eSports for indie | E4i

E4i ESPORTS Championships Signups

sign up to our free esports events every time registrations open

Heroes of the Storm Beta Review

Blizzard has preemptively neutralized what may be the most corrosive flaw of popular MOBA games, the community that plays it. There is no “All” chat...

I've played a few different MOBAs in my time as a gamer, and no game in the world has brought out the rage monster in me like Dota 2.

I remember buying the Warcraft 3 Battlechest for the sole reason of playing the original Dota mod. What I didn't realize was that that game was going to set me on a path littered with temper tantrums and broken space bars. Dota 2 is the game that made me give up games for the longest period of my life. After scoring one kill and 19 deaths with Venomancer and being called a “bad kid” by all other nine other players in the game, I shut down my computer, ripped the cords out from the wall, and set it in the room across the hall in a red-faced temper tantrum. I like to think of it like putting my PC on timeout. I didn't turn it on for another five months, which is entirely the fault of Dota 2, and has absolutely nothing to do with my inability to control my emotions.

Nothing in my life, game or otherwise, has brought that kind of animalistic fury out of me.

But, I've still logged over 400 hours of Dota 2, which is a testament to how many things the game does right when I'm not being steamrolled by a group of 13-year-olds that are significantly better than me at landing their abilities.

It was this relationship I had with Dota 2 that made Blizzard's in-development Heroes of The Storm all that much more exciting. This game takes away the horrendously complex item recipe system that so many MOBAs employ, and it quickens gameplay, making everything less tedious the whole way around.

A longer game of HotS will be about 25 minutes, as opposed to Dota's 40-60 minute rounds. So even when you're getting wrecked by the other team, the wreckage only lasts 20ish minutes. I've also found that comebacks seem more frequent than in the other MOBA games that I've played, something I attribute in large part to how well-balanced the game is, particularly for this early stage.

Experience is shared amongst the entire team, making it easier for other players to play the role that helps the team, and not just mindlessly farming creeps so they don't fall behind in levels. This also means that people can't look at the scoreboard and base their opinion of your skills entirely off of your hero's level and kill/death ratio. The scoreboard instead has several indicators of your contribution, such as hero damage, damage to structures, experience gained, etc. You'll notice early on that the game is much more based on teamwork, and there are fewer opportunities for one powerful hero to single-handedly take over a match.

There is no importance to last-hitting creeps, which is a feature I am still trying to figure out if I like or not. On one hand, players are now allowed to focus on the best part of a MOBA, which is waling on the other team with your abilities in big, strategic team fights. But, it can also encourage players to just loiter near creeps, doing nothing in particular, and soak up experience. An unwise tactic, but one that some players use.

Blizzard has preemptively neutralized what may be the most corrosive flaw of popular MOBA games, the community that plays it.

There is no “All” chat, so there's no smack-talk between teams. There's also no public shaming of your not-so-skilled teammate (me). This took some getting used to, because after I turned the tables in a 1v1 battle, I wanted to let the poor slob know how bad they screwed up, but ultimately it's for the good of the game. If toxic people want to be toxic, at least they have to reserve their poison for their own team. So far almost no one has claimed to have slept with my mother, or called me a homophobic slur. I call that progress.

In my time playing HotS, I've seen very little bickering among teammates compared to other popular games in the genre. This, along with a learning curve that isn't terribly harsh, makes HotS a refreshing break from the slog of nuances found in other games like it. They took Dota 2 and sprinkled in a bit of Super Smash Brothers to create a wildly fun competitive experience.

Not unlike Super Smash Brothers, the match is often decided by who utilizes the map best. There are currently five maps in the game, with each behaving very differently, offering unique objectives to give one team an edge over the other. Combine that with an all-star cast of Blizzard's most popular characters (with more than a few yet to be added), and you've got gameplay that stands out from the competition.

For many of the same reasons I listed above, HotS may not catch on with the harder hardcore gamers. I don't foresee a huge competitive community developing in the same way that Dota 2 has fostered in the gaming industry. But there appears to be enough depth, especially for a game still in development, to keep serious MOBA players happy.


The Verdict

Heroes of the Storm does not try to be tremendously complex, nor does it want the player to feel that they've immediately figured out all the nuances of gameplay. Blizzard has a long history of taking a popular genre, finding the three to five most fun things about it, then creating a gameplay experience that fully envelops the player in those facets of the game. They did it with the MMO by making WoW, they did it with the action RPG in the Diablo series, and they're currently doing it with online card games in Hearthstone. So far, this is one hell of an effort to do the same thing to the MOBA genre.

Adam Wheeler
Written by
Sunday, 21 September 2014 00:00
Published in Strategy



Adam Wheeler loves his computer, his cat, and his work-from-home lifestyle. When he feels the motivation to put on pants, he tells jokes on stage. With no real distractions in his life (friends, relationships, a reason to go outdoors, etc.), he is able to provide in-depth analysis of games and the culture that surrounds them. Adam almost never has anything better to do.

Read 3159 times