When Blizzard launched Warcraft III back in 2002 I very much doubt that they expected to be releasing a game 13 years later that is based on a mod developed for their strategy classic, let alone be one of the last major developers in the world to do so.
Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard's take on the MOBA, the genre that was invented in its own back yard. But instead of rushing out a Dota clone to try and reap the rewards as soon as possible, they held off, creating something truly unique that features tons of revolutionary mechanics. With the long beta over and done with, Heroes is finally freely available to everyone, and here are six reasons why you should care.
Iconic Characters Meet for the First Time
Blizzard's biggest initial advantage over the likes of League of Legends and Dota is that they have a gigantic history of characters, most of whom PC gamers will instantly recognise. Every one of the playable characters in Heroes is from a past Blizzard title, ranging from classics such as Warcraft to more obscure output like The Lost Vikings.
However, it's not just the fact that the characters are recognisable that is great – it's also that this is the first time many of the characters have met within the realms of Blizzard lore. Seeing iconic Warcraft characters such as Chen face off against the likes of Valla from Diablo or Tychus from StarCaft is something many Blizzard fans never thought they would see, and is certainly a fan pleasing moment. Despite all the characters having extensive histories, new players don't need to know any of it to enjoy Heroes, as ultimately anyone's past have no impact on their gameplay of the present.
Shared XP Means You're Never Underpowered
One of the hurdles to overcome when starting out with a MOBA is the feeling that you are a hindrance to your team. Both LoL and Dota require you to actually do things so you aren't underpowered and useless, but Heroes features shared XP (experience) system, meaning every member will be the same level.
This is especially useful in the first few games, where at the start you have no idea what to do. In most MOBAs, by the time you get the hang of things you are too under-levelled to be able to help, and just become an easy way for the enemy to extend their lead. But shared XP system means that once you get to grips with things you will still be powerful enough to be of assistance, and this is where the fun begins, after you get those first few kills and feel like a badass.
All the Maps are Different
Each of the seven (an eighth is on the way) battlegrounds or maps features its own unique sub-objective. Obviously to win you still have to kill the opponent's core, but claiming these sub-objectives for your team can make destroying it a lot easier. On the Dragon Shire map, for example, if a team manages to capture two shrines, positioned at the top and bottom of the playable environment, one of their members will be able to become the Dragon Knight, a powerful hero with a large HP pool and incredibly strong attacks. Other examples include massive minions pushing down a lane if enough skulls are collected on Haunted Mines, or temples firing ancient lasers at the opponent's buildings on Sky Temple.
Having great variety in the maps, along with ways to win that aren't simply obliterating the enemies and smashing their buildings (although that is still an option), is a refreshing change in the MOBA space and something that keeps Heroes entertaining for hours.
No Gold or Items Simplifies Everything
The single most complex part of any of the major MOBAs is easily the hundreds of items that you can purchase, and more pertinently knowing what each of those items does. Fortunately, the folks over at Blizzard realised how confusing this could be and have decided to scrap gold and items entirely, resulting in a MOBA that is incredibly simple to learn.
Getting rid of gold helpfully removes the need for last hitting (getting the killing blow on a AI-controlled creep), something that many struggle with. Having no items also makes the control scheme a lot easier, with only a small handful of keys to worry about.
There are Multiple Skills to Choose from in Each Match
The complexity lost by not having items to chose from is somewhat regained by each character having multiple skills that can be chosen partway through a match, likewise different boosts to these skills. Hitting a certain level will give you a choice of talents to improve one of your abilities, while reaching level ten will offer up the choice of two ultimate abilities for each hero, and choosing the right one for each match is key.
Having a choice of talents and abilities is where the builds in Heroes comes in. In one game you may want to build E.T.C as a tank that absorbs all the damage and disables the enemy team; next time, you can build him as a mobile, split-pushing hero whose job it is to be everywhere on the map. The differences possible between builds means it takes hours to truly master one hero and find the best combinations, although there are already plenty of helpful guides online.
"Video games aren't sport?" Okay man, we've a channel for you, too.
The Other Players (Usually) Aren't Dicks
MOBA players generally aren't the friendliest bunch. Going two matches in Dota without being called some expletive (or what you assume is an expletive, as it's in Russian) is almost unheard of. Heroes of the Storm, on the other hand, has the nicest, most welcoming community of any of the MOBAs (so far). Only once have I witnessed someone swear at a teammate, and even then the person in question did have it coming after intentionally feeding himself to the enemy team. While you may come up against the odd bad egg here and there, just be grateful that you aren't being insulted in a language you don't understand every couple of hours because, believe me, that isn't fun.
Heroes of the Storm is available to play now, here, for free, if you like.
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