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Heroes of the Storm: can a MOBA noob become a winner? – part one

Tuesday, 8 April 2014 08:09 GMT By Dave Cook

Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard Entertainment’s take on the MOBA genre, designed to ease newcomers into its strategic blend of PvP and lane control madness. We hurl MOBA noob Dave Cook to the wolves to see if he can handle it.

Heroes_of_the_Storm

”My initial problem was trying too hard to push forward at all times, without taking time to hang back to heal or switch lanes to help allies in danger. I was Zerg rushing solo basically, which was absolutely as foolish as it sounds.”

MOBAs intimidate the crap out of me. I’ve had the League of Legends client installed on this laptop for months now and I’m yet to fire it up, partly because I’ve convinced myself that the veterans are now so good that I’ll be unable to compete, and due to the quick micro-management of skills, buffs and other mechanics. Trying to comprehend it gives me a headache.

I remember being in the crowd at gamescom during Valve’s inaugural Dota 2 tournament The International. I was sitting there waiting for an interview with Gabe Newell, surrounded by a mob of screaming German kids. They yelled out in elation at things I didn’t understand, and roared at what looked to me like an indescribable mess of brightly-coloured pixels, as if some pissed-up rainbow had just thrown up on the screen. I had no idea what was going on.

So while the MOBA genre strikes feelings of great trepidation into my heart, I was assured by Blizzard that Heroes of the Storm wasn’t as scary. In fact, the game’s opening has been specifically designed to spell out the fundamentals in plain English, and is comprised of tutorials that take you through the basics in baby steps. Can it help me become a proficient MOBA warrior? That’s what I wanted to find out.

The studio was kind enough to grant me access to the Heroes of the Storm alpha phase, which begins with StarCraft’s James Raynor being sucked into the Nexus; a war-torn plane of existence where the champions of Blizzard’s realms have been summoned so they can do battle for glory. The opening tutorial starts by explaining the bare essentials of movement, attacking and skills against low level grunts which, while weak, are crucial to winning matches.

heroes_of_the_story_raynor

I learned pretty early on that these smaller footsoldiers serve a few purposes. Each team’s half of the map is fortified with auto-turrets that will instantly lock on to your hero as soon as you enter firing range, but if you wade in with a swarm of minions the guns will concentrate fire on them first. Blizzard makes it clear early on that taking on turrets single-handedly is suicidal, so it pays to hang back and wait for a new band of minions to spawn before trying to take down the enemy’s defences.

With that vital truth ingrained into my mind, I moved on to my first tutorial fight against Diablo himself, which was quite simple. It was a case of shooting off Raynor’s rifle at range and unleashing powerful shots after each cool-down. The point was that it wasn’t supposed to be challenging – not yet anyway – as Blizzard wants to make sure you’re understanding every vital step along the way. Next came a brief tutorial on map lay-outs and other features in the proper game.

The first alpha map I played is a 5v5 environment called The Haunted Mines where the objective is to destroy the enemy team’s core, which in this instance was a fortified palace within each team’s spawn zone. There are three lanes branching off from each starting area with some smaller paths connecting them along the way, as well as health fountains and turrets at certain points. The idea is that each lane needs to be defended to stop enemy forces from slipping through, while pushing back towards their core.

My initial problem was trying too hard to push forward at all times, without taking time to hang back to heal or switch lanes to help allies in danger. I was Zerg rushing solo basically, which was absolutely as foolish as it sounds. After self-imposing a degree of discipline, I got into the habit of supporting my AI companions Kerrigan, Uther, Tyrael and Demon Hunter, instead of just powering forward blindly. It all started to click after a few minutes.

heroes_of_the_storm_1

What I really enjoyed was the tug-of-war vibe that kicks in once both sides clash in the middle of the map. In a way your minions are almost like malleable cover, seeing as they cause turrets and AI to become distracted, and they become vital during those hard-hitting skirmishes. Knowing when to retreat to a health fountain can spare you a lengthy respawn wait, and was something I hard to force myself to do often at the outset. Respawn time also increases with each death to discourage foolish play.

Another layer of strategy comes in the Heroes of the Storm levelling system, that sees teams gaining levels and new skills by slaughtering minions, destroying defences and killing members of the other team. With each level gained, you get to choose between two additional abilities, which are often quite varied so you’ll need to think about how best to support your side when making your choice. There’s also the little matter of the Haunted Mines’ secondary objective, which takes a little getting used to.

Every so often you’ll receive a prompt that the map’s underground mines have opened. These are smaller dungeons that lie beneath the environment, and are filled with undead, as well as a golem mini-boss. Each enemy within the mines drops a glowing skull when defeated, and it’s up to each team to collect as many of them as possible. Once the mine is clear both sides will summon their own golem brute, and whichever side has the most skulls will have the stronger beast on their side.

