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

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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Nathan Grayson


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