Blizzcon 2013 – Hands on with Heroes of the Storm

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MOBA games began with Blizzard. Or at least, the tools that Blizzard provided with their games. That genre has grown massively over the years, resulting in massive tournaments with even bigger prizes on the line. Blizzard has seen this, and they’re bringing their own long-in-development MOBA game to free-to-play battlegrounds. Prepare yourselves for the Heroes of the Storm.

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Heroes of the Storm will be familiar to anyone who has played a MOBA game at least once. It has all the usual gameplay features associated with the genre. A tilted overhead map, resources to gather, buildings to destroy in order to dominate maps and minions to send into battle.

The hook here though, is that Heroes of the Storm will allow you to step into the shoes of your favourite Blizzard characters and use some real teamwork to emerge victorious from matches.

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I got hands on time with the game, using several of the characters on offer in the build that was being shown off at Blizzcon.

What struck me though, was that while Heroes of the Storm was undoubtedly a MOBA game, it differed in several ways from trending titles such as DOTA 2 and League of Legends. Those current games are faster, intense and unfriendly to beginners. Heroes of the Storm however, is a simpler version that strips the unnecessary fluff out of the genre and focuses more on making the overall experience tighter, fluid and actually fun.

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I’ll be honest here: I am not a MOBA fan. I find the environment toxic, the rules arbitrary and the entire atmosphere of these games to be boring to a point where I’m reduced to tears. Heroes of the Storm, could sway me over to these games.

It’s just fantastic to take part in a game that wants you to have a good time, whether it be on a quick 20 minute map or on a competitive level. It’s going to be impossible for Heroes of the Storm to not be picked up on the eSports stage, but it’s also going to have some casual love.

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Going in, I chose Starcraft’s Nova as my first character. Physically weaker than the rest, she made up for that drawback with long-range skills and a cloaking ability that left her invisible when inactive, until she could attack again. And I freakin’ won my very first MOBA game. Sure, the AI may have been set to a pathetically easy level when it was my turn to play, but if I can win a game, that shows just how accessible Heroes of the Storm will be to anyone.

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With that first taste done, I played another game using Diablo, who is less about crowd control and more about killing heroes. He’s slightly rubbish when confronted with multiple minions, but his charge attack allows him to rush an opposing hero out of their protective circle, leaving said foe open to follow-up attacks.

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Each character comes with three special attacks in the game, a passive ability and several perks that become available when they level up. Characters can also ride mounts into battle in order to get back into action quicker, and seeing the lord of terror on his own cute hellmount was just adorable. Health boosts, regen, extra mana and other character-specific bonuses are part of the package, but they won’t make you unstoppable.

The Heroes on offer all feel different from one another, even with long-range characters such as Jim Raynor and Nova, who despite sharing the same universe, are completely different characters in their own right. These heroes also represent differing levels of skills needed to master them, something that will come into play in the long-term game plan.

Heroes of the Storm is not a game for lone wolves. You’ll need to use teamwork, protect your fellow heroes and evolve a quick strategy for the various obstacles in your way. This is going to manifest itself in the character you pick, as you’re all gears in a greater engine of death and destruction.

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I checked the game downstairs as well in a match with actual people, playing another map as Uther. Despite walking softly and carrying a big hammer, Uther is your perfect medic, able to keep your heroes fighting and the enemy at a disadvantage. The game was also in no way toxic, something that I despise in the MOBA community, although it’s to be expected considering the enthusiastic Blizzcon attendees by my side.

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It’s still too soon to tell whether or not the MOBA community at large will pick up Heroes of the Storm, but it’s a game designed for Blizzard fans and newcomers. It’s easy to learn, not too deep and fun with friends. And, like League of Legends and Dota 2, it’ll be completely free to play when it launches.

Last Updated: November 13, 2013

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia's M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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