Heroes of the Storm

It’s been a decade since I first experienced a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) and my opinion of the genre has remained relatively stable over the years I’m simply not a fan. You can imagine my surprise then when I found myself clamouring for more playtime as my hands-on preview with Blizzard Entertainment’s Heroes of the Storm came to a close.

Heroes looks like your average MOBA, but Blizzard have taken big steps to alleviate the steep learning curve that has rendered others inaccessible to new players, the most noticeable of which early game are the intuitive character roles and the removal of purchasable items.

“I think we’ve struck that balance we try so hard to strike at Blizzard, where anyone can jump into this game and try it,” says Lead Game Producer Kaeo Milker, who explains that the game is marketed as a ‘Hero Brawler’ rather than MOBA as the four letter acronym felt too restrictive for the development team.

“I think when you use a term like MOBA you’re putting [the game] in a box with a very established ruleset,” he said.  “There’s some familiarity [in Heroes of the Storm] but we're fundamentally changing the actual root of what you’re doing in the game enough that we wanted to call it its own thing.

The distinction is little blurry on paper, but it’s a bit like the difference between call of Duty and Battlefield, or Super Smash Bros. and Street Fighter same genr, same focus and gameplay, but an entirely different feeling and experience.

I selected Thrall from Warcraft (a melee assassin, who felt a little over-powered, so there are still some balancing issues) alongside, franchise stablemates Uther (healing/support damage) and Muradin (tank/stun abilities), Starcraft’s Raynor (ranged DPS) and Diablo’s Tyrael (another tank), The specialist character Abathur, who can remotely latch onto allies assistance through additional skills, was a strong recommendation from the peanut gallery but I thought it was best to leave this unique character for another day.
The most accessible and enjoyable MOBA I have experienced to date
We were up against seasoned MOBA enthusiasts, but with Heroes a far more team oriented game that features shared team levelling, we overcame our headstrong opponents, who focused on one-upmanship while we coordinated to farm the most experience collectively. The maps also each have unique objectives, ours featuring control points that we kept secure for the possession of a powerful tower, periodically devastated random enemy buildings.

The battle reached an impasse towards the end, but it was once again team tactics that brought home victory. Mercenaries, tough neutral bosses that will join your team if you defeat them, are scattered around the map. With both teams looking to finish off the end-game merc we took to some nearby long-grass, hiding us from view, and waited for our enemies. When both their heroes and the merc’s health were low, Muradin launched himself into the fray from cover with a stunning attack, and we followed with a flurry of abilities for the merc kill and a team wipe.

Heroes is, in short, the most accessible and enjoyable MOBA I have experienced to date. I may have only had a short time with the game, but I’m eagerly anticipating and waiting for my next opportunity to dive on in. Bring on Abathur.

Lead Game Producer Kaeo Milker Talks About Teamwork And Accessibility

The reliance on teams can make MOBAS a frustrating experience for new players, especially if you don’t have a group of friends to play with and end up matched with a group of far more experienced players who aren’t interested in incorporating you into their team and just call you a noob. Have you done anything to counteract this problem?

Kaeo Milker: Heroes is inherently more of a team game than traditional MOBAs, and that was a very deliberate decision on our part. This is a game where you live and die by your team. We got rid of the idea of the carry the one player that everyone is trying to make really powerful so they can literally carry the game. We wanted everyone to have a role, and everyone can do things that contribute positively to the outcome of the game. That does require you to communicate and work together and that means everyone has to be interested in doing that… You have to work with your teammates, and you won’t win the game as the one player out of five doing your own thing. I don’t think it impacts accessibility, but it definitely is a new twist where the whole ‘There is no I in Team’ thing is really apparent.

Overall is it more accessible than a traditional MOBA? 

Kaeo Milker:  We approached this game the way that we do all our games at Blizzard. We have an easy-to-learn difficult-to-master philosophy. I think we’ve intentionally removed some of the things that might have added layers of complexity that might be harder for new players to get into. I think having multiple battlegrounds was a really big part of [achieving our philosophy]. We have multiple battlegrounds that change the game dramatically the strategies you employ change a lot, your reliance on your team and coordinating with them to make the right choices at the right moment, and to
react to things that the other team are doing are really critical… People who are familiar with the genre will have some things that make them feel at home, while there’s this whole new world to explore all the fan stuff we’ve done to mix it up.

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