Heroes Of The Storm Enters Closed Beta, Brings Thrall

Thrall

Heroes of the Storm (Blizzard’s Blizzard-em-up) have moved from to closed beta. We’ll have a more detailed impressions piece up tomorrow evening but until then, here’s the basic update info.

Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard’s take on the MOBA genre – although they’d rather you called it a hero brawler. It features characters from all reaches of the Blizzardiverse doing battle on various maps. Each map has a unique objective which can be completed in order to earn a boost for your side.

To coincide with the move to beta, Blizzard has added a new map, a new hero (Thrall) and a ranked play mode. There’s also a draft mode which lets you try to create particular team compositions or try to counter-pick your opponents. For more on any/all of the above, read on:

Firstly, Thrall. Blizzard makes use of the whole Blizzardiverse timeline for Heroes of the Storm so this hero will have the base form of Thrall, Warchief of the Horde. In order to move him along a bit through his CV there’s a purchasable skin called Master Thrall which I think is a kind of combo of his Draenor and Cataclysm appearances.

He’s not currently on the free rotation of heroes so to purchase him outright it’s £7.49 which is a bit of a sting, To put it in perspective, when you buy the more expensive champions in League of Legends with Riot Points that works out at about a fiver. You can also use in-game gold earned by completing quests to buy heroes although I gather that’s still considered slow to accumulate.

In terms of what he can do there’s a chain lightning ability which hits multiple enemies, a fiery wolf spirit which can burn and root foes, some attack, speed and healing abilities and then either a massive AoE slow called Earthquake or a stun/damage ability called Sundering.

Sky Temple is the new battleground. It’s a desert-themed setup with the unique map objective of trying to control temples. Success means the temples fire lasers at enemy buildings. In that regard it sounds kind of like a cross between the existing maps Dragon Shire and Blackheart’s Bay.

Sky Temple

What else?

Ranked mode gets unlocked when you hit level 30 and have unlocked more than 10 heroes (as in you own them rather than having them on free rotation). Combine that with the draft mode and you can see Blizzard making eyes at the eSports scene over the dance floor. GET A ROOM.

Signup for a shot at getting on the beta is via the official site.

For a bit more info on how the games play out, I wrote a hands on back in April 2014. Just bear in mind that some specific bits and pieces will have changed since then.

17 Comments

  1. Moraven says:

    The game has come along nicely since day 1 of Alpha. I just started to back into it (have not touched it since the Account Wipe in the fall, happened to me for Hearthstone also). Having a lot of fun and the changes are noticeable. The game is not for everyone, but I feel is worth a try if you get in.

  2. Jockie says:

    Think I’ve been opted in for testing ever since it’s been possible without having received an invite. I wonder whether they’re trying to build a bit of demand by withholding en-mass invites.

    Seems like their PR machine is starting to spool up though, hopefully more invites will follow.

    • kael13 says:

      Hopefully.. I reckon they’ve been ensuring the infrastructure is ready this week before sending out keys.

      Three of my friends have keys but barely played the game and I’m supposed to be a big Blizzard fanboy. What do I have to do for a key, get another tattoo?

      Irritating!

      • johnnyan says:

        You guys ain’t losing much, in my humble opinion…

        • Vandelay says:

          Quite. I got into the closed Alpha a while ago. It is fine, but nothing very special. I wish they had of gone more for the objective based gameplay and less for the tower pushing that is standard for MOBAs. As it is, I don’t see much point in straying from DOTA.

          • maccy says:

            It’s probably the best introduction to the genre going, and it’s really nice that matches are quick. I think it definitely has a place in the scene, but I’m not going to be giving up any other games to play it.

        • Xocrates says:

          Yeah, I got in the alpha a around october/november and was rather unimpressed. Decided to wait for the beta to see what’s changed and the answer appears to be not much.

          It’s a polished but unremarkable game in the genre, filled with conflicting design, and unlocking characters is either expensive or grindy as fuck.

          Let’s see what the beta does to it, but right now there are better alternatives to it regardless of whether you are more casual or more hardcore.

          • pkt-zer0 says:

            Care to mention some of the more casual alternatives? I’m having fun with the game, but some less grindy/F2P-y alternatives would be interesting.

          • Xocrates says:

            Personally, I tend to go for awesomenauts when I want something a bit more casual. But it’s not F2P – though cheap, and frequently on sale.

