Heroes of the Storm Hands-On Preview
It's time for Blizzard to try and dominate an area of gaming which originally spawned from their own fan base. Whether you refer to them as Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, Lords Management or Action Real-Time Strategy games, you cannot deny that League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients 2 are the current reigning champions of this booming RTS sub-genre.
League of Legends' creation can be attributed to original version of DotA, which was created using Warcraft 3's World Editor program back in 2005. Since then, both the League and DotA series have racked in millions of players, with Forbes labeling League of Legends as the most played PC game in the world. Blizzard Entertainment has decided to cast their lot into the MOBA foray with Heroes of the Storm. As fans of both League and DotA and after trying Heroes of the Storm, we must say that there's a there's a new hero in town.
The development of Heroes of the Storm has been a typhoon of change since its first announcement as a form of "Blizzard DotA" during BlizzCon 2010. At BlizzCon 2013, Blizzard officially unveiled it with one of the greatest cinematics they have ever done. In this cinematic, we see six of the most famous faces from Blizzard's illustrious history stride onto the battlefield, unleashing a battle royal of epic proportions. Watching Jim Raynor, Tyrael and Ghost Nova fighting Diablo, Kerrigan and Arthas was jaw-dropping and was met with thunderous cheers throughout the entire Anaheim Convention Center. What's even better than watching Diablo getting nuked by a Ghost? Reenacting this dogfight out on the battlefield as we played a few rounds of Heroes of the Storm.
Unlike DotA and League of Legends, individual heroes do not level up on the battlefield, their teams do. So if you're the type who is tired of carrying your team, Blizzard has attempted to rectify lackluster teammates by having overall teams level up in unison. Rather than a tower-based focus, Heroes of the Storm (HotS) is objective-based. You can Hearthstone back to your base whenever it is in peril, but your attention will be divided among tower-pushing, increasing your forces (via mercenary camps a la Warcraft 3), and submissions/quests which can help you and your squad in the long run. For example, controlling the Obelisk of the Moon and the Obelish of the Sun on the Dragon Shire map can control players into a Dragon Knight (an overpowered unit compared to the rest of the heroes), once they reach the Dragon Altar.
An great concept is that the towers between your base and the enemies' have a finite amount of ammunition in them. Once a tower runs out of ammo, it is much easier to push forward. This is most likely done to shorten the average game length so that players aren't being forced into marathon-like Lemming wars that seem to last forever. Toss in objective/map-based bonuses like the Dragon Knight, and tides can turn remarkably fast when compared to the likes of DotA and League.
Another Battleground/map is Blackheart's Bay, while we didn't a chance to play this map, it brought about another intriguing environment-based change to the field. Throughout the map are chests (which can attack you) and creep camps where Dubloon coins are dropped from clearing them. Heroes carrying Dubloons will drop if they die. But once a team brings 10 Dubloons to Blackheart, the pirate lord, his ghost ship will start firing upon enemy towers. This will lead to players camping Blackheart's location so they can try and kill those trying to redeem their Dubloons. Nevertheless, there was constant warfare throughout the Battlegrounds, mixed into the exploratory adventures we first saw in Warcraft 3.
Whether you're a fan of Uther the Lightbringer, Thrall, Cho'gall, Rexxar (he needs to return to Azeroth!), Tassadar, Kerrigan or even the Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain, there are many characters from Blizzard's 20+ year history that can appeal to all sorts of MOBA fans. Open Beta for Heroes of the Storm (sign up here!) will start in first quarter 2014. Much like Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm will be free to play upon its release in mid-to-late 2014.