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Heroes of the Storm (PC) artwork

Heroes of the Storm (PC) review

"A more casual take on the MOBA genre that may get boring if binged, but is otherwise good."

MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) have scratched a very specific itch for me over the years that I’ve never been able to really understand. It started with this flash game called Aeon of Strife, which was lifted directly from the concept when it was created on the original Starcraft. However my first exposure was the flash game on indie flash gaming sites like ArmorGames or Kongregate, but even before those two existed. I desired something ‘more’ and was directed towards League of Legends which fought my older computers to even get running but I did eventually. I enjoyed it for what it was but the severe toxicity drove me away from LoL, a reputation harshly discovered when I tried to ask a simple question in general chat about a basic mechanic regarding one of the champions and got a flurry of responses that ranged from “lrn2play” to “git gud”. Good talk, folks.

Reviewing HotS, or even any Blizzard game is a difficult thing for me and it always has been. Blizzard has been a veritable juggernaut in the gaming industry, usually devoid of controversy or bad business planning. They found a model for them that works very well. Indeed, they have their own client and often host cross-game events that give you rewards across other games. Play 15 games with a friend and get a free mount in World of Warcraft. Reach level 70 during a season on Diablo 3 and you get a mount in Heroes of the Storm. Othertimes they give you minipets, boosters, and so on. Overwatch has recently joined the fray, giving everyone Tracer for free if they had preordered it. There’s no denying that these people know what they’re doing. Reviewing their games feels... redundant to me.

For those who are still unsure, MOBA’s typically maintain a few elements: three lanes of combat with respawning minions known as “Creeps” that continue to push lanes whether you are there or not.

That’s where MOBAs begin to diverge mechanics. We’re going to talk about Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm here today, but there will be some unavoidable comparisons.Heroes of the Storm is simply a more casual take on the genre.

There are no ‘items’ to run back to base to buy, instead every character has a unique set of talents they can choose from. These typically allow you to focus on one or two abilities that you want to focus on using. You’ll always use your full kit but some are more useful than others in certain situations, maps, or against a certain kind of enemy team.

There are no ‘potions’, instead there’s healing fountains you can retreat back towards and usually heal around 40% of your maximum health over time. This serves to keep you in the action rather than the show-stopping store pausing you have to do on most other MOBAs. In my LoL experience I remember spending almost a full minute at the stores trying to use an actual in-game search function to find certain items with a certain attack power boost so I can get back into the game.

In other MOBAs, it’s usually a simple 3-lane with a boss monster or two to give your team an important buff which helps for a major push. While boss monsters exist, there’s no buff and they mostly serve to push the lane.

Another major difference is that HotS has these variety of map objectives that pop up on certain intervals. This ties into the above, but changes the entire dynamic of the game. You have to focus these objectives or the map suddenly works in the enemy team’s favor. Some maps have shrines that fire high damage attacks on the enemy forts. Some maps have a large Dragon Knight your team can actively control, which has 300% extra structure damage to its attacks. A newer Starcraft based map mode adds literal nuclear bombs around the map for you to pick up which... Well, does exactly what it sounds like.

There is a sort of elephant in the room if you can excuse the expression but there is a facet of MOBAs that seem consistent across the genre: Community. I already described my experience in League of Legends at the beginning of this article.

I can say with some certainty that HotS isn’t as bad on that front, but with a few caveats. First, general chat is as toxic as always, which is consistent across most Blizzard games to begin with. The Great Internet Fuckwad Theory is in full effect and when you give shitty people a large platform with hundreds of people reading, chances are you are going to see some garbage.

The second caveat is that I spent most of my playtime cowering in AI games where the environment is a lot more casual. That’s where people go to learn the kit of new heroes, practice with friends or maybe just warm up. To my credit, I largely play against the highest difficulty AI which can be no joke under certain circumstances or random compositions. They can be very, very aggressive. Elite AI can be a losing proposition if inexperienced people queue for them, don’t know their character, or don’t play the map objectives as I explained earlier. Otherwise, it’s a great place to cower if you don’t want to deal with the potential competitive vitriol when higher stats are on the line.

Would I recommend Heroes of the Storm?

Typically, yes but with the context that I play all Blizzard games except for Hearthstone (Which can go die in a thousand exploding suns). I like the networking they do across games that allows for rewards to leak between them and for some reason MOBAs tickle something in my lizard brain that I just inherently enjoy.

However MOBAs as a genre caters to a very specific set of players and I can fully understand that some people find it rather boring. To a degree, the game becomes a bit samey after a while and I tend to take large breaks between new champion releases and various events. It’s very much a ‘mood’ game and not something you can binge because that’ll get you very bored very quick.

It really comes down to how you feel about Blizzard itself, really.


Zydrate's avatar
Community review by Zydrate (March 26, 2017)

Zydrate is most active on Steam and Tumblr.

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hastypixels posted March 26, 2017:

My view of MOBAs is that they're for the spare time rich and patience poor. That there are so many allows you to select your tactics-reflex-gear ratio. Blizzard has a way of biding their time and opening up a genre to the broadest span of players without sacrificing too much of what distinguishes the genre.

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