Being pegged as a MOBA that is set to give League of Legends a run for its money, Heroes of the Storm completely reverses what you know about the genre, boiling the game down to only a few simple mechanics from League and offering up a great time.
Heroes of the Storm takes advantage of the deep and rich history inside the Blizzard universe by allowing combatants from Starcraft to interact with characters from World of Warcraft and Diablo. For the first time in the MOBA game type, characters that you play with will not be all-new, but rather reincarnated from existing series. This lends itself as a huge positive to Heroes of the Storm, as interactions between Diablo and Jim Raynor lead to hilarious jokes that any fan of Blizzard games can appreciate. Blizzard also tags Heroes of the Storm as the ultimate way to settle “late-night debates you’ve had about who’s the stronger leader — Raynor or Thrall?”
Though it is possible to fight out battles with Raynor versus Thrall, Heroes of the Storm should be noted more for its dramatic changes to the MOBA space, while still retaining the MOBA style. First and most importantly, Heroes of the Storm has eliminated the tried and tested method of “item” purchases when a hero returns to the base. With this mechanic eliminated, much of the depth and variance that can separate a professional League of Legends player from the pack has been left to the wind. Heroes of the Storm also slips some of the skilled nature of the MOBA away with the elimination of gold earning – who needs gold earnings when you’ve got no items? Naturally, this means that getting the final shot on an enemy minion in the lane where you’re fighting off a player isn’t as critical as in other MOBAs. Where items have taken second stage, skills earned at each level will now turn each champion down the path to victory.
These skills may be practiced and applied in one of three game modes in Heroes of the Storm – single player “Practice” mode, team versus AI, “Cooperative” mode, and full-combat “Versus” mode. While in practice mode, players will compete with and against AI champions as the only human in the match. This game type is set to allow you to learn the basics of the title. With cooperative mode, players will work together on their team fighting mechanics against AI champions. Work together properly in this mode and you may be ready for the full-combat “versus” mode. Apply the skills you’ve learned in cooperative mode with personalized builds in your champion’s primary abilities, and you’ll go far in versus combat.
In League of Legends, DOTA 2, and other popular MOBA titles, you have four key skills, set to the “QWER” keys. After reaching a certain level, in order to maintain balance in those titles, a player must take the skill points earned from leveling and apply them to each of the four skills at some point. Heroes of the Storm changes this model slightly, as “QWER” keys still activate your skills, but you are not necessarily required to level a skill in any particular button – each time your new skill selection becomes available, you may choose to raise the level of any skill in your arsenal, giving new adaptations to the skill each time. As Jim Raynor, my champion of choice, I found myself frequently avoiding leveling up the “E” skill, a stim-pack that any Marine would use in Starcraft II. Though the stim pack could have helped me save my own life in a pinch, I was typically on the winning side of a team-versus-team fight, and the alternative choice to the stim-pack allowed me to deal significantly more damage in a fight – something I felt was much more important for a ranged champion.
Heroes of the Storm focuses on these team fights. Essentially, the entire game is built around these fights and if you lose your team fights, you’re going to lose your base. The team element is the strongest element in Heroes of the Storm, as the team levels together and must focus on objectives to win the game. Team fights naturally burst out of these objectives, as both teams will strive to defeat jungle beasts that change as the game moves along, as well as map-specific objectives which give significant boosts to your team’s strength in combat for a short time. Given that players do not level independently, but level-up as a team, and team fighting is the most essential portion of Heroes of the Storm, HotS forces players to learn the most important thing they should have known about team fighting in League of Legends – fire on the same target, and let the odds stay in your favor. Focused fire in HotS is more important than any mechanic in the game. More important than any skill choice. More important than any objective. With great team coordination, you will find yourself in the lead early and often during Heroes of the Storm matches, and that’s the most appealing thing about the title.
Ultimately, when the “skill” of League of Legends is taken away, it really isn’t taken away. There are still plenty of reasons that your team can lose or win, and with a team-wide leveling system, no one individual will drag your team down as dramatically as they can in competing MOBA titles. Blizzards step into the MOBA space shows that the formula can change, and the title can still be enjoyable. Matches generally don’t take as long to complete in Heroes of the Storm as well, which means that general appeal might expand even further with Heroes of the Storm than League of Legends already reaches.
Beyond the game-play itself, Heroes of the Storm has a few tricks up its sleeve to help keep you interested. With the inclusion of level rewards, daily quests, and specific hero quests, players won’t tend to focus on playing only one champion. While playing other MOBA titles, players have a tendency to play only a small selection of champions, but in Heroes of the Storm your Daily Quest may ask you to win in a competitive match as Diablo, and even if you’re not the biggest fan of the Diablo character, the reward for your daily quest make the venture worth while. Given that players will eventually enjoy specific hero quests as well, playing with variance can be that much more appealing as you try to wrangle in gold to purchase your next champion. Achievements in daily quests, hero quests, and “epic” hero quests will grant more than gold to those dedicated few. Special skin rewards are given in these quests allowing for unique coloring of your favorite champion or champion mount, showing a player’s experience with a particular champion might be much higher than their mirror-match combatant.