Blizzard’s taken some time to jump into the MOBA genre created, essentially, by the mod scene of Warcraft 3. Originally, Blizzard’s official entry made an appearance as an StarCraft 2 modification called “Blizzard DOTA” and then later “Blizzard All-Stars”.
This modification has been playable at BlizzCon in the past, and as Dustin Browder explained during the overview panel at this year’s BlizzCon, Heroes of the Storm is a reflection of all the feedback the team has received from fans at previous BlizzCon events. Heck, even the art and world the game is based in draws heavily from art that has appeared at BlizzCon in the past. Dustin Browder even went as far to describe Heroes of the Storm as “BlizzCon: The Game”.
Speaking of that art direction, the team drew from all three franchises represented in the game to come up with Heroes of the Storm’s overall art style. The comic book vibrancy of World of Warcraft, the grittiness of StarCraft 2, and the fine detail of Diablo 3 combine to form the distinct art style found in Heroes of the Storm.
This mishmash extends into the map design, as well. Since the game effectively takes place in a realm of infinite possibilities called “Nexus”, Blizzard has basically given itself the creative freedom to create maps set in all sorts of different environments.
Players will be able to customize their characters in Heroes of the Storm using skins that are sometimes serious and sometimes not so much. To illustrate this, we were shown a skin for Diablo called “Lurkablo” and it’s exactly what you would think: a giant Murloc Diablo. Again, Nexus allows for this zaniness.
Blizzard won’t call Heroes of the Storm a MOBA, insisting on coining its own term for the game. Heroes of the Storm is what they call a “Hero Brawler”. That said, Heroes does a few key things differently from other MOBAs.
One of the most significant of these differences is the use of global experience or “Team Levels”. In most MOBAs, you may be playing with a team of other players, but experience is local. If you’re not around something when it dies, you’re not gaining experience for it. In Heroes, this isn’t the case. Instead, every player levels up at the same time. Experience gained anywhere on the map is granted to all players equally. While this probably makes the game more approachable to gamers, it also has a beneficial effect in terms of game design.
Due to team levels, Blizzard can create Heroes that are very specialized in their use, without worrying about their effectiveness at killing things. For example, Uther can be a straight up healer, or you have interesting characters like Abathur, who basically can’t fight at all unless he’s infested other friendly players (which he can do from anywhere on the map).
Heroes of the Storm is also designed to be played with friends. To that end, games are designed to run about 20 minutes or so. This lets you get more games in during lunch or group up with friends in a reasonable amount of time if you’re already in a game.
Blizzard is also taking an entirely different approach to maps. Instead, of focusing on a standard single MOBA map or offering a couple of different modes alongside it, the entirety of Heroes of the Storm is focused on providing players with constant variety. Each map is visually different and focuses heavily on different mechanics and objectives.
In one map, you’ll want to capture two Obelisks on either side of the map in order to be able to summon the Dragon Knight. When controlled by a skilled player, the Dragon Knight can be an extremely destructive force on the battlefield. In another map, you’re collecting doubloons to give to the ghost pirate Blackheart, who will fire the cannons of his ghost ship at enemies and enemy structures if given enough of a bounty.
There are four maps currently in the rotation, but Blizzard plans on rapidly iterating on and adding maps to the game while rotating maps out that aren’t as popular.
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Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB