Since Heroes of the Storm release nearly a year ago Blizzard has been making incremental tweaks and changes to the game along with maintaining a steady stream of new characters for players to battle with. Now as they get ready to head into year two they’re ready to make a major overhaul to their ranking system and introduce two new characters for players to get their hands on. We had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at what changes fans can expect to see over the next few months.
First and foremost the dev team is addressing player issues with the ranking system. Currently, the breakdown is very flat. You make it to rank 1 and you’re there at the top of the mountain with no more worlds to conquer, weeping like a digital Alexander. So with that in mind, players can soon expect to see Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master and Grand Master tiers each with five levels of divisions within them. The divisions will help players keep track of how close they are to ascending or descending up the ladder. When you get to the top or bottom of those spectrums you’ll either have to earn your next rank up in a promotion match or defend your skills and tier ranking in a demotion match.
Master and Grandmaster ranks will work differently though. Master league will accumulate all of your rank points over a season and the top 500 players from each region will be able to progress to Grandmaster league. Grandmasters will be ranked number 1 through 500 based on those points and each player’s special badge will feature their ranking number.
Players will now only be able to play Hero League matches with other players that are within one rank of them, so a Silver player can play with anyone up to a Gold 1 rank or as low as Bronze 5, but won’t have be able to get a Platinum player to help them out. Hopefully this should balance out the skill levels of those participating in ranked matches.
But the league play features don’t stop there. Silenced players will not be able to participate in ranked gameplay modes at all which should cut back on the troll factor and acidic players overall. Ranked players in Team and Hero league will also be getting seasons that will run 8-12 weeks and offer up rewards such as gold, special portraits and exclusive mounts depending on their rank. The seasons will be tweaked as they go in order to optimize them, but this should be a welcome addition to everyone. Players should expect to see these changes take place around the week of June 14th.
Along with all the new features to ranked play, Blizzard revealed two new playable characters for Heroes of the Storm that should be familiar to long-time fans of the Warcraft series. Like many of the characters that already exist in the game, they offer an interesting and unique twist to up the gameplay ante.
Chromie, the time manipulating gnome from World of Warcraft fame will be joining the battle on May 17th (in the US) and brings a plethora of time-warping skills with her as a long-range artillery mage. Although she’s rather physically weak, her attacks pack a serious wallop and since she all over time and space, she’ll get her talents one level before all the other characters giving her a leg up in the ability department. Her talents include the Sand Blast, a sniper shot that only hits Heroes. Her Dragon’s Breath area of effect attack will swoop down on enemies literally without warning, as in her attack does not have a circle warning of any kind. Her Time Trap hourglass mines will freeze enemies in their place for a whole two seconds.
For her heroic talents Chromie will be able to slow down opponents by 60% with her Slowing sand or send them packing back to where they came from with a Temporal Loop (like it actually moves them from where they are back to where they came from).
Starting on June 14th (in the US) fellow Warcraft universe alumni Medivh will be joining Chromie and all the other Heroes of the Storm in battle. Medivh is a seriously unique character and as such he is the first to get the new “Specialist” classification. He has a strong emphasis on supporting other teammates in combat and pulling off ambushes. Medivh has no mount and instead can transform into a completely invulnerable raven that can fly anywhere on the map, including over obstacles and the environment meaning he can spy and report on enemy activity with no chance of being shot down.
His Arcane Bolt attack will get a boost to its cooldown time if he happens to strike a Hero with it, but for the most part his talents will mostly support other players. His Force of Will can protect teammates from all damage for 15 seconds but what’s really crazy is his Portal ability which let’s him open a gate between point A and B for his allies to swarm through. His portals are totally unkillable and his pals can travel back and forth between them at will.
His Heroics are also pretty intense. Medivh can really ruin a team’s day with his Poly Bomb skill which will chain polymorph opponents until they get the heck away from each other. And his Ley Line Seal heroic will send a surge through all the ley lines in the game and put any enemies in its way into stasis for 3 seconds.
Overall, the next year of Heroes of the Storm is looking to be even more exciting and expansive than the first. Not only due to the improvements in their ranking system, but also due to the fact that they’re willing to try things that no other game in the MOBA genre would ever even approach. Although there’s always a gamble to innovating, if the first year’s success is any indication Heroes of the Storm is heading in the right direction. You can play it now for free on your PC.