Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard’s answer to League of Legends and DOTA – however ironic that may be. The game is currently in alpha testing and yours truly was invited to play. After playing for hours on end and hitting level 10, I decided to jot down my initial impressions for various aspects of the game.
Gameplay: The pacing feels entirely different when compared to other MOBAs. There are fewer interruptions, like not having to go back to the fountain to shop, and with healing wells planted along the lanes, less of a reason to go back and heal. Also, when trying to meet at an objective to capture or to help an ally, mounts get you there in no time. Factoring that in, and the fact that games do not last nearly as long as something like League or DotA 2, it feels much faster than other games.
Because there are no items – that means no gold, there is absolutely no reason to last hit creeps. In fact, since the entire team shares experience and levels as a unit, mowing through creeps as quickly as possible is beneficial. The only issue I have with this mechanic is that if your team falls too far behind, it almost seems impossible to catch up as the other team is just running wild with experience and levels.
Laning in general feels inconsequential to the overall outcome of the game. Unlike in League where occasionally a single player can carry an entire game, without significant teamwork, winning is impossible. Another way to ensure defeat is to ignore objectives and especially mercenary camps. Those are the most important aspects in the entire game.
One of my favorite things about the game, though, has to be how you choose your hero before queuing up, so you are guaranteed the champion you want to play. Such a simple thing yet it manages to completely blow me away.
Maps: There are four maps so far and each handles differently enough to feel unique from one another. Mechanics, layout, lanes, everything varies from map-to-map. And thankfully there are not any I do not enjoy playing. Sure, I prefer some over others, but they are all nice. Whether or not that changes as I continue playing, only time will tell.
Haunted Mines – In this map, after so long, a golem appears for both teams and does as much damage to the other team as possible before being defeated. In order to make your golem stronger, your team needs to collect skulls. To collect skulls, you must kill creeps that spawn in the mines, which can be entered through two different entrances – one on the top of the map and one on the bottom.
After they have all been defeated, the golem’s spawn and do their thing. Much like with the other maps, the mine spawns typically force team fights as every player frantically rushes the mine to do their best to collect as many skulls as they can manage. Overall one of the more straightforward maps, but proves to be fun all the same.
The Cursed Hollow – This map has players battling over tributes that spawn throughout the map every so often. They are basically totems that need to be picked up by a player. After collecting three of them, the enemy team becomes cursed. What this means is that for a short amount of time, their creeps have 1 HP, structures have reduced HP and towers will not attack.
Dragon Shire – The mechanics on this map have players trying to capture and hold two obelisks on opposite ends of the map. Once they have control of both – they must keep it, it activates an altar in the center which must be channels to summon a dragon knight to fight for your team similar to the way the golem does on the Haunted Mines map, but exclusive to the team that captures everything required.
Blackheart Bay – My favorite map. The most frantic and constant when taking the mechanics into consideration. Teams must gather as many doubloons as they can get their little hands on in order to pay Black Beard to bombard the enemy team’s base. After every payment, the next payment increases in price.
The kicker, though, is that if you gather coins and simply hold onto them, if you die, you drop them and give the enemy team a chance to pick them up. To keep this from happening, give them to Black Beard – located in the center of the map, whenever you feel comfortable.
Treasure chests spawn throughout the game and can be busted open for coinage or you can kill certain creep camps that are holding onto them.
Champs: From the few that I have used so far, I can safely say that they are unique enough and fitting enough that there will be something for everyone. Of course, the same could have been said for League during the first couple of years. I am in a wait and see mode as of now.
Champions also have unique (and hilarious) interactions with one another throughout the game as well as individual sound bites that are just good fun.
Champs range from 2,000 gold to 10,000. You get 500+ gold upon leveling up – and you can earn gold by completing daily quests (such as using a support hero in two games), so getting those higher tiered champs might take a little while. If you are as impatient as I am, though, you can always buy them with real money. They range from $7.50 to $10.00 USD from what I have seen.
The best part is probably the fact that Blizzard allows you to play a single player match with a hero you want to buy before actually buying it. Brilliant stuff.
Final thoughts: I am enjoying my time with Heroes of the Storm immensely, but there are obvious flaws. Mostly balancing issues, and because it is still in its alpha stage, I am willing to forgive them. Even still, the game feels more like a custom Warcraft map than any MOBA you will find. This is a good thing however as it breathes new life into the genre and stands on its own rather than trying to copy what makes League of Legends so successful.