The emotional arc of a Heroes of the Storm match is, like the round itself, brief and hard-hitting. The intoxicating high of overwhelming victory is a stark contrast to the painful, frustrating sense of defeat. I left each game feeling either godlike because of Heroes of the Storm’s superb characters and combat, or worthless because of its deeply problematic map and progression design.
Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard’s MOBA-structured homage to its incredible history, a mash-up of its rich worlds and iconic characters set atop team-based battlefields. It’s a fun blend of worlds with a colorful, unified art style and a great sense of humor. In each match, famous characters quip and clobber non-playable minions and one another in lanes leading to each others’ bases. The road to destroying your opponent's’ home is painted with the blood of your enemies (and a bit of your own, no doubt), and it’s in these big team skirmishes that Heroes of the Storm finds its expertise.
Starcraft, Diablo, Warcraft, and other Blizzard heroes engage in frequent, furious, and spectacular team fights where skill-based abilities, positioning, timing, and cooperation are essential to annihilating enemy players. With each hero playing a distinct role, and bringing unique abilities to the table, there are hundreds of awesome opportunities for fun skill-based combos.
As Jim Raynor, I loved summoning a starship to slaughter enemies trapped by my teammate Gazlowe. Nova and Zeratul roam invisibly across each map, dealing high damage to pick off stragglers trying to escape the terrifying
Kael’thas, who can disable entire groups in short order. It doesn’t matter to me who I play in a given match; I love these heroes in equal measure, for different reasons. I enjoyed healing allies as Tyrande because their success in battle was a result of me keeping them alive. Choke-slamming a wizard over Diablo’s head is both hilarious and a useful means of literally handing said sorcerer to your kill-hungry allies. As Nazeebo, I could set up massive team-wipes with my various, terrifying summons.
These fights happen early and often, with map-based objectives forcing players into brutal bottlenecks at certain points during each match. These engagements are exciting to watch and a ton of fun to participate in, but they’re also the source of Heroes of the Storm’s unsettling imbalance in player power.
That's something I'll explore more later this week. Heroes of the Storm has only just launched, and there's more to see and experience now that it's in the wild and out of beta. I have a lot of complex thoughts about Heroes of the Storm as a competitive game, its map and objective design, and its free-to-play model. Look for more on that soon as the final, scored IGN review (and video review) for Heroes of the Storm wraps up.
In the meantime, check out IGN Plays Live, where we played Heroes of the Storm for two hours.