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Heroes Of The Storm Impressions – Sorry DOTA 2
It is a well-known fact that the popularity of Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games has been rising over the past few years with games such as DOTA 2 and League of Legends spearheading the movement. Every developer and their pet cat have been pitching in, trying to come up with their own new take on the genre, but many have failed to even scratch the surface of those that hold a monopoly.
Heroes of the Storm, a creation by the monolith of a company Blizzard Entertainment that is currently in an invite-only technical alpha, may be one exception. An exception that could even have devoted DOTA 2 fans like me cheating on their beloved MOBAs.
To give a bit of context here, as of this month I hit around 1,500 hours played in DOTA 2 and have been disappointed by almost every other MOBA I have tried. Having something begin to tear me away from a game that I’ve perhaps put the most time into than any other title speaks volumes alone about the quality of a game.
The bit of backstory for Heroes of the Storm is relatively basic. There is a massive, trans-dimensional storm called the Nexus in which the worlds of Blizzard, from Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo collide for an all-out brawl. Big name characters from each of the series ranging from Diablo, to the Lich King, and even the Queen of Blades can now be piloted by the fans themselves in five versus five combat.
The phrase “death is only a setback” for the heroes is thrown around which mildly explains their ability to respawn. On top of that, there isn’t really much plot to find holes in, but what is important to acknowledge is that in a MOBA, although backstory is nice, it is still MOBA.
Like other MOBAs, Heroes of the Storm follows the standard “push your lanes with minions, destroy structures, destroy base and win game” model. The mechanics that Blizzard focused on to improve this experience are what set the game apart enough to have me swapping in between it, and DOTA 2. Blizzard themselves prefer to call their game a “hero-brawler,” but the reality of the situation is that it is just a very versatile MOBA.
The first stark change is the sheer number of maps or arenas. There are 5 different arenas, each of which boasting different physical structure and different mechanics that make each of them unique. Although all of the objectives provided are just quicker ways of smashing down enemy structures, those who play them most certainly have the upper hand.
Another notable addition is the fact that your team levels simultaneously. Instead of having one hero disappear for the game and then suddenly appear max level and decked to the gills with items, you have an experience pool that is shared by your team, giving each of you either the perks of being ahead, or the pitfalls of being behind.
As you level up each hero that you play, you unlock more abilities for them that are then available within matches. For instance, as a character that has a level of one outside of matches, you will only have one option for an ultimate ability. As you progress your character to higher levels, you unlock more options, making heroes technically more versatile. There is no shop in the arenas, therefore there are no fancy item builds, only different distributions of the talents you unlock as you progress. As you level within a match, you reach talent tiers. At each talent tier (i.e. level seven in-game) you are given multiple talent/skill options, meaning you can build a hero in a completely different way every game.
A minor point that I thought was worth mentioning was the fact that even though the standard “three abilities, one ultimate” model is followed for the characters, the abilities have that classic Blizzard flashiness that made team fights (which are an integral part of the game) that much more enjoyable.
Heroes of the Storm supports micro-transactions, allowing players to buy everything from heroes to stimpacks (items that increase your gold and experience gain for a certain amount of days.) What is nice though, is that everything seems to be relatively fair as there are no pay-to-win aspects. I guess the ability to level characters faster gives a slight advantage. The only real difference, however, between my level one Tyrael and your level five Tyrael, is that you have the ability to access more talents and skills within matches, whereas I just have to play more to do so. Otherwise, purchases that are made with real money are primarily cosmetic.
I have to give Blizzard credit where credit is due. I mean, they do most certainly have the resources to make solid games, but in a technical alpha, I expected not only more bugs, but more balance and lag issues, and I experienced almost nothing of the sort. Some heroes feel underpowered and I did have the game chug a bit on my PC, but for the most part they didn’t give me very much room to complain. What is glorious about that, is the fact that resources aside there is an early access game (perhaps the first I’ve seen) that is so well put together that I can’t really see what needs improvement.
Although I had only praise for this game, it does not make it perfect. Even though it is nice to work your way toward purchasing a hero, it can become tiresome to have to pour hours in to just play the hero you want. There is a free rotation of heroes every week that allows you to sort of broaden your horizons and try new things, but unlike other MOBAs, and DOTA 2 in particular, the limitation of heroes available can make even this game suffer from grind fatigue. When you compare over 100 heroes to an available rotation of about 6, the differing maps may not compensate enough for the lack of change.
I personally think that as the game grows, and the heroes list follows, it may become another one of my deeply rooted time sinks. It is technically sound, a blast to play with friends, and a relatively well rounded game. If you are just starting out with MOBAs, or want to try something new, I strongly recommend you sign up for access to the game at www.battle.net, and I will see you in the Nexus.