opposing team can continue their assault with a little less restriction.
And for a game as aggressive as this, that can considerably affect the tide of battle.
The Different Maps Of HOTS
Where Heroes Of The Storm truly differs from its counterparts is its approach to map design.
Sure, there are still lanes and minions and towers and all that stuff, but here the objectives means there’s always something to keep an eye out for.
In Dragon Shrine, it’s possible to become a powerful avatar after maintaining control of two locations.
In Haunted Mines you’ll need to abandon the lanes to collect skulls in the underground caverns to build a golem – and hopefully one that will be stronger than the opposition’s.
In Cursed Hollow you and your team will need to navigate the narrow jungle environs to collect three rituals, cursing opposing structures with inherent frailness.
Or there’s Blackheart’s Bay, where you can collect doubloons to pay a ghostly pirate to bombard the enemy forts.
Not only does it vary the design of each game, but it has a dramatic effect on how you play them too. Whether it’s a sudden call to arms for a key tactical advantage, or a more methodical give and take between you and your lane opponent.
It does mean there can be less precision than you might get in games like League Of Legends – but the meta within existing games are fairly robust at this point.
For Heroes Of The Storm, adapting is key and though the objectives may differ the need to play as a team – and communicate – is the biggest element you’ll need to grasp.
But How Do The Heroes Play?
Mechanically this is probably the area where Heroes Of The Storm feels most like its contemporaries.
Every ability is automatically unlocked, however, and though some characters will have a different ruleset (one ability might be a passive-only skill) they all have the option to pick one of two Heroic abilities.
These are your ‘R’ abilities, or the ultimate powers. And, unlike other MOBAs, you actually get to pick which you get during a game.
In fact the talent system means that periodically, as you level up, it’s possible to select upgrades for skills and even add in new ones.
It might sound confusing, but once you’ve played a Hero a couple of times you start to understand how they work – and how you can utilise different talent upgrades for your benefit.
It means there’s flexibility to the playstyle of your Hero, such as Nova’s option to increase range or increase damage of her attacks. In some cases that range may favour her, other times she might need to pack a little bit more of a punch.
It’s a smart system that doesn’t feel too overbearing, and instead slots neatly into the natural progression of a game.
Is Heroes Of The Storm For Me?
There are a lot of smart systems in Heroes Of The Storm, and it has that Blizzard quality – but it isn’t quite as deep as the MOBA’s most popular choices.
The best comparison is perhaps the difference between Call Of Duty and Arma 3. With the latter there’s far more to learn, but an incredibly rich and rewarding experience once you do. With Call Of Duty, anyone can pick it up and play – the barriers to entry are much smaller.
Heroes Of The Storm is far more accessible. After a short tutorial you’ll have all the knowledge you’ll need to play the game without ever needing anything else, outside of learning map strategies.
And this isn’t to say Heroes Of The Storm isn’t totally devoid of depth – in the same way that Call Of Duty isn’t – just that in terms of core features and mechanics it is a much simpler experience than most MOBAs.
That’s not necessarily a criticism, but it’s hard to know if it’s the right decision.
Hearthstone is a prime example of Blizzard’s ability to present something simple and easy to learn, but instil it with a great amount of depth – perhaps not Magic: The Gathering levels of depth, but still.
Our impression of Heroes Of The Storm so far doesn’t give us with that same sense of balance.
But the MOBA genre is played by millions, is it necessarily the depth that these players are looking for?
At this point Heroes Of The Storm is a fun diversion, but perhaps not quite as rewarding or compelling as the hardcore MOBAs like League Of Legends and Dota 2.
As the genre matures and more players become comfortable with the mechanics, Heroes Of The Storm is something you’d likely play alongside another, more serious MOBA.
In the same way you might play Call Of Duty and Battlefield.
All the same Heroes Of The Storm is certainly worth getting excited for – if only so you can see a great hulking Diablo riding a horse. It might end up being the game to introduce you to a whole new genre of gaming.
And that can only be a good thing.