Heroes of the Storm

Heroes of the Storm: Can It Dethrone League of Legends?

Blizzard’s beta for their new MOBA Heroes of the Storm recently started and I decided to give it a spin. I’ve played it for a few days now and while I was pretty skeptical at first, the game left a very positive impression on me. The familiar characters had me feeling nostalgic, and the objective-based gameplay turned out to be pretty intense.

MOBAs (such as current king League of Legends) and character “mash-up” games are both growing in popularity, and Blizzard is trying their hand at both in one fell swoop. With the massive success of League of Legends and DoTA 2, MOBA players have high expectations for any new entry in such a crowded genre.

During matches, players are periodically given quests that have obvious consequences. If your team fail to complete these tasks, you’ll likely see your defenses fail. There are different quests unique to each map you’re playing on, but the general premise remains the  same: collect items or capture an area to get a big advantage over your enemies. The big action comes during and after these quests. Many of the battles feel like they have a purpose. You are fighting to get an advantage over your enemy and they are doing the same. After each little skirmish, the failing team is forced to scramble to a defensive position while the other team can be more aggressive.

There are neutral camps throughout the map called mercenary camps, and when defeated you actually enlist them in your team for the duration of their lifespan. This opens up strategic options once you get a handle for the game modes. You can use them offensively, or as a distraction to get to objectives first. If you need a little extra manpower to beef up defenses, mercenaries can man the bulwarks too.

Heroes of the storm mercenary camps

Enlist mercenaries to do thine bidding

When  your in-match level goes up, you select which traits you want to give your character. You are given more options as your overall character meta-rating goes up, which goes up by playing games with that character. This allows you to fine tune a character the way you like it. Each character has branching ways to play. You can go for a damage dealer with ETC or make him into more of a tank, just by selecting specific traits and abilities. As you play that hero more, their character level will go up. This unlocks a number of things: new abilities, traits, skills and even skin variants! This is a great way to ease into a character. You’re given minimum options to start, and the character opens up at your own pace.

HotS Character level screen

Overall Character rating for LiLi

Daily quests show in the main menu and can be completed for extra gold. So far, I’ve had quest such as “play a game with a Starcraft character three times,” or “win three games, or play a fighter two times.” These daily quests are another one of Blizzard’s tools to encourage branching out and trying new characters, rather than sticking to a handful of favorites.

It’s inevitable that HotS will be compared to League of Legends, so let’s address the elephant in the room. The gameplay feels very similar, but that’s a very good thing. Anyone familiar with LoL controls will be able to pick up HotS and feel right at home. The shop is very promising, already sporting some great skins and mounts (rainbow unicorn, anyone?).  As mentioned before, each stage has its own quest you must accomplish. This really changes the overall feel and focus of entire matches, and it’s a very welcome addition. Each stage is presented very elegantly, with narration themed by a voice exclusive to that stage. The objective-based gameplay is a welcome change of pace from the traditional MOBAs. There’s more of a focus on  managing the mercenaries and grabbing the quests when they appear. So far HotS has been very refreshing, this all coming from a huge LoL fan.

Overall, I’m really enjoying my experience with HotS. There are some balance issues, but that’s to be expected this early on. Blizzard has already addressed these, with promises to improve the experience for new and veteran players alike. We will have to wait and see how it fares in the Esport community.

This preview is based on the closed beta version of Heroes of the Storm, developed by Blizzard Entertainment.

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