‘Heroes of the Storm’ steals the best parts of existing MOBAs, adds some new mechanics, and throws in a recognizable cast of Blizzard characters to make an insanely fun and addicting PC arena brawler.
There’s no denying the highly-competitive, efficient MOBA experiences that are DOTA 2 and League of Legends. The two titans have defined the genre and it’s hard to imagine a game improving on their model. Blizzard, never one to back down from a challenge, throws its massive hat into the ring with Heroes of the Storm and attempts to carve out a piece of the eSports market for itself. Despite the initial hesitation about Heroes of the Storm being more of the same, the Starcraft and Warcraft creator delivers a game that both honors and enhances the MOBA genre.
For readers who are new to the MOBA genre, the concept is pretty simple. Two teams of five players each charge across a map in an attempt to destroy the other team’s base (or core, as they are called in HotS). Most maps have three lanes and players work together to fight NPC minions and the other team to level up and reach the core. Matches are fast-paced and usually last 15-30 minutes.
As for story, despite being full of some of the most iconinc PC gaming characters of all time, Heroes of the Storm doesn’t waste much time on plot. The game jokingly asks players to not too think much about how all of the heroes of villains from Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo ended up in the same place and to instead focus on having fun. This might bother some lore experts, but gamers who are able to accept the experience for what it is are in for an amazing ride.
The game’s mechanics are simple and intuitive enough for any PC gamer to feel confident enough to enter a Quick Match competition after completing the hour long(ish) tutorial. Players click to move in traditional Diablo style and attacks are limited to left-click and just three mouse buttons (at the start). The game’s basic click to attack mechanic works incredibly well thanks to the beefy 3D models that are running around the map. There is rarely any frustration about miss clicking thanks to the clear difference between minions and opposing heroes. The game is still a bit behind the competition in terms of alternate skin options for the heroes (there are some, but not tons), but aside from that the look and feel of the majority of the heroes are both fantastic.
Changes to the MOBA Model
One of the major obstacles that Blizzard had to overcome with Heroes of the Storm is making a MOBA accessible to the average gamer. The genre is notoriously difficult (despite the simple concept and repetitive map layouts) and the community has a reputation of being less than friendly to inexperienced players. HotS makes the game enjoyable for new players with a number of critical changes to the usual format.
One of the major changes is that players share experience points and level up as a team. This tweak puts the focus on working together, but also makes it so that no players are left in the dust and become a liability to the rest of the team. The shared experience mechanic also makes it a lot more difficult for one team to get an insane lead over another and steamroll the match.
Each map also adds a unique recurring challenge, which is a change to the usual MOBA model. Depending on the map, players need to complete a series of challenges together to earn some advantage in the match. Sometimes teams are collecting coins to pay pirates to bomb their enemies and other times they are entering dungeons to slay demons and construct a monster to fight on their side. These challenges offer additional motivation to regroup and work as a team, rather than charge down the lane solo and leave the new players behind.
As is the case with any supposedly free-to-play game, consumers are likely curious about the game’s financial requirements. So far, Heroes of the Storm purchases come in two varieties; aesthetic customization or hero unlocks. The aesthetic changes are entirely optional and just give hardcore players a chance to purchase different costumes, mounts, or color schemes. These purchases don’t actually change gameplay at all, but as MOBA players like to say anyway, skins get wins. When in Rome, right?
Hero unlocks, on the other hand, are much more practical. Similar to some other MOBAs, or a game like Killer Instinct, HotS has a rotating cast of free characters. Players will always be able to play the game for free, but they may not always be able to play with their favorite character. Characters range in price from about $3.99 to $9.99 if you want to be able to play them all the time. Free characters rotate much more quickly than in some other games, with a new cast of freebies landing every Tuesday.
Players who spend a lot of time in-game will earn Gold and be able to buy content with that, as well (similar to Hearthstone). The Gold piles up quickly at the beginning and players will have enough to buy a cheap hero after they finish the tutorial, but after that it takes a long time to add up, even for players who complete the daily quests religiously. This would be slightly more annoying if the prices didn’t seem so fair. The game has a ton of content available, but players really only need a few characters to stay busy for endless hours.
Heroes of the Storm succeeds where its predecessors have failed by making a MOBA that is appealing to the non-MOBA crowd. Gamers are welcome to be as competitive as they want in the game’s ranked matches, while the more casual crowd learns the ropes in the Quick Match option. As long as new heroes and maps continue arriving in frequent content updates, we expect Heroes of the Storm to have a very long and profitable lifespan.
Heroes of the Storm is now available on PC.