Written By: Fionna Fox
Have you ever wanted to see a Zerged out Kerrigan throw down with Thrall? How about Tasadar and the Witchdoctor from Diablo 3? All possible with blizzards new MOBA game, Heroes of the Storm.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games have recently become as common as grains of sand on a beach but Blizzards entry is looking to differentiate itself by creating a unique niche inside of a very crowded environment. Heroes appeals to a more casual audience than league or DOTA with most matches lasting less than 20 minutes, and a heavy emphasis on team fights and objectives. The item shop has been removed and leveling is done as a team, rather than individually. This is balanced out with a unique role system that creates a rock, paper, scissors feeling when choosing champions. Games are made more variable by a set of talents that modify the core ability of each champion which you chose as you level up in game. This system makes the game feel very much like Warcraft III with progressive leveling of your heroes as the game goes on. The whole thing is wrapped up in the beautiful tile sets of blizzards many worlds and has a really aesthetic.
Underneath the shiny exterior this is a solidly constructed, well balanced, MOBA game with refreshing new ideas that are well implemented. Heroes features several “boards” or maps on which the games occur, each map has a different set of objectives. Some revolve around capturing points which do damage to your opponents structures. Others involve destroying creeps to summon a larger creep. Each map feels fresh and different, with enough variation in tile set, objectives, and animations to keep each map feeling fresh and new each time it’s played.
The real attraction here is the characters, and the battles they engage in. Blizzard is pulling from every single one of its franchises for Heroes, (yes even the lost Vikings) and the results are fantastic. The game is mostly focused on hero combat, with Blizzard having done away with last hitting, the item shop, and even individual levels in favor of a more streamlined MOBA experience. Combat is enhanced by a variety of active talents, both offensive and defensive, and the results are knock-down, drag-out team fights from the very beginning of each game.
Experience is team based, and you just have to be near dying minions to get it, this takes the MOBA concept of laneing and turns it on its head. Laneing is less necessary and this makes it easier to roam, gank, and go for objectives. Objectives play a huge role, and woe be upon the tam that ignore them. Items are replaced with unique hero talents, which make up the games only real metagame. These talents enhance already existing ability, by adding damage, attack speed, or another modifier. This works surprisingly well, making for a more rock, paper, scissors feeling than a traditional MOBA build. It does have the downside of locking you in, there is no sell offensive item, and rebuy for more defense in this game. Partly because of this and partly because of heroes tightly defined roles position becomes extremely important. 5 on 5 team fights are often won or lost in the first seconds of engagement with high damage combos erasing entire teams in seconds. The team fights are balanced out with objectives and neutral creep camps that can be captured and used as allies when sieging opponent’s structures. Structures too work differently here, towers have ammo, and sieging champions have abilities that can disable or deplete their ammunition. This concept sounds odd but it works, and lends a great deal of fun to the game.
Each of the 5 types of in game hero feels like it fills a distinct role. Powerful assassins can melt the entire other team, tanky warriors dish out pain, while being able to absorb the incoming, support classes push out DPS and/or Healing buffs, and specialists push towers and take objectives. Each role also has plenty of flexibility and can adapt to the map and other teams tactics. As the game continues to expand and add characters and maps expect more advanced tactics to emerge in the future.
Blizzard has really found a great niche here for Heroes, the gameplay appeals to more casual players; there is a ranked mode to unlock, and several levels of AI to practice against. More serious players may get bored, but for the casual MOBA gamer Heroes of the Storm is a perfect answer.