Heroes of the Storm: Blizzard’s attempt at a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). I use the word “attempt” loosely to play devil’s advocate because in reality, Heroes of the Storm is hugely successful (believe me, that’s very subjective). I did a little digging to see if I could uncover how many players have been logged since the game opened as an alpha, but I was unable to find such information. Either no one has recorded it (which I doubt), or Blizzard is keeping us in the dark (much more likely). For all of you League of Legends players (I say that non-sarcastically…I was one) you can probably imagine what Heroes of the Storm is like (I’ll get into the nuances later). However, many of you have never seen or played a MOBA like League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm, so let me explain at a very basic level. Generally, there is a map. Each map contains a number of “lanes” which lead out of your home base. This base is called your Nexus (League of Legends) or your Core (Heroes of the Storm). Disclaimer: these are not the nuances I was talking about. These lanes are continuously filled with “minions”, game generated AI, that try (in vain) to push through the enemy’s defenses to get to the core. If you have the patience for it, EVENTUALLY one team’s minions will reach and destroy the home base. I don’t recommend this. ANYWAYS! The player’s job is to control a unique “champion” or “hero” that is equip with a limited array of abilities. You are then in charge of aiding your minions in reaching the opponent’s home base and destroying it. The fun comes from competing against other unique heroes with their own set of abilities controlled by another player.
Now here come the nuances and why I’m a Heroes of the Storm player and not a League of Legends player (anymore). First, before any of you League players tell me I never gave it a chance, I was a platinum level player. For anyone who doesn’t find any kind of meaning in that, I was about the 3rd highest rank in competitive gameplay. With that said, I want to say that I have NOT reached the required level (30) in Heroes of the Storm to start playing ranked matches, and therefore have no experience with the competitive scene, though it was just recently released and is new with the updated beta. Let me speak briefly about League of Legends. It’s a fantastic game that allows players to have fun with their friends, trash talk their opponents, and show off their hard work at mastering the mechanics of the game. Players must work together, as in any MOBA, in order to achieve victory. League of Legends focuses on gold and experience, which is used to buy items and upgrade your champion’s abilities that increase the power of your unique champion. Gold and experience are acquired by last-hitting minions (dealing the killing blow) or by slaying or aiding in the slaying of an enemy champion. Experience (and gold) to level your champion and upgrade their abilities is gained only when your close enough to the action to receive the experience. This is the root of my complaints with League of Legends. Let’s pretend you’re new to League of Legends and you want to play with your friend who has been playing for a while now. You join a game with him and quickly realize most of the people your playing against are a much higher skill level than you and you’re spending most of your game-time in the graveyard. Well now its about 20 minutes into the game and everybody is all grouped up ready for what is called “team fighting”. It’s pretty self-explanatory. It doesn’t take long (and I mean a few seconds before your dead) to realize that you’re not a very influential force in the game. Why not? Well, it goes back to gold. If you aren’t as good as your opponents and they are able to take advantage of that, you are going to be bullied and killed, granting the enemy gold and yourself falling even further behind in experience and gold. Too many times dying will put your opponent so far ahead and you so far behind that you may as well AFK (away from keyboard) because your game is over. I understand that some of the greatest moments of this game is when teams come back heroically from seemingly inevitable defeat, but that isn’t going to be the case for your average player. Leave that stuff to the pros.
Enter Heroes of the Storm. This game has NO items. “No items?!” exclaims the shocked League of Legends player, “How do you progress?” I’m glad you asked. Heroes of the Storm has redefined what “playing as a team” means. Experience in this game is global. What does that mean? It means that no matter what lane your in, even if your sitting at home base, your gaining experience for the actions of the entire team. That said, no one hero is going to be a higher level than anyone else on your team. If I’m level 6, so are the other 4 players on my team. This immediately takes away the ever prevalent concept of “snowballing” found in League of Legends. (Snowballing is when a single champion[or entire team] has gained too much of an advantage for the opposing team to overcome). Casual MOBA player: “Hey, thanks Blizzard! Now I can play this game with my friends without worrying too much about falling behind!” Well put Casual MOBA Player, well put. Don’t worry about progression either! Each unique character gains a talent point every 3 levels, starting at level 1. These talents give extra power or abilities to your hero, depending on your choice. I might chose talents that allow me to capture neutral monsters in the “jungle” (parts of the map without defensive structures that players from both teams can occupy at any given time) which will take me down a completely different path then somebody who wants to maximize their damage potential against enemy heroes. Professional League of Legends Player: “Well what about last-hitting and item choice in response to team composition? What about high-level mechanics? What about SKILL?” You’re not going to believe it, but Heroes of the Storm has that, too. There’s no last hitting. Killing minions is killing minions and you get the same amount of experience for last-hitting or not. The “skill” in Heroes of the Storm comes from decision making and fight mechanics. Unlike League of Legends’ unchanging map, Heroes of the Storm has several dynamic maps that each force it’s occupants to collide in an effort to get ahead. In one map, players must gather coins from monsters on the map and then turn them in at a designated point to rain cannonballs on their opponent’s defensive structures. But here’s the twist! Both teams gather coins from the same areas and both teams must turn in these coins at the same point. Do you see where this is going? Lots of conflict! If one team decided to ignore the cannon and try to push through to the enemies core, the opposing team can easily rack up coins while still effectively defending their core, leading to an easy victory. Ignoring the objectives is generally ill-advised. However, here is the beauty of the game. Since experience in the game is global, teams are very even in level, usually only about a level apart, if that. This means that just because the opposing team controlled the objective the first time doesn’t mean they will the second. The playing field is kept even in this way, giving each team the ability to recover from their previous mistakes. Skillful players are rewarded with a victory in this game, not gold. Moral of the story? Play Heroes of the Storm. It’s a great introduction for players new to MOBAs and a great platform for competitive play for veteran players. I hope to see you there. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ecv0bT9DEo P.S. Did I mention you can’t trash talk your opponents? That’s right! If you get outplayed by an enemy hero, have no fear, Blizzard has not implemented an “all” chat that would allow that player to smack talk you. Your integrity remains intact. Play on! Last Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean your team won’t trash talk you…they might. Good luck!