Something about MOBA’s has just never clicked with me. For years I have listened to friends sing the praises of League of Legends and Dota 2, but no matter what, I just never seemed to have a good time with the games. To be fair, I certainly tried, spending an unfortunate amount of time in League of Legends, considering how little I enjoyed it.
Receiving a beta invite to Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm, I went in with low expectations, figuring I would play a few rounds, have some fun getting to shoot Diablo in the face with a Raynor’s machine gun, and call it quits once I remembered that I didn’t like MOBAs. To put it simply, a lot has happened since then…
Since starting my time with the Heroes of the Storm beta I have found myself jumping back in again and again, day after day, playing ‘just one last game’ more times than I care to count. I am the furthest thing from a die-hard MOBA player, but from that point of view, here are the reasons Heroes of the Storm just seems to work for me the way other MOBAs, like League of Legends, just never did.
1. The games are shorter
One of the primary problems I had with League of Legends was just how much of a commitment a match was, my average game time lasting 30-45 minutes. By the end I was just sore, uncomfortable, and in need of a walk outside (a feeling not very conducive to making me want to play another round).
With Heroes of the Storm however, games last about 10-15 minutes, making it much, much, easier to sit down for a quick round, and when I’m done, making the decision to go for one more that much easier as well. Better yet, the shorter game time does not come from oversimplification, but instead, with little changes. Blizzard has trimmed the fat from the traditional MOBA round, making the rounds as action packed as you could ever want, with less downtime.
Right off the bat, the biggest change of the formula comes in the fact that every character has a mount. While being another aesthetic piece for players to customize, mounts also allow, with a touch of a button, and a short cast timer, for a player to move that much faster, dismounting for combat. Suddenly, no where on the fair-sized maps feels totally out of reach, and the time it takes to go from your base to the frontline combat is cut down to a mere fraction of what it is just walking.
Additionally, turrets have ammo. While playing League of Legends, I felt stuck in the same spot, making little to no progress for excessive amounts of time. I could push up to the enemy tower, get in a few hits, it would kill all my minions and I would be back to where I started. Giving the turrets ammo however, ammo that can be depleted mind you, every shot you get the tower to shoot at your minions becomes one less shot in its magazine, and you’re one step closer to swarming what will eventually be a defenseless tower. This keeps games from ever just getting bogged down, and every little push really does have an effect on the game in the end.
This emphasis on keeping the game moving, keeping the action continually developing, makes each round brim with mayhem, even as the games are only half the length.
2. You win as a team, you lose as a team
It might seem like a trivial change, but the most fundamental difference, for me, when it comes to Heroes of the Storm, is the fact that you level up as a team, not individually. Anyone who has played a MOBA will know that as the game progresses, as you kill enemies, your character gains experience, leveling up throughout the round. Heroes of the Storm is the first time I have seen this process not be built around a player-by-player basis, each individual gaining experience for themselves, getting stronger, or not, based solely on their own actions. Blizzard has mixed things up, the experience you gain going towards a collective team level.
The sense of camaraderie this creates simply cannot be overstated. In fact, I would even go as far as to say, this one change completely alters the entire feel of the experience.
While playing League of Legends, I was new to MOBAs, and it definitely showed in the fact that I was often a level or two behind my teammates and the competition. Having that signifier of being the weak link was actually very isolating, harming, or even removing, any sense of working as a team. Not having that signifier, however, the team as a whole working together as a single unit, succeeding or failing together, was a fantastic feeling. Even in games where I end up being the best player when the end games stats come up, it doesn’t matter that I contributed more experience than another player, because we won as a team, and in-game, in the fight, that’s all we were, a single team fighting against another single team.
3. It streamlined the things I don’t want to care about
Right off the bat, I’ll just say, I don’t get items. Yes they are an integral part of a lot of MOBAs, but I have seen far too many die-hard MOBA players look at games like Heroes of the Storm, that don’t have items, and declare it is a deal-breaker. I understand that they lend a level of complexity and character build customization, but at the end of the day, they are a side element to what I really care about when jumping into a team based combat game, the combat.
Dropping items completely, Heroes of the Storm instead refocuses that same character build customization into what are called traits. Every few levels your team gains, every player is given a choice of traits. These are different for every character, some adding new moves, some changing how your normal moves function, or some just working as straight bonuses. Having these directly connected to team level, and therefore directly connected to combat, and individual for each character, just removes the extra barrier it takes to wrap your head around items for other MOBAs. It does all this without removing the complexity.
And this can also be said for the jungle. In most MOBAs the jungle, the area between the three lanes with towers, is full of monsters your team can kill for buffs to their stats. In Heroes of the Storm however, makes these monsters join you, making the jungle feel that much more important. Yes, the jungle buffs are incredibly important in other MOBAs, but charging into combat with a little box saying you have a bonus to attack damage just isn’t quite the same as charging into combat with massive ogres beside you.
4. The maps. Yes, maps, as in multiple.
Summoner’s Rift is a great map. It serves a purpose, and it serves it well, but there are only so many times you can play on a single map. Live in the Heroes of the Storm beta, there are already seven unique maps. Each one has a character of its own, borrowing from the multiple locations and lore of Blizzard’s library of games. Each has its own paths, its own jungle layouts, and, most notably, each has its own map wide meta-events.
These events, individual to each map, not only change the flow of combat but also make each and every map feel entirely different. On one, killing enemies and breaking open treasure chests lets you collect doubloons. Using those doubloons you then pay a crazy pirate captain, sitting on a ship in the middle of the map, to turn is cannons on your enemy. On another map, teammates holding shrines just off the top and bottom lanes unlocks the ability for a third player, in the middle lane, to step onto a shrine and transform into a massive, tower-crushing dragon monster.
While a lot to take in at first, these map-wide events really bring just one more thing to keep the combat from getting stale, encouraging your entire team to constantly be moving, presenting players and teams with hard choices about whether to push a lane or go for one of the additional objectives.
Now obviously, as I said, I am not a MOBA fan. I never have been. So for how any of these changes to the formula will actually strike those that are fans of the genre, we’ll just have to wait and see. Heroes of the Storm is set to release June 2nd, an open beta scheduled for May 19th. Until then, all I can say is that Blizzard has made me love a MOBA, and I am very impressed. What do you think of any of the things I listed? Sound off in the comments.