Review — Heroes of the Storm (Jun. ’18 Edition)

Since Heroes of the Storm is basically the only game I play given how busy I am, I think it’s only fair that I take the time to dedicate a little bit of my blog to it every once in a while (beyond saying “I’m still playing HotS” in the monthly updates). Being an online, MOBA style game, it’s constantly getting new features and characters to play, so reviewing it at one stage of its development will be totally different from another, even in broad strokes like “state of the game” as I intend to talk about here.

So, for timeline context—the newest character and battleground were released a few weeks ago: Yrel and Alterac Pass. This is following the releases of Deckard Cain and Fenix.

Overall, Heroes seems to be in rough shape, even with the newest batch of content. Keeping myself updated on the subreddit for the game means reading a lot of complaints about how toxic people are (as with all MOBAs), how reporting other players does nothing and there’s no reason to do so, and how frustrating a lot of characters are to play against. There’s a power gap between newer characters and older ones simply because the system is advancing, albeit slowly.

Unfortunately, Heroes of the Storm was crippled from the beginning. The game’s foundation is an engine (at least) nine years old, as it started off as a mod to Starcraft II. This means that connectivity issues and overall capabilities are limited from the start, and it can’t compete with new stuff, given how fast the gaming industry evolves. This will always be the biggest issue with the game—it’s built on old foundation.

And you can see the aging in the game, too. Older heroes like Raynor have very simple abilities, such as “increase attack speed” or “push enemies back”, whereas heroes like Fenix have “fire a laser that spins around your hero twice, hurting and slowing enemies it hits as it passes”. This becomes a problem when most of the characters being picked in high level play are the ones that were released in the past few months.

Overall, Heroes of the Storm is pretty solid. The best thing about it is that the vast majority of games last 15-25 minutes, and only on rare occasions can you give or take 5 more minutes. It’s completely free, you can play with up to five friends, and there is absolutely no “buying power”. You simply can’t buy stuff that gives you the upper hand against your enemies. (The only thing is, as with most MOBA’s, you have to play a lot in order to be able to buy the characters with in-game currency. Not a lot, mind you, and there’s no hero that you can’t buy with in-game currency, but it’s worth mentioning.)

It does have loot boxes, which the entire gaming community hates right now, but honestly I think it’s fine in this case because it’s mostly cosmetic, and you get them at a reasonable rate.

The game is, as it always will be, at it’s best when you’re playing with friends that don’t take things too seriously. Being competitive is fine, but there’s something about MOBA’s that really churns up hatred for other people. So as long as you’re fine with losing, and you can have fun without blaming the people you’re playing with (even if it is their fault), you can have a good time.

Review — Heroes of the Storm

As far as the MOBA genre goes, there are quite a few high-end competitors out there. While I’ve never played Dota 2, League of Legends was like the only thing I played from 2011 to 2015. Every popular game (especially on this side of the gaming world) is going to have pros and cons.

Heroes of the Storm isn’t my favorite game. My largest problem with this genre is that the time investments in each individual match is huge compared to other things, and because mistakes are so punishing to the player and their team, it’s very easy to get frustrated (or have teammates hate you every single game).

The single largest reason I didn’t play League of Legends competitively much is because the community in the MOBA genre is so resentful. They will find your mistakes and attack you more viciously than your enemies because you’re bringing them down. It’s absurd to me that many of these people will give up and be hateful rather than being cooperative and working together. This criticism goes for the entire genre, and it’s the main reason why I don’t play these types of games as often as I used to. It tends to make losing very difficult to enjoy, and I prefer games that are always fun rather than the polar opposites of hating it during a defeat and loving it when I’m winning.

This game in particular is a bit better in that respect. Games in HotS tend to be around twenty-ish minutes long (rather than the average League game of thirty to fifty minutes), so each game isn’t as much of a commitment. You also cannot communicate with your enemies, and I think this makes it much easier for the toxicity of teammates not to spread. In my experience, if a teammate is bad people will vent their anger towards the enemy team, telling them how bad their ally is. Since there is no “All chat” in Heroes of the Storm, people can only talk to their teammates and this reduces both the rage from the other team and the potential for your ally to rage at the other team about you.

The biggest problem I have about this game over League of Legends is that when a team starts winning in Heroes, it’s very difficult to turn the tables on them. You will usually be able to tell which team is going to win five minutes into the game, but in League, comebacks are more prevalent and the advantage isn’t established so quickly. This is probably due to the difference in the match length for both games.

My favorite thing about Heroes of the Storm however is something relatively unique for the MOBA genre, and that is the talent system. Rather than accruing gold by killing minions and players to buy items that change your stats, you gather experience to gain levels and earn a choice of talents. Now, the “level system” isn’t exclusive to HotS, but gaining levels and upgrading your abilities to account for the playstyle you want for that match certainly is. Rather than buying different items to counter the enemy team’s characters and abilities, you’re changing your own abilities to have a better control over what you want to do in that game.

Aside from that, the fact that this game has several different maps to play on really adds to the dynamic of playstyle. In a  game of League everything is completely, one hundred percent skill based because the only thing that ever changes is the characters on both teams. Since the map and objectives fluctuate so much in Heroes, players and their characters will tend to be better in some situations and worse at others, and it adds a lot of replay-ability to the game. Also, since the character roster is so much smaller than that of League of Legends (~66 vs. 134) it’s much easier for people to get into and understand.

Between the two games (not having enough experience to judge Dota 2,) I would say Heroes of the Storm is superior in terms of how enjoyable it is on a match to match basis. Is it difficult for me to enjoy when I’m losing? Absolutely, but in Heroes the game will be over in fifteen more minutes, whereas in League it could end up being neck and neck for half an hour only to have victory stolen from you by one simple misplay.