Space Marines On Horses: 17 Mins Of Heroes Of The Storm

By Nathan Grayson on March 5th, 2014 at 11:00 am.

That poor, poor pony.

Heroes of the Storm‘s developers might have made some major missteps (that they apologized for), but that doesn’t mean the game itself isn’t looking extremely promising. I played a fair amount of Blizzard’s MOB- excuse me, “hero brawler” during BlizzCon, and I found it to be a streamlined approach to an often unwieldy genre that could provide a nice alternative when lengthy LoL or DOTA 2 matches sound unappetizing. But man, it’s still really weird to see Jim Raynor – decked out in full space marine garb, no less – riding a pony whose spine probably looks like a rusted-over sawblade at this point. 17 mins of informatively shoutcasted footage below.

I bet you watched that and thought: wow, this sure does look a lot like League of Legends. And, as ever with modern Blizzard games, it does crib towering tomes of notes from genre pioneers that came before it. Polish, intelligent streamlining, and inventive mini-mechanics, however, are what keep me from being cold on HOTS.

I’ve written a lengthy ode to zerg creepmaster general Abathur already, but you really get to see him in action here. He can’t directly fight at all, but he can possess allies and augment their attacks with his own sort of organic (and hopefully gluten-free) turret emplacement. He can do that from anywhere on the map, and he’s also extremely adept at tunneling and hiding. Basically, he’s a total pain in the ass, neck, and left tibia, and I love him.

But even nestled among all those atypical complexities, there’s a great elegance to his design. He might be able to worm his fingers into any encounter no matter where he’s skulking about, but one of his passive abilities is also a check against full-blown balance-bursting overpowered-ness. He spawns his own larval creeps at regular intervals (which are nice for additional offensive output), but savvy players can trace their path right back to Abathur himself. He’s at his best when hidden, but there’s nothing stopping you from seeking out his wriggly, writhing breadcrumb trail.

I also appreciate how the Dragon Knight forces encounters on this map. While classic MOBA maps might offer avenues for turtling and attrition play, the Dragon Shrines keeps players clashing. I could also see them being used for diversion tactics and things of that sort. Again, it’s not revolutionary per se, but it’s a smart, intriguing wrinkle in a genre badly in need of some shake-ups.

Heroes of the Storm will enter beta soon-ish, and you can sign up for that right here. There’s also a small “technical alpha” in the works, but invites for that one will be much harder to come by.

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48 Comments »

  1. Dimonte says:

    When I read about “major missteps” I was all like “huh, what did they do?” Then I clicked the link and was all :D

    • Bull0 says:

      Yep, the fact that this game doesn’t buck the genre trend for revealing female character costumes is the most important thing about it, and all discussions of the game must be prefaced with reference to that fact, under penalty of torture.

      • Chalky says:

        Yeah, “major misstep” vs “minor pr mistake that few are even aware of” distinction is perhaps lacking here a bit.

      • Lemming says:

        Without the characters looking like they always do, how are you meant to recognise them in what is essentially an ‘all-stars’ type game?

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          This. Nathan’s berating of developers for using existing characters with their existing looks seems extremely misguided. Not to mention the incredibly tone deaf and cack-handed way it was brought up at the time. Then putting it at the very start of this article as if it’s some kind of major issue that anyone but him agrees upon… As they say in feminist circles, ‘Sheesh, what an asshole’.

          • The Random One says:

            That’s true and makes sense, and anyone who gives it an instant’s thought will think that.

            The fact that when Mr. Browden was interviewed by Nathan he didn’t respond with that (instead going with ‘we’re not running for president’ as if they were expected to do that to gain cookies and then waiting to be rescued by the PR) means that he hadn’t thought about that issue at all.

          • Bull0 says:

            I think the original point was that characters like Nova have been “sexed up” a bit for Heroes of the Storm, rather than that they look like they do in Starcraft/Warcraft.