At first I didn’t bother going to the mines for fear of leaving the surface lanes free and open to attack, but it really pays to go and help out because those golems really do make a difference. The practice mode AI is proficient enough that we won the mine battle with ease to summon the tougher golem, but I can imagine there being a great deal of micromanagement when deciding which players will venture below and who will stay topside in an all-human battle. It’s stressful at first, but adds a a micro-game mode into the mix.

Heroes_of_the_storm_2

There’s a similar side-quest in sea port map Blackheart’s Bay, which occasionally drops doubloon chests around its many pier walkways. If you manage to defeat the skeletal pirates guarding the booty, you can collect the coins and deposit them to Blackheart himself. Once you save up ten doubloons the ghostly pirate will assault the enemy fort with a blast of his cannons. It adds something of a manic scramble to what is already a ‘busy’ game, but it all makes sense after practice, like most things.

After the dust had settled and our team emerged victorious, I unlocked practice mode – against the AI – and tried out the initial five heroes that came free with the base game. Raynor’s great but isn’t part of the starting line-up, despite his inclusion in the tutorial, so must be purchased for 2,000 gold. Characters like Kerrigan and Nova cost 10,000 gold and can’t be access straight away, but can be sampled in the store. There’s also the MOBA staple of character skins, that get a little wacky. Ronin Zeratul is my favourite outfit so far. It just looks badass.

Check out some of the designs:

Heroes_of_the_storm_skins

So far I’m definitely leaning towards the Demon Hunter due to her ranged attacks and moves like Hungering Arrow, which drill through a line of minions at once. She’s great for taking out packs of smaller troops in a single move, and she’s fast to boot. After passing level four I was awarded 2,000 gold so instantly unlocked Raynor again as I really liked his big cannon blasts and defence. It’s useful that each hero is labelled with a difficulty level too, just so you can see who’s best for newcomers and which characters fare better in the hands of veterans.

I also enjoyed the raw power of the Barbarian, but she’s painfully slow so I had to keep conjuring my mount to move around at speed, which takes a few moments on its own. I just found that retreating from turret range once my minions were all dead was taking too long, and saw me taking several cannon blasts to the back of the head before I reached a safe distance. I might return to her once I’ve got more practice in.

But for now, I’m sitting here writing this after having just passed into level six. Cooperative mode and versus play are both now unlocked, and I’m hovering over them with my mouse while feeling a little intimidated. I’m going to jump in and play some actual humans now, which could go well or horribly, but either way, I’ll report back in part two of this article. Stay tuned.

Disclosure: To assist in writing this article, Blizzard Entertainment sent Dave a Heroes of the Storm alpha key.

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5 Comments

  1. Erthazus

    So far it is a very casual MOBA. It is team-based moba and you can’t “snowballing” in HOTS and it is very objective based gme so you require to have a decent team to do the thing.
    also all Heroes has very limited damage so fighting 1vs1 is not really a big deal.

    ALSO, GIVE US Keys. Please! :3

    #1 11 months ago
  2. TenPint

    Looks like great fun, I’ve been watching streams of it for some time now. Hope I get a key soon

    #2 11 months ago
  3. Hcw87

    Every MOBA is casual, which is why they’re so popular. Their success can be compared to CoD.

    #3 11 months ago
  4. Dave Cook

    @Hcw87 Absolutely incorrect.

    #4 11 months ago
  5. Erthazus

    @Hcw87, you are absolutely incorrect and clueless. MOBa genre. DOTA2 and LoL are super hardcore games with E-sport priority. LoL meta and mechanics chang every month if not week’s for a balance.

    @Dave cook, +1

    #5 11 months ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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  • Life is Strange Episode 2 not delayed, says developer

    Life is Strange developer Dontnod Entertainment has said the second episode is on track for release this month. I guess it would know. Life is Strange Episode 2 has been expected on March 13, but late last week Square Enix told Destructoid it had been delayed. Dontnod has since denied this report, describing it as […]

  • First SteamVR game reveal is Job Simulator

    Job Simulator is the first game to be announced specifically for SteamVR, Valve’s virtual reality tech. Shoot Many Robots and Aaaaa! For the Awesome! developer Owlchemy Labs is the first team to put its hand up and say it’s worked with SteamVR. In a blog post, the studio unveiled Job Simulator, which will be playable […]

  • HTC, Valve partner for Vive VR headset

    The first SteamVR announce is a headset a manufactured by HTC, the Taiwanese mobile company revealed over the weekend. Valve told us last week it planned to unveil virtual reality hardware at GDC, calling it “SteamVR” at the time. Now HTC has pre-empted Valve by revealing Vive, a headset developed thanks to a collaboration between […]

