I recently got my hands on an Alpha key to try out the latest Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)Heroes of the Storm – in the market today, which just happens to be created by one of the biggest game developers in the industry; Blizzard Entertainment.

Heroes of the Storm?

Heroes of the Storm is a free-to-play MOBA starring your favorite Blizzard characters. In Heroes, the epic battles between the champions and villains of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo aren’t settled with last hits and kill-stealing—players are distinguished through the accomplishments of their team.

Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard’s foray into the now trending MOBA culture. What’s a MOBA? Well, it’s a game where usually 10 players battle it out in an enclosed arena trying to take out the opponent’s home base. Popular MOBA’s would include League of Legends, DC’s Infinite Crisis and of course the biggest of them all Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2).

DOTA 2 internationals attracting players with a whopping prize of $10 million! Yes you got that right $10 million! But what makes Heroes of the Storm stand out from the rest? Well Blizzard decided to take everything we know about MOBAs today, and practically threw it out the window with new gameplay strategies and practically revamping the whole MOBA style of play.

While still in the Alpha Development stage, Heroes of the Storm sets itself apart in three aspects. Unlike most MOBA’s you do not actually require to farm as much as there is no currency system or items to be bought, instead waves of minions or creeps as they call it are spawned every 30 seconds mainly for experience points and dragon fodder to take damage from towers the block the enemy base.

A new mechanic called team leveling has also been introduced. This means that there is just one experience bar and everyone on the team shares it – so let’s say if you’re level 5 everyone on your team is also level 5. This changes the whole solo play mechanic that we tend to see in MOBA’s.

The last point is that instead of just killing other opponents and farming for experience you have objectives that could help you take down the enemy’s base much easier. What are these objectives you ask? Well currently there are 4 different objectives and battlegrounds that are selected randomly for each game you play. One example would be Blackheart’s bay – you can collect doubloons from the neutral camps and pay the character Blackheart. Once you have enough coins he will bombard your enemy’s towers and gates for you by dealing massive damage and help you win the game. You can also capture mercenaries that help you siege the enemies base if you beat them. This makes Heroes of the Storm a very different game altogether.

The Positives

Playable Heroes and Customisability

Now, I know I did not touch anything on the heroes just now because it’s just too amazing to not have its own segment; the heroes you play are characters from the Blizzard universe!

Characters like Thrall, Kerrigan, Diablo, Arthas, Zeratul, Tyrael—powerful warriors from Azeroth, Sanctuary, the Koprulu sector, and beyond—have been ‘sucked’ into the Nexus, a transdimensional storm. Stranded in a strange limbo of clashing universes, these combatants are joined by the same fate—to engage in pulse-pounding combat, to team up in a deadly struggle for survival. Just imagine Diablo versus the Lich King or Illidan versus Kerrigan, if that doesn’t blow your freakin mind I don’t know what will!

Now on a hero level they try to give the heroes abilities that well suit their personas in their own games – which is great. They even give you all their skills to start with right at the beginning instead of having to power them up every level you gain. They do however give your hero traits they can learn every few levels. For example, maybe more damage against foes or gain life with every basic attack as well as choosing between 2 of your ultimate powers at level 10. This makes each game and hero different and making the versatility of the game very high.

Each hero does have a class and various difficulty levels of play and mastery – Warrior (tank), Assassin (damage dealer), Support (healer and shielder) as well as a Specialist (utility) heroes who have their own specialized mechanics that make them more difficult but of course also more entertaining to play.

With the difficulty level of heroes it is easier for newcomers to basically know what to play if they aren’t so sure. Use a more straightforward hero that does not need estimation or timing as compared to those who want a challenge. You could also set yourself apart from the rest by purchasing the various skins or mounts (yes you can ride mounts to make yourself move faster in-game) for your characters from the store

Graphics

Graphic and visual quality are extremely important to me in a game. It either gives me an eye sore or just amazes me through and through – and Heroes does it. The graphics are amazing for a MOBA – crisp and detailed which makes playing the game even more enjoyable.

Tutorial

I think it is extremely important for every MOBA to have a tutorial for newcomers. There are always newbies that want to try MOBA’s, but because they are clueless about what is going on during the game without a tutorial usually get scolded leading them to swear off MOBA’s for good. Heroes of the storm’s tutorial not only teaches players but also gives them a rough story on how they go into the ‘world’ of Heroes of the Storm – it is the little things like a good storyline that make me want to play more.

A Game not just for Veterans

Having played Dota, Dota 2 and League of Legends, I know the community can be very harsh to newcomers because they usually keep dying and drag the whole team down – especially when the newcomers don’t know what to do. This is where the shared levelling and no currency comes into play. With shared levelling, new players will not lag behind (as much) the team and the better players will definitely pick up the slack for the newcomers without feeling much of the burden. Also, without currency, there isn’t the hassle of farming for money to buy items and it is all based on your kills and hero level making the entry into this game really easy and smooth.

Negatives

Inability to view other characters

Now when I play any MOBA I like to be able to click another hero and see their abilities so I know what they could do or see the exact amount of health they have left so I know roughly if I should chase them for the kill or not. But this game does not allow me to click other characters, but instead locks on my characters stats only. This really frustrates me because having only just state on the game I still do not know all the characters abilities.

Same Heroes on opponent’s team

This is a small issue, but to me I just don’t believe there should be two Lich King’s or Tychus’s in the same map I mean there is only one of that character how can there be a second one and it just makes the game a little less appealing to know there is a chance of fighting the same character you chose – because I am a real sucker for constant variety no matter how small the issue is.

Separating the boys from the men

Yes, while shared leveling and the absence of currency is good for newcomers, it does not really suit those who are better – because now you cannot really tell who’s stronger because everything is shared. But that’s where the kill/death ratio comes in. But what if I am the guy getting all the kills? Do I get any new items to show for it? Am I stronger than the rest of my teammates? Are you going to fear me more? No. It just makes everyone feel the same, there is no particular character that I would find easier to pick off or know to stay away from, and everybody is just the same.

Considerations

Objective battlegrounds

This is a double edged sword for me. As of right now, every game you play has a side objective that you have to keep focusing on as well. Yeah sure, it does bring versatility and new play styles, but what if I just want to have a game where I want to just kill opponents and take down towers with a plain map because I’m not interested in playing a side objective – it’s the little things that sometimes do need to stay the same that make a game better – or at least the option for no side objectives.

The Verdict

Although Heroes of the Storm is just an Alpha, Blizzard’s attempt to fix something that was not (not really) broken in the first place, has proved to be pretty fruitful and may even revolutionize modern MOBA’s of today. I hope they do look into the little irks and make Heroes of the Storm definitely has the potential to blow away the competition.