So for the last few weeks I've been spending most of my time playing Heroes of the Storm Technical Alpha. As a guy who has tried DOTA, LOL and Smite and none of them really keeping me interested for to long I've actually been surprised how much this one has grabbed me and how much I've enjoyed it.
So for those who don't know Heroes of the Storm is Blizzards attempt to enter the MOBA arena and while yes DOTA was a WC3 mod it has long left Blizzard and gone to Valve so interesting to see Blizzard attempt there own version.
The gameplay is fairly standard MOBA fair. Push down lanes in a team of 5 with creeps to take down enemy forts and towers with the first team to take out the others core winning.
So what makes it different? Well HOTS changes things up by having different maps that have objectives you can go for that will greatly help your team accomplish theses goals. There are currently 5 in the alpha which include Blackhearts bay where you try and gain doubloons from treasure chests and creeps to hire Captain Blackheart who will then use his ship to bombard the enemies towers and forts though he gets more expensive to hire each time and the haunted mines where you try and collect skulls to raise a powerful golem to attack your enemy and the more skulls you get the more powerful yours is and the weaker your opponents.
These are quite a nice addition and I feel really make the games more enjoyable and go a lot faster as these objectives do occur quite often and make the games last about 20 minutes on average depending on how you do but can go longer and faster on certain maps. Still at the same time you really need to work with your team to capture these objectives otherwise you'll quickly find yourself on a downward spiral and not be able to recover.
Now creeps on maps are also interesting. There are 3 main types knights, siege and golems. Defeating them gives you xp and a regen orb but you can then capture them and when you do that they will then push down their nearest lane and fight for you and the creeps then get a 4 minute respawn time before they return. These guys are just as useful as objectives as the knights basically mince creeps, the siege units have longer range then towers and do decent damage to them and GOLEM SMASH PUNY ENEMY! Capturing these guys is also very important as get a couple of them and push with your team and you can cause massive damage to the enemy.
Now another different gameplay mechanic which I really, REALLY like is the team level system. Instead of levelling individually each time you earn XP it goes to the entire team and when you level up the entire team levels up with you. This is really good as even if someone isn't doing to well you don't have to worry about them being a low level and just feeding as they will be the same as you so can still help out. Granted you can still get some team level differences but this does help out a bit with one problem I had with MOBA's where you have a team that is all high level and the other has some high level but the rest are lower and they keep getting crushed because of this.
So how about the heroes? Well Blizzard has put them into 4 categories.
Warriors. These include characters like Diablo and Muradin and are pretty much tanks and have the highest HP and are designed to pretty much take damage and try and deal as much back as they can. They are also currently all melee classes so do need to get in the thick of it
Assassins. These include Nova and Kerrigan and while a bit squishy they can do a whopping amount of damage quickly and are your teams primary hero killers.
Support. These include Tyrande and Tassadar and do what it says on the tin and help out the other heroes. This usually comes in the form of some kind of healing but they can also boost damage, stun enemies or provide shields. They have a couple of offensive abilites as well to help out but don't expect to 1v1 anyone like a assassin or warrior.
Specialist. These include Sgt Hammer and Murky. These guys are interesting as they usually have a specific role that helps your team. Sgt Hammer for example being a siege tank can sit back a bit and blast towers and heroes from a long range while Zagara summons zerg to help out and Murky just drives the enemy insane. Seriously Murky is really good at doing this *kill him 5 seconds later the little bugger is alive again, makes himself invincible and summons a murloc army to destroy your towers and fort. Kill him again the cycle repeats.*
So thats the classes but lets talk about some specifics.
Each hero starts each game with their 3 basic abilities and a another which is usually a passive but sometimes activtable. Now your probably thinking so what happens when I level up? Well HOTS has what they call talents. At the start you choose a talent but what they do is increase the power or change a talent slightly and as you level up you get more talents to further change how your character plays. Let's take my favourite hero Nova as an example.
So Nova starts with a snipe which deals damage to a target, pinning shot which damages and slows a target, holo decoy which creates a decoy and a cloak passive. So start of the game I get to a choose a talent which are Increase snipes range, increase snipes damage when cloaked, increase pinning shots slow duration or every 3 regen orbs I get permenantly increases my mana regen. So I decide which one I want based off my team and how I want to play and that one is then stuck with me. I hit lvl 4 and then the next load of talents come up which include increasing my attack range, heal life doing damage, allow me to gain a poison ability or increase helo decoys range. Pick one hit lvl 7 etc.
