I’m not the greatest at MOBA games, but I really enjoy League of Legends. DOTA2‘s longer game times always discouraged me from playing. Smite was interesting, but I didn’t care for the whole “battle of gods” theme to it. No other MOBA has really grabbed my attention in any way, excluding Heroes of Newerth, and even then I’ve never played; I only know one of their heroes is called Cthulhuphant. So when most of my gaming group got alpha keys to Blizzard Entertainment’s Heroes of the Storm and I didn’t, I was fine. There was still combat to be had on Summoner’s Rift.
With the latest round of Beta keys and invites however, I was finally accepted into Heroes of the Storm. I ignored it for a few days, but I tried it out last Monday. Tuesday, I tried Sylvanas out, realized I really liked the hero, and purchased a champion. Days later, I’m just blown away by how much I’m enjoying the game. I hate how much I like it. It’s all I’ve played since I bought a hero in the game, and it’s just really, really fun. You can’t help but compare any new MOBA to the biggest of them all, however. So, while the game is still in beta, here’s my current Heroes of the Storm review by comparing it to League of Legends (and noting some of the changes from the previous time Armed Gamer looked at HotS).
I’m going to assume a lot of people are familar with the MOBA format at this point. Take two teams of five and have them fight down multiple lanes of a map alongside minions while dispatching some sort of enemy fortification (towers from LoL being the most recognizable), with the end goal of breaching the enemy’s base to destroy their nexus/core/whatever. There’s some teamfights involved, occasional running for things outside of the lanes, but that’s the basics.
Heroes of the Storm, however, makes the MOBA genre its own through the different style of gameplay that it offers. League of Legends has a large champion roster, but the only 5v5 laning map is Summoner’s Rift. It’s stood the test of time, and it looks wonderful with the most recent update. Additionally, LoL‘s champions fall into a meta that is essentially locked forever at this point. I think that the insurmountable popularity of LoL is part of why HotS aims to provide a different experience. If LoL is playing a rigid sport for 40-60 minutes, then HotS is sitting down for a 20 minute game of cards where you’re not sure what the house rules are until you start.
As we’ve stated before on the site, laning isn’t really a thing in Heroes. The lane phase is very brief, and is really about establishing dominance to go pursue the objectives on the maps rather than just pushing down the keeps. Team-fighting becomes part of the entire match, rather than a post 10-minute affair in a LoL game that continues to grow in importance as the match goes on. This in turn has eliminated the jungle role that is so important in LoL. Instead, HotS has the Specialist hero to go alongside the Warriors, Assassins, and Supports (who are then separated into melee and ranged). In my opinion, it’s the specialists that really make HotS so different from other MOBAs. Sylvanas Windrunner from the Warcraft games has the ability to disable any minion, turret, or mercenary she attacks, locking them down. Abathur is a champion who, rather than leave the base and duke it out with others, uses global abilities to enhance your side on all angles. The Lost Vikings plays to the co-op nature of their old video game, letting you control three champions at once. Coming from a game like LoL, it’s almost bewildering to see champions like this in action for the first time, but you soon become accustomed to the new style of gameplay.
I’ve already mentioned that LoL only has the one map, but as of this publication HotS has seven different battlegrounds, each with different layouts, map objectives, and even a different number of lanes. Alongside the curse map and dragon knight map we’ve previously mentioned, there’s a map collecting gold to purchase pirate cannon support and a map where you hold a point in order for an ancient laser to fire on the enemy. There’s a map where you grow a massive plant monster and assume control of to smash things. There’s just so much variety in gameplay as opposed to the same old matches that you can be used to in a game of LoL. Thankfully, the game no longer repeats maps, or at least I’ve yet to get the same map multiple times in a row.
Hero choices in HotS are a bit low. That’s to be expected, due to it being a new game that is still in its beta phase. While Blizzard has added new characters along and along, it also must add new maps and focus on balance issues alongside hero creation. The game currently has 35 champions, each with at least one skin that can be purchased with real currency and a master skin unlocked when the character reaches level 10 (as each hero does have its own level). Leveling a hero has benefits, allowing different color schemes for mounts and skins, profile icons, and in game gold. However, character selection for unranked matches is done before queueing, and there seems to be no method of trying to put a team with an complementary composition together. As such, while you can get a balanced team at times, you can also end up with 3 supports and 2 specialists and never kill anything. This is definitely something that should be fixed, even if it makes queue times longer. Additionally, with no items or gold, your only choices to customize a character toward the opponent are your talents. This is fine, but as they cannot be undone once selected, it’s important to choose carefully and not misclick.
The prices in HotS are higher than in LoL. While leveling (both individual heroes and your player level) grants you gold alongside your daily quests, individual gold is very low per match. With a stimpack, which increases your gold by 150%, I still only obtain 75 gold for a match against other players. In a game where the newest champion costs 15,000 gold and the master skin price has been elevated to 10,000, your biggest source of income becomes the daily quests and striving for milestones, meaning that you’re somewhat limited on how quickly you can obtain gold. Character prices with real money aren’t much better, with the newer champions costing $9.99 to unlock. Comparatively, a new champion in LoL costs 975 Riot Points, or roughly $7.50 US according to the game’s wiki. You also gain more Riot Points based on how many you buy at a time, meaning that you get more bang for your buck spending money on League of Legends vs. Heroes of the Storm. The only time a purchase seems like a decent idea for HotS is if you’re buying a champion that is on sale, or you’re getting one of the bundles.
I guess the last thing to really touch on is the graphics, but the characters in HotS blow away the champions of LoL in that regard. I’ve always thought Blizzard games looked ok, but HotS is definitely one of the better looking MOBAs, especially in champion appearance.
I can’t really say that one game is better than another, but so far I’ve had a lot of fun with Heroes of the Storm, especially for a game just in a closed beta. It lacks the large roster of characters that other games like League of Legends has, but it makes up for this with it’s diverse champion roles and variety of maps to play on. In addition, the game is very pretty and has lots of nice little touches, like trying champions before purchasing them, different color schemes, and daily quests to make you feel involved. It’s a shorter game, though, so you’re not going to get the long fights of LoL or a game like DOTA2. That makes it perfect for a really quick pickup game, though you may find yourself with a team that doesn’t work together at all. Like most MOBAs, it’s more fun with your friends.
If you’re able to get a key to the game, you should try it. You can sign up through Battle.net or look for keys online at places like Reddit. The game is really fun, and it’s refreshing to try something so different from LoL. While I’ll always find myself on Summoner’s Rift for a battle here and there, I really enjoy the game so far, so much so that I haven’t played a game of LoL since trying HotS, and I can’t wait to see the product at release if it’s already this fun. Plus, there’s rainbow unicorn mounts.