Heroes of the Storm has come a long way this past year. We’ve refrained from reviewing it earlier because it simply wasn’t finished. It certainly isn’t finished now, but it has been improved upon and there are big changes ahead – hopefully for the better.
Heroes of the Storm is a recent addition to Blizzard’s growing repertoire of genres. The MOBA features characters from the Blizzard universe, including such favorites as: Zeratul, Diablo, Tracer and Sylvanas – to name a few; as well as some you’ve never heard of, like, Sergeant Hammer. The game has a straightforward tutorial and a ‘try’ mode for all characters available in the shop.
Similar Yet Different
Most MOBAs have a fairly steep learning curve and a generally hostile community of players; Heroes of the Storm differs in that it is very accessible to those new to the genre and has ‘safeguards’ in place to curb player aggression. In Heroes you can’t type to the other team, and a silencing system has been implemented where players who have been reported for abusive chat are punished by not being able to talk to non-party members and non-friends. With repeated offenses, the duration of the silence is increased (note also that as of June silenced players will be barred from competitive play).
Heroes is different from other MOBAs in a number of other ways. It has fewer heroes and classes to choose from than other MOBAs, you do not purchase items for your hero, you start with all of your abilities (except ultimate) and modify them as you level up. Heroes is also more team oriented than other MOBAs. There is no carry class (though xp contribution is the most similar), there are no minion last hits and all leveling experience points are shared. The majority of maps are three laned with the exception of a few two laned maps. Each map is a different shape and size and has its own timed objectives to complete. Completing objectives is often necessary to win a match and those objectives for the most part require almost full team participation. Objectives entail collecting the most items, controlling an area, or damaging a super minion for an advantage (super-minion or straight damage done to enemy structures/core). These objectives force teammates together and ends up leading to frequent team fighting. Something worthy of note, is that Blizzard recently added a one lane map (similar to the one in League of Legends) though it is only available for custom games and not for quick match or competitive play. It would be interesting if they added that map into a separate ranked ladder, but it doesn’t seem like they’ll be doing that any time soon.
A Match Made in Lobby
Ranked play and ‘MMR hell’ have been a serious problem with Heroes. The Heroes community has been frustrated, feeling at times that it is almost impossible to advance with the way they’re being matched with teammates and opponents. Luckily Blizzard is reworking the ranking system and is officially starting the season this June. The ranking system seems similar to that of Starcraft 2 in that there are Tiers (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, Grand Master) and also divisions (5-1). Players will now only be able to play ranked together (Hero League: 2 friends queued, Team League: 5 friends queued) if they are within 5 divisions of each other. This should help offset the mismatching we are dealing with right now. Hopefully they will be able add a number of games to the matchmaking between teammates, as inexperience of one player (especially if they are banner) can cost the game. In addition to their difficulty with ranked play, they have also had difficulty with quick match matchmaking. In quick match there isn’t the luxury of a draft pick, so team composition is out of your control. The team compositions have been horrible this past year, in an attempt to fix it they forced equal numbers of healers (if there is one) on both teams and at least one tank on each team (if there is one). Unfortunately that still wasn’t enough. A lazy way of doing team composition, as I’ve noticed over the last few months, is that Blizzard loves to do partial mirror matches (3+ of the same character on each team). Hopefully in the future, this problem will be addressed. A good way to keep track of your statistics (winrates, mmr, etc) is to sign up with hotslogs. MMR isn’t the only thing you’ll have to be concerned with when it comes to ranked play – money factors in as well.
Heroes of the Storm is a ‘free to play’ game, but like other MOBAs there are many in-game purchases to be made. Once a week a new set of 6-10 characters become free to play (6 for new accounts and 10 for others depending on your profile level). Each character costs anywhere from 3.99-9.99USD or 4,000-10,000 in game gold to purchase. New characters are 15,000 gold, or 10.00USD. Almost all characters in the game have decent win-rates (fluctuating over time with updates and hero additions), however Blizzard tends to make new characters (with the exception of the Warrior class) overpowered and then nerf them 1-2 weeks after release. Though it is not overtly deceptive – it is a trend most of the community has caught on to – it is still tempting and likely provides Blizzard with some extra cash. Even though most characters have decent win rates, there are quite a few characters that you’re expected to have in ranked play (Kael’Thas, Li-Ming, Tracer, Xul, Diablo, E.T.C, Lt. Morales). Even though I wouldn’t call Heroes a ‘pay-to-win’ game, sometimes it definitely helps. Keep this in mind as the release of Chromie (gnome-mage assassin) comes to the nexus next week.
Despite its many flaws, Heroes of the Storm is still a fun game to play, especially if you’re a fan other Blizzard’s other titles. Blizzard is aware of the issues and has been working on them, albeit slowly. Here’s more on the fixes and changes.