  • Watch the Evolve Chappie Challenge tomorrow on Twitch

    Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2K and Turtle Rock Studios have announced a tournament being hosted by ESL, which will see Evolve players take on newest movie robot, Chappie. The ESL has teamed up with Twitch for the live 4 on 1 competitive event, and you can watch as it all unfolds tomorrow, March 1 at 3pm […]

  • If you’re attending PAX East, stop and have a look at Necropolis

    We haven’t heard much on Harebrained Schemes’ latest since it was announced in November, but today, the team has seen fit to release some interesting gifs of its a new project, Necropolis. Necropolis is a third-person action rogue-like with procedurally generated which can be “re-rolled mid-playthrough” and is headed to Linux, Mac and PC sometime […]

  • Dragon’s Dogma Online really is lovely, as these screenshots prove

    More Dragon’s Dogma Online screenshots have been released, and this batch is just as lovely as the last gallery we posted. Since this game will likely never leave Japan, the images are a bit of a salt rub for fans of the IP, but hopefully another entry in the series will be released at some […]

  • Action-RPG Death’s Gambit has a classic-Castlevania feel to it

    How would you like to become an agent of Death and rid the world of immortals? Then Death’s Gambit may just be the game for you. Announced by LA-based studio White Rabbit, the action-RPG with platforming elements tasks players with fighting gigantic enemies on an alien, medieval planet. Players will also encounter formidable beasts, knights, […]

  • Modder adds offline co-op into Resident Evil: Revelations 2

    PC users lamenting the lack of local, offline co-op in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 will be pleased to know a modder has remedied the omission. The mod, created by FluffyQuack, adds offline co-op mode to Episode 1 but the only caveat is players will need to use gamepads instead of mouse and keyboard (via Gamespot). […]

  • Number of Steam accounts with Dota 2 installed hits over 42 million

    Dota 2 has seen its installation rate jump 85% year-over-year, resulting in the MOBA now having close to 43 million installations worldwide. The figures were published via a report from video game research and consulting firm EEDAR, which studied Steam accounts daily to better understand the service’s player behavior and title performance. According to statistics […]

  • Nintendo issuing Eon Ticket codes for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

    Nintendo is handing out an Eon Ticket to Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire owners which will allow them to visit the Southern Island. Once a player arrives, depending on which version of the game they own, Pokemon Latios and Latias are able to be caught. The Eon Ticket was originally issued via StreetPass, but […]

  • Here’s a couple The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt screenshots to brighten your day

    Two images for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have surfaced on the game’s Facebook page. Grabbed by Gamekyo, the images show Gerlat and Vesemir chatting with a fellow, and the other shows Geralt riding up to some ruins where some people have been hanged. CD Projekt Red will make an appearance at PAX East next […]

  • Hyrule Warriors Boss Pack DLC contains unlockable character – potential spoilers

    While you already know the next DLC for Hyrule Warriors will allow you to play as the gigantic beast Ganon, there’s a rather humorous unlockable character contained in it as well. Potential spoilers follow below. When the DLC arrived in Japan February 26, YouTuber moccos-tan IsedelicaAs posted a video of the unlockable character, which is […]

  • Star Trek Online players gather on Vulcan to pay respects to Leonard Nimoy

    Star Trek Online players paid tribute to Leonard Nimoy yesterday by gathering around a fountain on Vulcan, the home planet of Spock in the Star Trek series. According to a post by barnacle999 on reddit, when he logged into the MMO “there were around 20 full instances and several partial,” culminating in around 1000 players […]

  • Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin gameplay video shows invasion of The Forlorn

    A new Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin gameplay video has been released, and provides the viewer with a look at the NPC invader system. Watch below as The Forlorn hunts down the player through the game with “with deadly skill and tenacity.” He even teams up with other enemies, making your fight […]

  • Visual upgrade for Wasteland 2, improved modding tools in the works

    A visual upgrade and improved mod tools are in the works for Wasteland 2, according to a blog post from inXile Entertainment. The upgrades will come about as the game’s codebase is migrated from Unity 4.5 to Unity 5. “A major benefit of moving to Unity 5 is that 5 will include many of the […]

  • Battlefield Hardline brings “Hollywood crime drama” to single-player campaign

    In the fifth developer diary for Battlefield Hardline, the team discusses how it’s bringing “Hollywood crime drama” to the shooter’s single-player campaign. The video was released a couple of days ago, so apologies are in order if this has been posted already, but I promise I searched the site and never found it. Visceral Games […]

  • Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a pause for tactics isometric RPG coming in 2016

    Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a 2.5D isometric RPG, built in the vein of Baldur’s Gate and Dragon Age in the works at Withing Hour Studios. The game allows the player to pause combat to plan party tactics. “Set in the Venetian-inspired fantasy city of Ombre where rare masks are the key to casting magic, […]