This allows you to customise the hero on the field to a style you like or deal with what is happening on the field. Also each hero has not 1 but 2 ultimates they can choose from. Taking Nova again she says Triple Tap letting her shoot a target 3 times in quick succession or Precision strike which after 3 seconds deals massive damage in in AOE anywhere on the map. Again these let you decide if you want to be able to guarantee that kill on the hero of if you see team mates fighting across the map and want to help out give them some long rang AOE support.
Each hero is like this and I find this system is really useful but has one downside. Half of the damn stuff is locked until you level up the hero by playing with them. Yeah this is something Blizzard has actually change in the latest patch update and now you have to level your hero to unlock the 2nd ultimate, then the first load of extra talents and then the rest with the remaining unlocks being skin and potraits. This is a change they've made I'm not fond of but thankfully you can level up heroes in practice vs the AI so not as bad.
Oh and quick mention about the AI. It's currently placeholder and thinks charging at you with 10hp left is a valid strategy... pray to god your team mates don't disconnect or your in trouble.
Now speaking of the heroes unlocking them. Well Blizzard has 7 in rotation each week but other then that you have two ways to get em. Pay gold or open that wallet. Now gold wise it varies from hero to hero as they cost anywhere from 2000-10000 gold and this also affects there cost with a 10000 hero costing $10 US and 7000 $7 etc. So how hard is earning gold? Well you earn it playing games which grants you 20 for a win or 10 for a loss but only when playing other players nothing for AI battles. Levelling up also grants gold as do quests which is where you'll get most of your gold from but again the quests are initially locked away until you play games and level up. I dunno I just feel once you've done a game in practice mode and unlocked online play the quests should be available as well. I will also point if you get in the alpha and spend money that your purchases will not be kept but when Blizzard resets they will let you know and refund the money as gold similar to the card wipe they did in Hearthstone early in it's Beta.
Also if you solo queue like a lot of MOBA's you roll the dice to see what your team ends up with however instead of joining a game and everyone all fighting to get that one hero they learned how to use but only one can be them you instead choose which hero you want to play and then join the queue and it will match you up with people playing other heroes. You can still be matched in a team of nothing but assassins vs a balanced team who are all mates talking on skype and get smashed into bits though.
Now the last patch added something I don't like and this is the artifact system. Anyone who plays LOL and knows of the rune system knows what the artifact system. Now again this is locked away initially but once unlocked you can add up to 3 artifact's to a hero and well... to say my Nova is a bit ridiculous at the moment with a rune that increases ability damage, another that reduces mana regen and another that increases movement speed wouldn't be to far. I dunno I feel this was added as a "LOL is doing it we should do it to" but it hasn't really done anything and again these are locked by gold so yeah this I feel is not a good addition and needs to be worked on mainly make it so instead of increase damage or increase health they do something to make the heroes more different.
So what else. Well it's a alpha well how buggy is it? Well so far surprisingly stable for me at least. Only real bug I had was when my battlenet account downloaded the game but didn't think I had been invited to had to log out, reset my password and the log back in to make it sync to get it working. Other that been pretty stable minus some latency problems but that is kind of what Blizzard has us testing at the moment and did have one bug with Tychus where after using Ultimate he proceeded to moonwalk until I used another ability. Kind of want that one to stay really as was quite funny to watch. Performance wise it basically runs of the Starcraft 2 engine so if you run that you can this.
Now for those who are interested and want to get it but not sure how all you need is a battlenet account and to register on the Blizzard website http://us.battle.net/heroes/en/. Now it is in alpha so they are only sending out a few invites at the moment so don't expect to instantly get in and no word on when it goes into Beta or Open Beta yet either so might have to bare with it.
Still overall it is still being tweaked but I'm liking what I'm seeing so far and while things like the levelling system and artifact system need to be looked they have changed the levelling system once already to this which is a slightly improvement from the old one and the relic system is only a few days old so they are still getting feedback on it but hopefully when it comes out in open beta me and the other testers will have gotten it into a state which will be pretty good.
Also taking bets now on how quick it will take for this to become a e-sport once it's actually released.
oh and *@$#^*$#^&)$#%@^#$^#%^$% Murky.
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