Heroes of the Storm is a cheery and accessible MOBA (that’s a Massive Online Battle Arena game) for all audiences. Where DOTA 2 and League of Legends (LoL) have built a reputation of having a high barrier or entry for newcomers, HOTS aims to open its doors to everyone – though only time will tell if it can maintain this welcoming environment.
Like its main competition, you can download Heroes of the Storm now for free, with optional micropayments on hand for additional features.
Much of DOTA 2 and LoL’s charm (if that’s the right term) comes from the steep learning curve of their underlying concepts. This gave those dedicated enough to master them a feeling of smug superiority, but did little to broaden their audience. By contrast, you can pick up Heroes of the Storm after just a few 20 minute games.
At first glance, Heroes of the Storm seems like a carbon copy of its rivals. The action takes place in an arena and pits two teams of five players against each. Each team’s goal is straightforward; to attack their opponent’s tower, while simultaneously defending their own. So far, so standard.
But differences do start to appear as the game veers from the standard template. In the same way Super Smash Bros. is an accessible game featuring Nintendo’s most popular stars, Heroes of the Storm is a mash up of Blizzard’s games. This means the characters are drawn from World of Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft, and other less famous titles.
While this may sound like it would be chaos, it actually works. This is because Blizzard has managed to take all of these characters, and their huge variety of abilities, and create balance between them. No matter the combination of heroes on a team, it works beautifully.
Heroes of the Storm features a good selection of maps (this may not seem like a huge point, but both DOTA2 and LoL only have one). Each map is dynamic, with different events taking place as you battle across them. This keeps the maps exciting, as objectives and conditions are constantly changing. This prevents the action ever feeling repetitive, even after a whole day of play.
Another upshot of these dynamic maps is that no one player can carry the team. While experts may be responsible for the primary objective of taking the enemy tower, novice players can still add to the teams tactics by focusing on secondary targets. Everything counts.
The shared importance of every player is mirrored in experience system, with all of your team’s rewards split equally between its members. To some this may seem unfair, but it means less experienced or under-leveled players don’t become frustrated as they are constantly beaten to the points.
All of this combines to make a very different MOBA experience. Instead of every game being a vicious competitive experience (with other players berating your inability at every opportunity), Heroes of the Storm incites friendly inclusion with every team member adding to the effort. This makes it a far more welcoming experience for newcomers and less dedicated players.
Blizzard has designed Heroes of the Storm to create fast and involved matches. This extends throughout the game, with fast matchmaking and frenetic battles. Even your character’s skills are all unlocked from the start. While you can pay to customize these powers with different effects as you level, the base abilities remain the same.
To get you up to speed, Heroes of the Storm has a great tutorial. This not only teaches you all you need to know, but also adds a bit of historical context to the joining of all of Blizzard’s creations.
Unfortunately, not everything is quick and easy. Prices to unlock characters are higher than in other MOBAs, and grinding for virtual money takes forever. You have two options: invest hours and hours or pay real money.
Graphically, Heroes of the Storm is spectacular. The characters are packed full of detail that wonderfully conveys their origins, and each level drips with color and originality. There are issues with this vibrant world though, with some iconic characters (particularly villains) losing much of their impact.
My first MOBA
Heroes of the Storm is the MOBA for all audiences. If you have ever been drawn to LoL or Dota 2 but lacked the patience or thick skin to get into it, then this is the solution. Win or lose you will learn, and even if for some reason you don’t you will still have fun.