Blizzard’s MOBA Heroes Of The Storm Now In Open Beta

There is, I know for a fact, a special drum in the Blizzard offices. This drum is chained in a dark oubliette “lest it awake”. Carved from glimmering red-flecked obsidian, its five-metre span is topped with a skin that feels eerily familiar. Some swear they’ve seen obscene glyphs tattooed into the skin, dark marks which vanished upon blinking. It is Blizzard’s launch trailer drum. Crows rising from the trees this morning to pelt themselves at my window mean the drum has been sounded.

Heroes of the Storm [official site] has launched into open beta, and the drum booms mightily in its launch trailer.

Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard’s crack at the MOBA market. It was first announced way back in 2010 under the makeshift name ‘Blizzard DOTA’ as a custom map for StarCraft II. Following a tussle with Dota 2 makers Valve, it eventually landed on its current name. Now it’s in open beta, all and sundry can download it from Battle.net with keys or queues or anything. It’ll properly launch free-to-play on June 2nd.

It’s another MOBA, to be sure, but does try a few different things. Here, read what Rich Stanton – who’d failed to get into Dota 2 or League of Legends – wrote when he played the closed beta earlier this year. In short, it’s trying to be friendlier and keep action rolling. Does it work? See for yourself now. But beware the drums.

19 Comments

  1. RedViv says:

    As expected, it has now become Heroes of the Lags. That’s what open beta is for, I guess.

  2. XhomeB says:

    I kind of wish Dota 2 had this kind of map variety… I vastly prefer the gameplay style it offers, but new kind of maps would greatly help “freshen up” the whole experience.

  3. Flavour Beans says:

    As someone who tends to be a bit anti-MOBA (though coming around) and anti-Blizzard (even if I was forced to admit to myself that Hearthstone is a lark), I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by this game in closed beta. It strips out and reworks a handful of things that always seemed like busywork and false choices in Dota 2, and pops in some more accessible mechanics in its place, such as shared experience and the skill system (no more byzantine item system!)

    The game also seems to play a bit more quickly, with conflict coming up more often, and the different maps with their different objectives keeping everyone on their toes.

    Now that it’s open beta, all I want to do is drag my pals into the mess.

    • Ansob says:

      Yeah, this. Not a huge fan of Blizzard, have tried LoL and Dota 2 and hated them both, and this is actually really fun and quite good. The champion balance isn’t all there yet and likely never will be (the usual Blizzard balance method of “introduce thing, nerf thing into ground, gradually buff thing up to usable again” is alive and well in HotS), but the game itself is actually enjoyable to play.

    • Lacero says:

      AS a dota player I have the opposite opinion. Not saying you’re wrong at all! I just find it interesting how different people can see things in s7uch a different way.

      To me dota has no false choices at all and HOTS has very, very few choices. When I make a mistake and die in dota I can think of a dozen things that could’ve saved me, from positioning to items to strategic decisions. On the other hand in hots the strategic level is so impoverished and the special map features so powerful you can only make tactical decisions about what to do and the strategy is defined by the timing on the special map events.

      While you have some decisions to make on levelling in hots because you only make the decision once for each level that’s 6 (8?) decisions you make once each game. Without take backs you can regret a decision but you can’t do anything differently in that specific game and so your options are again limited. No items again removes much choice, and positioning is still important but with the lack of wards from dota you can’t actually know enough about the enemy in order to make informed positioning decisions and you can’t take a decision to give you more information about enemy positioning by buying wards as in dota.

      The result is when I die I don’t feel I’ve learned anything, and also that it wasn’t really my fault. I don’t have enough options to do much differently and I don’t have enough information to base a decision on anyway.
      I do enjoy the game as a break from dota but it’s this lack of responsibility for my own performance and the feeling of random chaos that I enjoy.

      Perhaps I am just bad or still learning.

      • Cerzi says:

        I have about 3000 hours played of dota over the years, but I’ve stopped playing it completely in favour of HotS since late last year. What you’re saying is basically what my immediate impressions were, too. But what you learn after playing it a lot more, is how it’s a completely different game. It absolutely has a lower barrier to entry than dota, in that the mechanics are completely intuitive and you don’t really need the game to be explained to you in order to be competent on the most basic level. I’m indifferent to that fact (I loved learning the ropes of dota and absorbing all the depth the game had to offer – but I also appreciated that picking up hots didn’t mean having to completely re-learn an encyclopedia of knowledge).

