Title: Heroes of the Storm
Platform: PC / Mac
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release date: Out Now
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After a closed Technical Alpha, a Closed Beta and finally a short Open Beta period, it’s finally here. Months of testing and countless games and balance tweaks have led to the moment that a team in Blizzard have been working on for quite some time.
Heroes of the Storm is now released and the Nexus is open. This is my review on the latest from the House that Blizzard Built.
Heroes is Blizzard’s entry into the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre. As in, it’s out there to join the ranks of League of Legends and DOTA 2 in an online that’s exponentially growing in popularity by the day. However, you won’t hear Blizzard refer to it as a MOBA. Rather, Blizzard prefer to define Heroes as a Team Brawler. Some may cry semantics, but there’s a very good reason for this which I hope this review will explain.
(Side note: My previous MOBA experience comes from League of Legends, which I’ll refer to most in making comparisons. DOTA 2 did not interest me much if I’m honest, so my experience on that front is rather limited.)
The typical MOBA format follows a standardised 3-lane map with waves of minions, tower defences and a scattering of mobs across the map which grant buffs. This is true in the standard competitive format found in LoL and DOTA. Some variances exist within each game, but serve as more of a distraction from the main battlefield where all the competition lies.
This is where Heroes begins to differentiate. There is not one, but seven battlegrounds in which Heroes from across Blizzard’s history duke it out for dominance. From the shore-side docks of Blackheart’s Bay to the luscious green Garden of Terror, the variety of the battlegrounds is wide and more are being added as we speak. Currently an eighth map is scheduled for release called The Battlefield of Eternity, themed after the eternal battle of Heaven Vs. Hell in the Diablo Universe.
Lanes remain present in Heroes, but the importance of farming minions is more of a variable requirement according to the team’s need. Unlike DOTA and LoL, experience points is earned for the overall team as opposed to individuals. This means that everyone reaps the rewards of the team’s success and prevents any one person from being too ‘fed’ and sucking up the fun for everyone else. This also rewards teamwork to destroy mob camps and enemy Heroes, a trait that remains constant throughout Heroes.
You see, as a ‘Team Brawler’, it’s not so much about skirting the map and picking your opportunity like in other MOBAs. In Heroes, fights between Heroes can and do occur on a regular basis. It just takes one team’s decision to take a nearby Siege Camp or to capture an objective and a good-functioning team will collapse on the location to thwart the enemy team’s attempts.
Objectives… that’s another big difference in Heroes. In other MOBAs there are fixed spots where mobs of beasties can spawn. Kill them and you’re granted a buff. With League of Legends there’s quite a fair bit of strategic thought behind who should have each particular buff and when. With Heroes there are a lot more objectives, but they are much simpler to understand. Your basic mobs will spawn the self-same group of beasties you just killed to join you in the fight. These are great for pushing lanes whilst the rest of your team is occupied elsewhere.
Then there are objectives that are contextual to the map itself. In Blackheart’s Bay for example, chests will occasionally spawn that drop coins (Doubloons). Handing these coins in to Blackheart will summon a huge pirate ship and fire cannonballs into your enemy’s defences. Each key map objective is different, yet falls into similar categories: Hold certain control points, collect large items or haul a huge collection of little items in order for something awesome to happen; and oh boy, those awesome things are certainly that.
Nailing those objectives allows you to gain more XP at a faster rate, which is how the advantage ‘sometimes’ can be defined during a game. Gold doesn’t exist to buy items, so there’s no such thing as Gold Advantage in Heroes, leaving team level the only key indicator. However, with the amount of objectives and oft-encouraged team-fights within one game of Heroes, it can be argued that the tides of the battle can be turned even when it may initially seem that all hope is lost. That’s probably why there’s no ‘surrender’ option in the game.
Besides, most games in Heroes typically last around 20-30 minutes, making them a lot faster than most games of League of Legends in my prior experience.