      • Everblue says:

        Pretty sure that’s not what Nathan was saying. Maybe read the article again?

        • Bull0 says:

          I can read it again but I’ve got a suspicion the line prefacing the whole article with a reference to the costume incident will still be there…

          *edit* yep, still there. You’d better read the article again, I guess

          • Everblue says:

            Sorry, I appreciate there is a reference to what you so nauseatingly refer to as “the costume incident” is there, but where is the reference to that being the most important thing about it?

            Nathan spends 2 lines referring to “the costume incident” and 6 paragraphs referring to the remainder of the game. A reasonable reader might infer that the things he spends most of his time talking about are the most important things about the game, and he gets “the costume incident” out of the way early because he thinks that it is sufficiently relevant to warrant inclusion, but it’s not the topic he wants to write about today.

            The hyperbole in your post indicates that you may be a misogynist. Are you?

          • Bull0 says:

            Just to be clear, it’s the fact that the reference to said incident (and I’m sorry you find my choice of words nauseating, what would you rather we called it? The bad interview incident? The PR incident?) prefaces the rest of the argument, and is exaggerated to a “major misstep”, that suggests it’s very, very important to Nathan. I’m surprised I need to explain that and coupled with your insulting dismissal of me as a misogynist leads me to conclude you’re being facetious to provoke an altercation. Regardless I’m pretty disinclined now to discuss this further with you, cheers.

          • Koozer says:

            “The hyperbole in your post indicates that you may be a misogynist. Are you?”

            Everblue loses! 5 points to Bull0.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Agreed, it’s kind of retarded that all discussion of this game on RPS has come down to one unanswered question in an interview followed by cries of “HYPERSEXUALISATION” and other nonsense. While nobody seems to want to discuss the actual gameplay at all. All we need here is a reference to LoL or DotA to start those 2 sets of fanboys off with the circlejerk and this will officially be the most garbage RPS comments thread ever.

        Also how much does the guy on the video preview picture look like Stone Cold Steve Austin! It’s uncanny.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        For thinking gender issue discussion is unnecessary, you guys sure do talk it into the ground any time anyone else so much as mentions it.

        • Bull0 says:

          Mmm, I didn’t say it wasn’t necessary, and I certainly don’t comment “every time” it’s brought up (which is a lot). But good contribution all the same, certainly discredits me when you ascribe actions to me that I haven’t taken. Sly woman-hater that I am.

    • anark10n says:

      That poster with what’s-her-face showing off her backside on one side, and what’s-her-face showing off her tits, er, I mean bow, on the other side is really something. At least it’s not the first thing someone sees when going to the site, kudos for that I guess…

      • Zekiel says:

        Yes, the contortion that Kerrigan is going through for no reason except to show off her backside is eally rather disturbing.

  2. ran93r says:

    I’m signed up for beta access but I don’t know, having tried LoL and DOTA2, I just don’t think the genre is my cup of tea.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      Going by how Blizzard operates Heroes of the Storm will be the MOBA for all the people that couldn’t get into DotA or LoL, just like how WoW was the MMO for people who couldn’t get into Everquest and Hearthstone is the CCG for people who couldn’t get into Magic. Less depth but a lot lower bar of entry and fun.

  3. blobb says:

    Heap of shit.

  4. Teovald says:

    Heroes of the Storm‘s developers might have made some major missteps (that they apologized for)

    I am curious : outside of the apology, did they change anything about this design ? Or did they just apologize and kept everything the same ?

    • Bull0 says:

      Other than changing PR tack (going from “We’re not interested in talking about this” to “That was pretty dumb of us to say, of course we value your feedback, and we aren’t trying to alienate players”) no, nothing demonstrable. Changing PR tack at least is a good thing, though, arguably better for them to be on-side in word if not in deed than to be decidedly off-side on both.