        One common misconception is that no items means no potential for adaptation, and nothing really to learn about outside of the raw gameplay. In reality, the talent system can be viewed as a pseudo item system, except with a vast number of items tailored to specific heroes. It’s like if there 10s of different aghs scepters available that modified skills in sometimes dramatic ways, as well as adding new ones. So, in fact, it takes more to learn the potential ‘item’ builds of x heroes in hots than it does in dota, because those ‘items’ are drawn from a mostly non-overlapping pool.

        Mainly though, is that the simplicity of the game is deceptive. Like dota, the really excellent plays come from the little things. Beyond a certain skill level, everyone in dota can last hit competently, know what items to build, and know how to move around the map effectively. But the people who shine are the ones who can read a situation perfectly, get inside the mind of their opponents, and completely outplay people on a technical level. And that aspect becomes the emphasis in Heroes of the Storm. The better you get, the more you appreciate the little jukes, the baits, the fakes and the all-ins. Like many of the great competitive games of other genres, it’s not about an abundance of features, but about the beauty and simplicity of the raw gameplay.

        • Flavour Beans says:

          I would’ve replied to the post this replied to, but this sums up most of what I wanted to say. Just because HOTS is more accessible from the start, that doesn’t mean it lacks the depth. The talent system in HOTS provides a lot of flexibility in terms of what roles you can fill with your characters; sure, the heroes all fit certain archetypes, but the talents provide a route to hybridization to tailor yourself to the enemy’s roster and how the game’s unfolding, and are a lot more impactful than the stat boosts and temporary buffs that items in DOTA provide.

          When I mentioned false choice, it was DOTA’s items that came to mind. It’s a massive panel of items, many of which are parts to be rearranged into other items, and other items further, which almost requires a degree of memorization due to not being able to pause the game and flip through them. This is a huge deterrence for less-experienced players. But when it boils down to it, there are only so many options you’d ever actually go with for certain heroes, and for some heroes, the choices are pretty underwhelming anyways, so why not go with a talent selection system that is tailored to each hero and gives everyone some dynamic options?

          Getting rid of items also allowed HOTS to get rid of gold, which in turn gets rid of last-hitting and offing your own minions and so on. Like you said, this is something that everyone gets used to early on, all it is is a barrier of entry, again, for new players, that provides a minimal amount of advantage for most players versus others. In the end, I see that as a chore.

          HOTS trends more towards direct confrontation than most MOBAs, and the potency of the map objectives only encourages that. Some people might prefer a slower, more thought-out, more deliberate pace that DOTA might offer, and that’s fine. But HOTS seems to favour a more action-centric pace that doesn’t draw out matches that have already been won; more of a teeter-totter than a tug-of-war. In the end, matches seem to play out a bit faster, and once the match is out of hand, it ends a lot faster than DOTA, where I’ve noticed it often drags out. This faster pace and shorter match-time also makes player deaths that more damaging.

  4. derbefrier says:

    The game is pretty fun been in closed beta for a while. Now i can play with my friends!

  5. Tasloi says:

    I hope their Global Play feature will be available for this game soon.

    • Shadow says:

      Yeah, I’m stuck in the Europe region since I used a key from the RPS giveaway. There was no warning about that, and I only found out once the game was activated.

      Being able to transfer to the Americas zone would be great.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Well that’s dumb. It’s 2015, why are they still region-locking?

        • Nasarius says:

          Why do the WoW servers need to be shut down for multiple hours every week? Why can’t you play a simple turn-based game like Hearthstone with anyone else in the world?

          Even after “Battle.net 2.0”, Blizzard’s server architecture seems to be about 10 years out of date. It’s pretty clear that there are a few things they’d like to do, but literally can’t without completely modernizing their infrastructure.

          • Asurmen says:

            I can’t think of many MMOs and similar which don’t have weekly maintenance.

  6. MrNash says:

    Usually the big caveat I have with MOBAs is that the matches run a bit long. When one drags to 45-60 minutes, I really start losing interest in it. I actually quite like that a match in Heroes usually only runs about 20 minutes. =)

  7. LionsPhil says:

    How’s the AI?

    • Lacero says:

      bad, but it’s needed still because people drop out and rejoin constantly and the ai takes over when they drop.

  8. Unclepauly says:

    Not competitive. It’s the backyard hoops to LoL’s NBA all star weekend.

  9. go4brendon says:

    I played dota 1 and hated dota 2 mechanics. Played Heroes of Newerth for awahile but stopped playing due to hero inbalance of heroes such as Monkey King. Honestly speaking these games werent very fun in terms of always having people raging at you for doing anything wrong. Blizzards Heroes of the Storm is way more fun and takes the pressure off having to farm like a madman to keep up with your team. The zero tolerance for toxic players makes it even better. I really hope this overtakes dota 2 which should never have been made on a source engine.