            There are probably others, but none I can say I have experience with.

  3. Beelzebud says:

    I’m not sure they’re actually sending out invites. I never received any beta notification, but when I was logged in the battle.net last night to play Diablo 3, I noticed that Heroes of the Storm was in my games list, and tried installing it today and it lets me play. The game seems fairly good from what little I’ve played of it, although I’m not a big fan of that genre.

  4. milton says:

    I’ve played on and off since the Alpha and I can say for sure that it’s a lot of fun. The variation in maps and objectives make it a pretty crazy ride from start to finish. The good kind of crazy, not the bad kind.

    I entered expecting a game similar to LoL but more casual. With lots of LoL clones appearing here and there, I’ll admit I didn’t expect this game to be inspired, simply gimmicky. However I was surprised to see a completely different direction with very different goals in this game. It’s a breath of fresh air to see someone have a vision and aim towards it instead of trying to copy their contemporaries.

    The way which they have created levelling and abilities have made it an extremely good platform to make balance and gameplay changes compared to LoL for instance (none of this scaling off items stuff), which means you can expect a more consistent game balance if they do it right in comparison to LoL.

    My biggest gripes with HOTS is mainly on the pricing model. Grinding in LoL is already a pretty tough mountain to climb for new players. A lot of my friends simply do not want to join now because it takes so long. The grind for HOTS is equally if not more harsh, which in my opinion for HOTS actually impacts the gameplay more than LoL’s grind. HOTS is aimed at being more team objectives and less individual mechanics. In LoL you can spend ages perfecting little nuances in mechanics, in HOTS it’s about the co-ordination. The variation in heroes is a massive game-play element, making the game fresh and exciting. Playing only the same roster for a week is extremely underwhelming, at least from my experience.

    While I do urge anyone who can get an invite to give it a go, I’m not sure if Blizzard will be able to hook me in at least in the long run. Having spent so much time in LoL and Dota 2, HOTS may not be convenient enough for me to allow myself another MOBA luxury.

  5. Nevard says:

    I love the mechanical differences to LoL and Dota (talents instead of items, distinct maps, mercenaries, shared team experience, shorter round times) but the pricing and out-of-game levelling systems still need a bit of work.

    For real money, heroes are fairly expensive, and for in-game money heroes are… very expensive.
    And the fact that I need to play four or five matches (usually against bots) before I can use all of a hero’s talents is absurd, even if hitting those milestones with the free options every week does give me something to do.

    • Xocrates says:

      The problem with the mechanical differences is that most (if not all) are not improvements and many are altogether worse than the mechanics they’re replacing, while still being functionally or conceptually equivalent. In other words: they’re not different enough and not good enough to make a difference.

      • Nevard says:

        If I just said “I love these” I’m not sure why you think “no but theyre actually bad” is going to change my mind.
        I think a 20 minute game with shared levels and no items is vastly more enjoyable than 40-60 minutes of dota 2 or lol, both of which are games I’ve played (dota for some 200 hours, according to steam) saying “no it’s not” is hardly convincing.

        • Xocrates says:

          I didn’t say your opinion is wrong, nor was I trying to change your mind, in fact I was largely trying to point out that is was just your opinion.

          I’m pretty sure I could make essay length posts on why each point does and doesn’t work. The only reason I didn’t was because I assume most people do not care. And, like I said, I didn’t intend to change your mind, just provide perspective for others.

          Buf if you DO want me to expand on my opinion, I’ll gladly do it. God knows I’m looking for a proper game design discussion on HotS for months now.

    • Moraven says:

      I think a Profile level 20 should unlock all talents for all new characters.

      In past, it was a lot worse.

  6. VladRose says:

    Played the beta over the weekend after receiving a key. I really like a lot of elements of the game compared to other MOBAs I play (LoL, Smite) like the not having to last hit minions or the fact that XP is shared.
    With that said, I just uninstalled the game after about 4 days playing. The problem is that you run into characters that are very overpowered compared to others, and to top it off, they are the most expensive at 10,000g+ (chars are as low as 2,000g). When you win a match, you get 30g. When you lose a match, you get 20g. It doesn’t take long to figure out how long you’d have to play to be able to afford a character to be at an equal level to your opponent.
    You can of course BUY the characters with real cash, but that’s where the problem ends up lying; it feels like a pay to win game as a result and an absolutely toturous grind if you try to earn the characters instead.