MOBAs are the true time sinks of modern gaming. Hugely popular with players and spectators alike, these “Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas”, to use their full title, pit teams against each other in complex, ranging battles. If the hardcore options of League of Legends and DOTA 2 don’t grab you however, don’t worry. Blizzard offer a fantastic third choice that you’d be a fool to pass up. Bringing characters from all of their franchises into one furious battle, Heroes of the Storm sees Warcraft orcs locking swords with the angelic warriors of Diablo, while snipers from the Starcraft universe lurk in the bushes. Here’s our lowdown.
For existing fans of MOBAs, you can consider Heroes of the Storm a simpler option compared to the other games out there. Matches last around fifteen to twenty minutes, and rather than prioritising individual performance, see your team of heroes levelling up as a team, with experience gained from attacking enemy minions or bases. If you’re a total newcomer, the matches focus around a series of “Lanes”, each lined with defensive structures. Uncontrollable minions push up the lanes, and it’s up to you to support their assault, while dealing with the enemy team and maintaining control of important objectives around the map.
The big selling point of Heroes of the Storm, aside from its varied roster of fan-favourite characters, is its maps. Unlike most MOBAs, there are more than half a dozen on offer, all randomly rotated for matches. Each has its own layout of lanes, its own intricate spaces and ambush points between, and its own unique objective. In Blackheart’s Bay, you compete to steal doubloons and pay for a cannon barrage on enemy bases, while players in the Haunted Mines fight for control of dark tunnels lined with undead NPCs. Slay them, grab their skulls, and you’ll get a giant undead golem, its strength determined by how many skulls you managed to get ahold of.
Your characters each get three basic abilities and a fourth, picked from two super-abilities, at level ten. You’ll start from level one each match, and unlock a new “talent” every few levels up to twenty, helping refine your abilities or offering new ones. Other MOBAs offer a much more complex customisation system, usually based around shopping for items, but Heroes of the Storm’s simple, easy to understand system is just more fun. It may not appeal to competitive or strategic players as much, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of tactical refinement here. Choosing how and when you attack objectives or push lanes is critical, since objectives don’t level up your team, but do tend to smash the other team’s buildings to bits. Fighting neutral mercenary camps around the map also nets you powerful new allies to help keep those enemy bases under pressure.
The game is a lot looser than its competitors, a lot more supportive of back and forth play, explosive mobile battles and sudden snap changes in the balance of power. There’s a wonderful absence of so-called “snowballing”, where one team jumps irretrievably far into the lead in the first few minutes of a match, so common to other MOBAs. Between colourful art design, and a great set of voice actors, the game brings its worlds to life while still offering fantastic, complex gameplay. The differences between heroes are huge too, with dozens to pick from, each fulfilling its own nuanced role, varying massively in complexity.
So why should you give Heroes of the Storm a try? Simply put, it’s incredibly fun. That’s an easy word to bandy around, but really, compared to a match of League of Legends, where you’re on edge, desperately avoiding mistakes for thirty minutes straight, Heroes of the Storm is a much more relaxed, friendly experience, while still offering a wide degree of variety, strategy and skill. Heroes of the Storm is now a major contender in the competitive world of MOBAs.