Storm the battlefields of the Entertaining Maelstrom
Blizzard Entertainment already made the most successful video trading card game to day but the competition in the field was somewhat meager. Now the company ventures in the world of MOBA’s, where the titans League of Legends and DOTA 2 are the undisputed champions in terms of popularity. Massive player base, vast circuit of professional and semi-professional players, incredibly well organized tournaments, humongous following – all these and more make LoL and DOTA the online phenomena they are today.
It is hard to imagine any game that could realistically challenge them but if there was one it would be Heroes of the Storm. Released in early June 2015, the game brings a handful of changes and innovations to the genre.
For starters, HoTS comes with the stunning 8 different maps to play on; the majority of them have the standard 3 lanes but 2 have their quest objectives in separate areas altogether and provide an extra dimension to the battlefield. Currently, the players cannot choose on which map to settle their differences.
Each and every map has its peculiarities and calls for specific tactics from the 5-member teams but the common trait between them all are the mercenary camps and the objectives. When the players defeat the mobs in a camp, the defeated monsters join their side and attack the opposition. And the objectives are essentially the win condition.
Unlike LoL and DOTA 2 where the jungles are the domain of neutral monsters of different strength, some buffing those who vanquish them, others just giving them gold, the creeps in HoTS participate actively in the conflict, while the objectives often bring home victory. Blizzard have made every arena a battlefield, which directly influences the course of battle, becoming an inseparable and intrinsic part of the tactics deployed.
Another groundbreaking innovation is the fact that there is no currency in the game because there are no items to buy. Players can only modify and develop their champions through talents and skills earned at certain levels. Every hero starts the battle with 3 available abilities and unlocks the ultimate at level 10. Which ability would be the strongest weapon of a character is defined by choices made at levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 20.
This arrangement of things makes the learning curve of Heroes of the Storm much shorter and easier when compared to LoL and especially DOTA 2, where securing the right item is half of the art of playing. Another thing that makes HoTS arguably easier to play is the fact that all heroes from one team level up together and not individually. The lack of currency also makes the tricky last-hitting of lane creeps much less significant.
Matches are shorter as the map objectives essentially put a timer on each game, because they really influence the outcome. Securing 3 of them would normally be enough to win you the game. I must add that most if not all objectives feel like world-quests, usually seen in MMORPG’s. They definitely produce a great number of fights thanks to their enormous strategic importance. It does feel like Blizzard have managed to remove the somewhat uneventful and boring leveling up seen sometimes in the League or in DOTA. Instead, the map control becomes even more important.
Overall, it is still hard to judge how competitive HoTS can really be. Blizzard are tuning things – yesterday a new patch with quite a few changes was released – but it certainly brings along many fresh ideas to the field. It breaks down the established models but also feels like tuning down the difficulty quite a bit. Which could be a good thing but one of the greatest challenges and benefits of the MOBA’s is the skill they require to become a successful player. Hopefully, HoTS hasn’t taken too much of that away in order to make this genre accessible to a broader audience.
We will keep on following the development of the game in order to see how much it would impact the genre and whether it would have any lasting trail in the world of e-sports. It definitely has the potential to become something big and Blizzard Entertainment know better than mostly anybody else how to promote their games.The future looks bright before the Heroes of the Storm.
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