      • Zekiel says:

        Yes, it was a bit of a depressing apology. Unless I missed something, it basically said “we’re sorry we responded poorly to the question. We appreciate feedback.” But it didn’t actually offer an alternative answer to the question in any shape or form.

    • Rizlar says:

      On the plus side, that video didn’t seem to feature any exploitative images of women. Minus side, that might have been because there was only one female character.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Considering that was Nathan who should’ve been apologizing to them in the first place, I was amazed that happened at all.

  5. Ergates_Antius says:

    That must be a seriously strong horse!

  6. Awesumo says:

    Needless exposed females that are supposedly wearing full body armour is not a trend that is about to change. Just look at The Sun and its page 3 girls… that is not going to change any time soon, and their readership is older and less male dominated than the computer gaming market.

    • RedViv says:

      And that has what exactly to do with aiming for improvement?

      • Chalky says:

        Prefixing articles with exaggerated accounts of PR mistakes is not “aiming for improvement”. All that happened was that the blizzard PR department didn’t brief the guy they were interviewing on the canned response so RPS actually managed to illicit an honest answer.

        As a result, I’m sure blizzard staff will be briefed on predictable RPS questions and will be able to parrot the party line in future. I guess that’s an “improvement” by some measure but not one that most people give a crap about.

        The episode was interesting and amusing, but it’s irrelevant when it comes to the content of this article. The way it is presented is very misleading.

      • joa says:

        And why is it improvement exactly? I’m not trolling. I don’t understand why asexual character designs are somehow better for women, and I don’t understand why women appearing sexy is somehow bad for them.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      And naturally when things are hard to change we should immediately give up and pretend they’re not happening.

  7. Zekiel says:

    As someone who really doesn’t get the appeal of MOBA, I was surprised to find I actually really enjoyed that video. I think it goes to show that recognisable characters really helps. I don’t have a clue who any of the characters in LoL or DOTA are, so watching or playing it is very confusing. But there is instantly something quite cool about watching Raynor, Tyrael et al pounding around, and their strengths and weaknesses are a bit easier to guess.

    I don’t get the horses though. Are they a temporary speed boost at the expense of being able to fight? They look really stupid.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      It’s probably because Blizzard is willing to break established MOBA conventions with their character design (ability wise of course – visually it’s the same hypersexualized crap they all have) – plus they’re really good at stealing the best parts from other games then rendering them down into a fine paste that tastes surprisingly well. They know how to make games that are fun to watch and play (for a short time).

  8. RedViv says:

    It looks ridiculous in some of the best ways.

    • Kitsunin says:

      Gotta say I’m looking forward to it. A single-char RTS thingy focused on being fun and having real variety rather than 90% perfectly balanced cookie-cutter maps and characters is certainly a neat idea, and it looks done well.

  9. Fattsanta says:

    Looking forward too it! Hypersexualized costumes and all :)

  10. Jenks says:

    “Heroes of the Storm‘s developers might have made some major missteps”

    Well Nathan, at least someone thinks the blogging you’re doing is super important, even if that person is you.

  11. Stimpack says:

    Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Hypersexualized Space Horse Space Horse Space Horse Space Horse Space Horse Space Horse Space Horse Space Horse Space Horse Space Horse Space Horse

  12. vivlo says:

    it doesn’t look as appealing to me as SotIS (http://sc2sotis.wikia.com/wiki/Aeon_of_Storms_Wiki) (or Dota 2, for that matter)
    edit : time flies, today SotIS is “Aeon of Storms” http://www.aeonofstorms.com/

  13. Synesthesia says:

    He, they have a cook with a hook who looks rotten. Huh.

  14. hideinlight says:

    Is it just me or does this article pop up under the DOTA2 news feed, in Steam…

  15. Viceroy Choy says:

    WHEN WILL RPS TALK ABOUT THE GAMEPLAY INSTEAD OF THESE BORING NON-ISSU-oh wait, they do in this very article AND the lengthy “Impressions” article so I guess I’ll go away, ne’er to return.

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