DOTA and League of Legends: You may recognise these games as the most popular games in the MOBA genre currently but also as some of the games with some of the worst multiplayer communities in video gaming history. You may also recognise these games (and their genre in general) for also being some of the most difficult games to both learn and master over a very long time, even competing with games like StarCraft in their difficulty. But recently, there’s been a new addition to this genre that has taken away many of the features that would confuse new players and made a far simpler version of the genre in general: So much so that the game isn’t even regarded by most of its community as a MOBA, instead as a ‘Hero Brawler’ a genre which, as far as my searching of the internet can find, is a genre currently exclusive to the game: That game is Heroes of the Storm (abbreviated as HoTS), Blizzard Entertainment’s brand new 5v5 MOBA/Hero Brawler that is officially releasing on June 2nd but has been in different phases of open and closed alpha and beta for over a year now.
Heroes of the Storm’s overall gameplay is very similar to games like DOTA and LoL in that the main goal of every game is to destroy the enemy team’s main base (named the ‘Core’ in HoTS) whilst also defending your own with the rest of your team. You do this by going through one of the multiple ‘lanes’ to the enemies’ base and destroying each of the barriers on the way, clearing a path straight to the core. Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds, as each barrier has a tower which can do very large amounts of damage to you if you stay within their range for too long.
Most of the well-known features (some not for the right reasons) of the MOBA genre such as ‘Last Hitting’ and ‘Item Buying’ which makes the game a lot simpler on its own, however HoTS goes a step further to make it much easier for new players to get into the game and learn its mechanics without getting shouted off of it by angry teammates. One of the main ways it does this is by removing many team-based elements seen in the MOBA genre: For example, in games like DOTA and LoL each individual of a team has their own level, so if they don’t keep up in levels with the rest of the team they could horribly drag the rest of their team down with them. In HoTS however, the team overall has its own level, meaning that if someone is falling behind it doesn’t affect the rest of the team as they all share a level and another team member can easily catch-up for the one falling behind. These changes make it so much easier for beginners in the MOBA genre to get into the game as they don’t run the risk of getting shouted at by the rest of their team for screwing up, making the game very appealing to new audiences to the genre.
The game also uses the fact that all of its characters are from one of the three main Blizzard franchises; “Warcraft” or more commonly known by its latest game, “World of Warcraft”, “Diablo” and “StarCraft”, to its advantage meaning that fans of any of these series can play as their favourite characters or watch and laugh at them when they ride on a tiny horse mount, as I did when I first played as Diablo and mounted up for the first time.
The game’s graphics are what you’d expect from a Blizzard-made game recently: Very high quality and genuinely nice looking. The issue I have with HoTS’ visuals though is that it seems the game heavily relies on its looks which, whilst they do look very nice this, is almost to the detriment of its performance. However, the game does offer a wide variety of graphical settings which can be changed at any time, even in a match meaning that it is easy to get that oh so sweet 60 FPS!
The controls for Heroes of the Storm are exactly the same as you’d see in any other MOBA-like game. You click to move and auto-attack with the mouse and use a line of keys on the keyboard to use your abilities, which are exclusive to your hero. There’s really nothing innovative about the controls of HoTS, however there really isn’t anywhere to innovate to controls-wise in the MOBA genre anymore, so it’s not really a big shock.
The game’s music and general sound works well when you hear it. The main menu music does its job of hyping you up for a match and the in-game SFXs mix well with the game’s mixture of technology of “StarCraft”, the fantasy of “WarCraft” and the mythical of “Diablo”. The game also does a good job of not intruding your games with music at the completely wrong times, instead just keeping it low and letting the mechanics of the game speak for the game.
I have, however, had some problems technically with Heroes of the Storm. I have a very, very high internet download and upload speed (65-70MBps up and about 6MBps down usually, which is very good compared to the general UK speeds) and even so, I’ve had a fair few connectivity issues with the game. Not so much disconnecting from the game due to complete connection loss or anything like that, but more very apparent connection lag in the game which, if you’ve never experienced it, is very similar to FPS drops which as most of you should know is hell to deal with in this type of game where one bad move in a fight with an enemy player can give them a very large lead. I’ve also had times where the game refused to actually execute my commands due to the same problem which again, is a very large problem for this type of game.
So, is Heroes of the Storm going to be the ‘next big thing in the MOBA genre? Probably not. But will it have a very high spot in said genre. Very likely so, yes. If you’re a veteran of games like DOTA and LoL and enjoy the pain and suffering that the community (usually delivers) then I’d probably avoid HoTS. However, if you’re a new player in the MOBA genre who wants to give it a shot but doesn’t want to deal with the communities of most games in the genre or is a fan of any of Blizzard’s three main franchises, then I’d say give it a shot. I mean, it’s free, so why not?
Heroes of the Storm will be available on Windows and OS X on June 2nd 2015 for free.