When I first saw the trailer video for Blizzard’s MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) entry, Heroes of the Storm, the thing that caught my attention was Diablo riding a unicorn. Yes, that mean looking prime evil from Blizzard’s Diablo series. Add to the idea of seeing other iconic characters from the various Blizzard game universe collide on a battle field for a genre that originated (in a way) from the Blizzard universe as a custom map called 3 Corridors (old timers will remember this), this was one game I knew I had to get my hands on.
In good old Blizzard tradition, games take almost forever to be released and months went by without a world or news. Initial gameplay footage was released and somehow (to be brutally honest) I lost that initial excitement and hope for the game seeing how other MOBAs like DOTA2 and League of Legends (LoL) continued to dominate the scene.
Fast forward to 2014 July when I got a nice email saying that I got into the technical alpha for Heroes of the Storm thanks to the good people at Asiasoft. Now while this sounds very “Meh” considering a technical alpha is like super early version compared to a Beta that we are all used to, knowing Blizzard, this would be a good enough stable release to spend some time on.
10 minutes later after seeing the nice Heroes of the Storm appear on my Battle.net desktop app, the game is installed (just gotta love my Gamer MyRepublic plan speeds) and I am off learning the ropes as good old Jim Raynor with the legendary Uther the Lightbringer (the World of Warcraft fan in me was jumping for joy) playing the mentor role.
For gamers who have gotten their hands dirty with MOBAs, the tutorial will be a walk in the park and for those new, no worries it still does a good job of getting you familiar with the game mechanisms. After about an hour of tutorials and beating the AI in both the practice and cooperative mode, I was ready to jump into versus mode and get fragged (yes I am still learning the ropes when it comes to MOBAs).
Fast forward again a month later (as I write this now), I had my fair share of victories and failures, being the free frag to having the top Hero takedown and of course doing stupid things like standing in AOE damage which my old World of Warcraft raid mates would definitely facepalm at. Yes, its been a month plus and I am not ashamed to say (even in front of my friends who play DOTA2 and LoL) that I find Heroes of the Storm more fun for the gamer in me. Even at this time of writing, I am still actively playing Heroes of the Storm with friends most night and conversations over lunch would always include strategies and a quick after action review of the previous night’s game.
What so attractive about Heroes of the Storm you ask?
Well for one, this game is louder with team work compared to DOTA2 or LoL. One good example is team experience versus individual experience. What this means is that you can be camping and protecting a strategic point like a capture point and yet not lose out in leveling because there are no creeps to kill. This is especially important in maps such as the one with the Dragon Knight where you need to capture both shrines (capture points) to be able to unleash a powerful Dragon Knight that can destroy buildings effectively.
Another thing that I found positive is the lack of items that affect the stats of the character you are using. This means you don’t have to worry about buying the right items or getting the recipes right. All you have are your skills, your wits and your team mates as you battle it out with the opposite team.
Talking about characters, each has its own set of skills that are unique and bear resemblance to the game universe it comes from. For example, Jim Raynor uses the space marine rifle, can inspire others around him (He is a leader after all) and can call down the Hyperion to aid him in battle. Other cool references include the Demon Hunter from Diablo 3 who has a resource called hatred which is similar to that in Diablo 3.
Another thing that I like about Heroes of the Storm are the maps and their mechanics. From killing plants to gather seeds to unleash a great big plant that can root Heroes to collecting tributes to curse the opposite team’s buildings, you will always have something other to do then killing creeps while waiting to engage the opposite team heroes. Mercenaries also make an appearance and when used correctly, can also cause a lot of problems for the opposite team.
Overall it has been an exciting month playing the technical alpha of Heroes of the Storm and so far it does look like Blizzard has a winning formula in their hands to take a bite out of the MOBA pie. While I don’t expect veterans of DOTA2 and LoL to make the immediate switch, at the rate Blizzard is developing Heroes of the Storm (having added a new character and map recently) in both gameplay and amount of vanity items such as colour scheme, mounts and skins, I expect the Heroes of the Storm to continue to slowly win fans over especially those looking for a different MOBA experience.
* As Heroes of the Storm is currently in the Technical Alpha stage, gameplay and map mechanisms can change. The Technical Alpha is currently in a close stage but those interested can opt-in via Battle.net. It does seem keys are give out as I have friends who got theirs recently after doing the opt-in.
by Kenneth Wong
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