The playable Heroes in the game spawn across all three of Blizzard’s key universes (with one exception): World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. If you’re in any way familiar with any of the games, then you’ll probably recognise some of the Heroes available. As more of a Starcraft fan myself, I found myself more at home with those particular Heroes as the game gives you the ability to assume control of characters that aren’t normally playable in their normal universe. I wouldn’t fuss too much though if you’re not 100% familiar with the games they come from though. Each Hero has their own unique fantasies which create some interesting play-styles regardless of your preference of Blizzard universe.
Where Heroes does things differently is the ‘oddball’ category of Hero types. You have your Melee, Support and Assassin types as usual, however the Specialist type encompasses a wide variety of play styles that makes it different to generalise. I’ll use two examples to give you a flavour:
First there’s Abathur, the Zerg mutation master that can create a ‘connection’ with any other player in the team and provide extra attack abilities or even a shield. Abathur is not a very mobile Hero and will often hide in a safe spot whilst he is cocooned up and delivering assistance to another Hero. His special ability allows him to either clone a fellow Hero, or spawn a Monstrosity that can also be possessed by Abathur and moved across the map.
Then you have The Lost Vikings, the one exception in the roster as its the only selection that’s outwith the three Blizzard universes. Instead of one Hero, you control three, which forces you to have awareness of the surroundings of all three Vikings if you choose to independently control them. Multitasking on this one is therefore key.
Across all these differences, I found myself drawn to one particular conclusion when it came to evaluating Heroes of the Storm. Compared to other games on the MOBA scene, the game might be accused of not being as detailed and in-depth as other games (there isn’t an equivalent of the Runes and Masteries system found in LoL for example). Yet with the differences that are visible in the game, creating more engagements and compressing the game experience to increase the drama, I can say one things for Heroes.
It’s f***king great fun.
In other MOBAs, I pretty much found myself left in fear that the tiniest cock-up could cost the entire game. Always on edge, I either ran away from most engagements or jumped in head-first to kill everyone (didn’t happen much) or get killed (happened lots).
In Heroes of the Storm, that principle of team progression makes those odd cock-ups less significant. Sure, it’s never a good thing to die in a MOBA, but it’s not the end of the world if you do. Taking a few siege camps or preparing a few ambushes can always balance the game once more.
Blizzard have also done something very interesting that I don’t believe other MOBA games have done (correct me if I’m wrong). This is a game you can actually pick up in a shop and buy a phyiscal copy. Yes, for a Free-To-Play game. Retailing for £14.99 in the UK, the Starter Pack provides you with five Heroes, a skin for one of the Heroes included and a mount to zoom around the map in.
In terms of value, it’s fab. The Sticktwiddlers did the math on this and worked out (at time of writing) that the individual items would cost £36.94 if bought normally in-game. For £15, it’s a damn good bargain.
In my opinion, it’s a pretty smart move by Blizzard and a great way to get started with the game if you’ve not yet invested in the Heroes concerned.
So, Heroes of the Storm rocks. In my opinion, it’s the better out of the bunch in being an accessible and fun game to play. It may not have the bells and whistles that other MOBAs have to create huge amounts of depth, but what’s left is a system that ‘just works’ in creating a space that’s fun to jump in and play. Some of the in-game items might be a little bit on the pricey side, but regular quests incentivise you to go down the free route. Even if you only mildly dabble in Heroes, you’re sure to find one hell of an experience.
What Rocks! :)
- Super-fun multiplayer game.
- Really accessible for those new to the scene.
- Multiple maps, objectives and team XP creates a really good system that works well in delivering frequent fights
What Sucks :(
- Some in-game items might be a bit pricey
- Those looking for a ‘direct equivalent’ in MOBA norms might be left disappointed
- Smaller Hero roster, but that will improve over time.
Heroes of the Storm is rated PEGI 12 for bad language, violence and online play. The danger with games like Heroes at a young age is how much of a time-sink these can be. Playing multiple repetitive games is always something that needs to be watched out for and like always, discretion on appropriate game time is recommended.