  • Underworld Ascendant surpasses Kickstarter goal

    Underworld Ascendant which was launched on Kickstarter earlier this month, has met its  $600,000 funding goal. With six days left 10,786 backers pledged $610,541 In light of being funded, the team has also switched up the stretch goals as bit, as you can see in the image below. The studio, OtherSide Entertainment, is fronted by Paul Neurath, […]

  • Latest Evolve patch fixes progress and save game data loss on Xbox One

    A patch for Evolve has been released on Xbox One which fixes lost progress and save game data users had reported. The patch also fixes an issue with shadows and flashlight, makes incremental improvements to matchmaking, invites, and rejoining, and there were progressions balance changes. “The issue with lost progress and saved games was mostly […]

  • Online servers for Ridge Racer Unbounded shut down in Europe

    Online functionality for Ridge Racer Unbounded is no longer available, Namco Bandai Europe has announced. Solo mode and the track editor are still playable, minus the sharing options. Ridge Racer Unbounded was released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in March 2013. Thanks, MCV.

  • OlliOlli will be a cross-buy title on 3DS and Wii U

    Curve Digital has announced OlliOlli will be a cross-buy title when it releases on 3DS and Wii U. The Roll7 title will be the first third-party title to offer the functionality on the systems. OllliOlli will be released on the eShop March 5 The game launches on Nintendo’s eShop on March 5th, followed by Xbox […]

  • Darkbeast electrifies latest Bloodborne video

    The latest Bloodborne video shows off another monster in the game. This one is Darkbeast and he’s full of electricity. The video is the last of IGN’s month-long coverage of the title.

  • Future Assassin’s Creed games will have greater focus on modern timeline

    Ubisoft plans to focus more on modern timelines in future Assassin’s Creed games, the company suggested during its latest community livestream. During the Twitch stream, one of the lead writers for the Assassin’s Creed series, Darby McDevitt, said the modern timeline for Brotherhood’s town of Monteriggioni could inspire future development. “That only came about because […]

  • Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 is coming to Xbox One next month

    Halfbrick has announced Fruit Ninja Kinect 2 for Xbox One will release next month. The mobile title made its way onto Xbox 360 garnering 1 million downloads as of March 2012. It has a new multiplayer mode for up to four players with Battle and Party modes along with a new progression system. An announcement […]

  • New GTA 5 PC screens – shit the bed!

    Rockstar has pumped out 15 new screens for the PC version of Grand Theft Auto 5. Don’t touch them, because they’re electric. And if you touch them, you’ll get shocked. The PC version of GTA 5 has been delayed until April 14, which both sucks and blows. BUT! There’s a new trailer coming between now […]

  • Sony Japan accidentally erases 20th Anniversary PS4 contest entries

    Sony Japan has accidentally erased all information obtained from PlayStation owners who entered to win a 20th Anniversary PlayStation 4. Those who purchased PlayStation 3, PS4, Vita or Vita TV between December 4 – January 15 were handed a calendar with a code which entered them into the contest. Somehow, all data collected from the […]

  • Hearthstone datamine suggests Blackrock Mountain expansion on the way

    Hearthstone’s next update may be based on World of Warcraft’s Molten Core raid, if datamined information posted on Hearthpwn is spot-on. According to files mined from the latest patch, three new cosmetic card backs are on the way, one of which is called Molten Core. The data suggests that pre-ordering the Blackrock Mountain expansion will […]

  • Using Battlefield Hardline single-player gadgets increases your metagame rewards

    Gadgets contained in Battlefield Hardline’s campaign mode have been detailed, and each provides the player with various ways in which to solve crimes. According to design director Scott Warner, one way to “diffuse” a conflict when confronted with criminal activity is to flash your badge and ordering the criminal to freeze. Putting your gun on […]

  • Mortal Kombat X video is all about story mode, new characters

    After promising a new Mortal Kombat X reveal “soon”, NetherRealm Studios has made good on said promise by releasing the story trailer. The video shows parts of the story mode featuring Mileena, which takes place 25 years after the events of 2011′s Mortal Kombat. Outworld has become a larger threat and new fighters joining the […]

  • Destiny’s shotgun and pulse rifle buffs mean it’s time to rethink your load-out

    Destiny’s most-ignored weapons got major boosts this week. It’s time to start thinking about how to work them into your set-up. Even if you’re used to using scout rifles and sniper rifles as a general loud-out (neither class was touched by 1.1.1), the buffs to pulse rifles and shotguns should make you rethink your contextual […]

  • Battlefield Bad Company 2: five years later, what did it do so right?

    It’s been five years since the release of Battlefield Bad Company 2. What did the much-loved entry in the franchise do for the Battlefield series? Westie’s played Battlefield Bad Company 2 for over 1,260 hours on PS3 and PC. That’s dedication. In his latest video he discusses the stand out moments from a FPS classic, […]