Watcha Playin’? is a FreeMMOStation show where we give you a first look with commentary on the most popular free-to-play MMO games available.
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Things you need to know before you start playing Heroes of the Storm. This is a brawling MOBA, which means it focuses on getting into the action fast and detracts from the PvE focus in games like Dota 2 or League of Legends. No last hitting, we have mounts, XP is shared globally between the team, towers have ammo, and instead of an item shop, each character has their own set of talents that are acquired through a match. Also unlike competitors, Heroes of the Storm will have a wide selection of maps and each map has entirely different objectives.
Heroes of the Storm starts pretty slow and some might say tame, but as you get accustomed to its unique match flow, as in any MOBA game, you’ll likely begin to see its true potential.
Players start with limited access to heroes and even limited access to their complete talent lists which is equivalent to auto leveling and item purchasing in SMITE. Players are forced to grind up points to purchase new characters and then level those characters up in order to get their full versatility and potential. It’s no Dota but it’s also not pay-to-win. This makes learning the game very easy, especially for those not used to the MOBA genre but in the end makes for a lackluster first impression for MOBA veterans like me, who want to try all the characters right out of the gate with all of their possible ability combinations.
As for roles, we have Warriors, Assassins, Supports and Specialists, which is my favorite type of character because they tend to be played very different from the traditional, and I believe truly fitting for Heroes of the Storm lack of mechanics, they focus on strategy. On a note about strategy, it is very important to complete the objectives in the maps. It can become a dire situation if you let the enemy trample through the jungle not just because of the unique map objectives but also because when you kill a mercenary camp, they get added into the lane as additional units and they are strong. Factor in the ammo system for towers, now you see how the jungle becomes an incredibly important place for all players not just a single role like in League of Legends.
For the most part, the point of the game is very straight forward. Aggress on the enemy base with more power and speed than the enemy can do the same to you. Unlike Dota 2 which is about timing and bursts of damage where players will actually kill their own lane minions to have a safer laning period, Heroes of the Storm rewards pushing but at least it is in multiple directions with the importance of the jungle creeps and not just down the lanes like in Tome: Immortal Arena which can make games feel attritious. Don’t get me wrong, HoTS is an attritious game but to a lesser degree thanks to the objectives on the map and how safe laning is. There is also a gate that players can safely pass through in their lanes as well as very short lanes comparatively to other games. This safety doesn’t last forever, but it does stop certain characters or teams just bull truing through defenses which is a problem League of Legends had last year.
If you are new to MOBA you very well might love Heroes of the Storm and even as an experienced player myself, it is starting to grow on me but I still have a few biases that I can’t overlook with this particular title, and maybe some of you will feel the same way.
It has some performance issues on some machines and as of right now (closed beta) doesn’t run as well as League of Legends or Dota 2. The overall art quality is not up to par with modern MOBA games and is very comical but lacks originality because of the origins of the characters and the universe they coexist within. It was weird seeing some of these characters and how their models look now compared to in their original games. UI is clean and informative though I would love to see custom UI skins for the different universes like Diablo, Starcraft, and World of Warcraft. Same goes for mounts, they look really silly but some people probably like that, and I just ask that we get more to choose from.
In terms of game feel, much like the canceled Dawngate, action and movement doesn’t feel very good. Every character seems huge compared to the map and the maps overall aren’t that large. So, action in this game kind of feels like a mosh pit of numbers and effects. Not many skill shots exists, most abilities are point and click though they do borrow from League of Legends with their attack move fluidity. Dota 2 and League of Legends are both much more mechanical and impactful when it comes to fighting overall which I find is a fault in every brawling MOBA I have ever played, from Strife to Heroes of the Storm, so it isn’t unique to just this game. Honestly if I wanted to play a MOBA with a huge focus on fighting, I would want the fights to be more mechanical than any other game not the opposite.
That is my one true design complaint but the lack of mechanics will allow newer players to get used to the controls and game flow faster. In fact, most aspects of this game seem geared toward a casual experience, which is good or bad depending on how you look at it. Will it be competitive? To an extent but honestly it won’t match League of Legends or Dota 2 or maybe even SMITE but in the end I think Blizzard knows that and they want to be the Smash Bros of MOBA games. However, we did see how Smash Bros ended up being hugely competitive despite not being designed for it, so we will have to see how the community develops to get a grasp if Heroes of the Storm will see giant tournament play or foster just a niche competitive scene. Either way, it is honestly fun and has some very interesting design points that make it worth trying.