Heroes of the Storm, otherwise known as HotS, is Blizzard Entertainment’s free-to-play ground-breaking title into the Multi-player Online Battle Arena (MOBA) scene. Still a relative newcomer to the MOBA game, competing directly with top titles such as League of Legends and DOTA2, it has proven itself to be a fun and popular game. From its ultra-colourful design and ridiculous character costumes to its unique and aesthetically pleasing maps, it is a fun change of pace to the MOBA genre. Initially, HotS suffered a huge amount of criticism due to die-hard MOBA fans disliking the post-release changes it brought, however, HotS has developed a large fan base and increasing player numbers over the last 6 months.
Sticking to the general MOBA rules of lanes and heroes, Blizzard have re-defined the way that players interact with the map itself. Instead of focusing solely on the heroes, their builds and how to level them the fastest, they have moved into a more team-focused game with secondary objectives. For example, League of Legends requires you to ‘last hit’ minions to earn gold, with that gold you buy items that boost your character. Blizzard have done away with the ‘last hit’ mechanic and have introduced shared experience across the team so that no-one is lagging behind or racing ahead. They have gone with a character-specific ‘talent tree’ system instead of buying items so you can specifically build your hero to suit your play-style. For example, Thrall’s three main abilities let him cast lightning, stun and slow target enemies and lastly he can give himself a quick speed boost. Blizzard’s ‘Talent Tree’ allows you to tailor him in a variety of ways, such as a caster, attacking heroes and minions from afar to help preserve your health, or a melee assassin who can stun and quickly whittle enemies health before they can attack. Each hero is different and their abilities stick closely to the lore of which game they are from, adding a fun little immersion to the game.
When it comes to maps, Blizzard have taken the boring ‘3 lanes and some bosses’ approach and spun it around to be more challenging and interactive. Each map is tailored to have different mechanics and objectives. Some require you to defend temples, which shoot lasers at the opposing team’s towers and core depending on who has control of the temples. Others require you to wait until a time triggered event begins, triggering new mobs to enter the map which, upon their death, drop tokens that summon powerful siege units that are utilised to destroy lanes, towers and absolutely decimate other heroes. The newest of the maps to be released is a first for HotS which involves taking down the enemies’ core without actually being in their base. The majority of MOBAs require the player’s team to infiltrate the enemy’s base, destroy their towers and keeps and then directly attack the core. HotS’s new maps require various team-focused objectives being completed to help turn the tide of battle. This creates a very engaging multi-player experience, and fosters a strong sense of teamwork and group accomplishment, that is, when you succeed.
Piggybacking off the other Blizzard franchises, World of Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft series, HotS offers a wide variety of colourful and very well designed characters. Examples include the appearance of Thrall and Jaina from WoW, Raynor and Kerrigan from StarCraft and Johanna and Diablo from the Diablo series. HotS has redesigned all of the characters in its own super colourful and HD style, yet staying true to original character designs. The heroes have all been re-worked into HotS’ art style, full of deep and vibrant colours, cool little armour animations and amazing variations. They have stuck to the age old ‘pay real money for hero costumes’ but you feel like you are getting your money’s worth with how detailed and entertaining the costumes are. To counter having to pay real money for costumes you can buy other heroes and mounts with an in-game currency, gold, earned through completing daily quests. Blizzard have stayed true to form with their ‘daily quest’ system to keep players coming back. The gold earned and specific goals of these ‘dailies’ varies, ensuring each day will bring a new challenge into your HotS experience.
Blizzard have definitely solidified their spot as one of the best MOBA’s available, however, as with all online games you get deliberate trolls and weak players. The matchmaking system when you aren’t playing ‘Ranked’ seems to be random at best. Half the time the groups will be all over the place, for example having three level 40’s, a level 11 and a level 8. This leads to the 40s carrying the other players and the other players unintentionally feeding the enemies experience making them stronger. The only way to combat this is to either play Ranked or as a five person pre-made group. However, to play in a Ranked match you must achieve a certain level of in-game progress, which can be quite frustrating if your groups are being really mixed up, an inevitable side-effect of online gaming.
Unfortunately, if there is a player who is deliberately doing the wrong thing and trolling the rest of the team there is no way to kick or group vote the player out. Their AFK kick system is a great addition, more than 120 seconds of inactivity will get a player kicked from the team and AI will take over.
The servers can be a bit of a pain on occasion, there is the classic ‘Tuesday night server reset’ which means that 5am PTD means no Blizzard games at all. If you are playing on local servers the ping is quite nice, being an acceptable 15-30ms, however if you get stuck on an international server be prepared for 300ms+ ping, making the game horrendously unplayable.
Over-all, Heroes of the Storm is a great game to play. From the stunning map and hero design to the new and refreshing game mechanics, you can easily spend hours playing this game. It encourages team-work, communication and inviting your friends along to join in the fun.