Beta Impressions: Heroes of the Storm

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Today I wanted to take a break from the normal reviews I have been doing and write a little less formally about my impressions on the beta for Blizzard’s latest game, Heroes of the Storm. Heroes of the Storm is an objective based MOBA-style game that stars many characters from each of Blizzard’s different franchises. It’s almost like what DOTA 2 would be if Blizzard had taken it over instead of Valve.

The gameplay is slightly different from the traditional MOBAs such as League of Legends, DOTA 2, or even Smite. While the goal is the same (that is, you still want to destroy the other team’s main building), the way you go about completing that goal is done mostly through completing the objectives that periodically begin around the center of the map, rather than directly sieging the enemy structures. For example, one map has several King of the Hill-style areas that will shoot lasers at the enemy’s base if your team has control of them. Another map gives each team a powerful golem that will wreak havoc upon the enemy’s base, and your golem will be stronger than theirs if you can collect more skulls in the center than the other team does.

Two other major differences from other MOBAs are that you don’t buy items and that you star with all of your spells (except for your ultimate, which you get at level 6). Instead, as your team levels up, you get to select from various talents that will upgrade one of your spells, give you a passive skill, or even give you an extra active spell. Finally, your team levels up together, and all experience is shared equally throughout your team.

At first, character customization looks very limited to simply choosing your character, since there are no items, but I think the talent system covers that really well. Through use of different talents, you can build your character around different team compositions and enemy teams. I thought a good example was Sonya, the barbarian from Diablo. She is mostly a tank type character, but you can build her in a way so that her tankiness mostly comes from dealing lots of damage and healing herself off of that damage, or you can build her to simply take less damage from various sources such as auto-attacks, abilities, or non-hero damage. From level 1, Raynor can choose to get extra auto-attack damage from every 6th minion he kills to become a classic sort of ad carry, or he can choose to get a skill that one-shots a neutral monster to let him siege better.

The graphics and sound are amazing so far.  The graphics look similar to Diablo 3’s, but brighter. The music gets you excited to play and includes some remixed versions of older Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo songs. Everything looks and feels polished to the point to where it doesn’t even feel like a beta at all. You can even click on your hero to get them to say funny stuff in true Blizzard fashion.

There are some issues that I think may hold this game back a bit. The emphasis on each map’s objective is so strong, that sieging enemy structures yourself is often a waste of time after the first few minutes. Usually, the lasers and golems and stuff will destroy your opponents’ base much more efficiently than you ever will, so trying to do so makes you look bad. It may just be my background in League of Legends talking, but such a large focus on the middle feels stale after a few games. It also means that each individual structure seems to have little impact.

Overall, Heroes of the Storm is loads of fun, but it can get boring after a few rounds of playing. I find myself playing enough to complete the daily quests before closing for the night. In that respect it is much like Hearthstone, Blizzard’s other free pick-up-and-play game. Since gameplay does not seem to stray too much away from a 15-20 minute deathmatch in the middle of the map, I don’t see it getting the same amount of massive competitive attention that DOTA 2 and League of Legends are getting, but I am sure that there will be some competitive play and probably some tournaments here and there similar to Hearthstone. It is free, and it certainly merits a quick download once it becomes fully available to those not in the beta.

Anyway, that is my overall impression on Heroes of the Storm. If you love it or hate it or are excitedly waiting for it to come out in its full release, let me know. I am interested to know what your opinions are of this title.

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