At Gamescom last week Blizzard announced that Heroes of the Storm [official site] would get a host of updates including new heroes, a map and skins. Some of this content is now out on the Public Test Realm, Blizzard’s publicly available testing environment where players can help shake out bugs and preview what’s coming next. There’s one very interesting change: you must now buy any paid-for items before you can test them. It’s a strange combo of Early Access and pre-ordering, where these items – in this case new hero Kharazim, aka the Monk from Diablo 3 – will transfer to your main account only when they’re fully released.
It’s a very strange change. I understand it from a business perspective. However, limiting the already small group of people willing to test characters before they come out for no benefit (character and account progress made on PTR do not transfer) to those willing to pay for the privilege is actively bad for the process. More over, you can’t even spend in-game gold from your main account on testing, so even if you plan on purchasing what’s new you’re out of luck unless you’re already planning to do it with your real wallet.
The full patch notes are fairly large. Alongside Kharazim, there’s a new Diablo-based battleground, Infernal Shrines, which is free to test. The battleground requires players to trigger shrines in order to summon a Punisher, which will run down a lane kill any enemies in its path. It follows a similar structure to other Heroes of the Storm maps, but with the small twist being that each different lane has its own Punisher with different abilities. Here’s a trailer:
Game designer Matthew Cooper runs down the reasoning behind the various balance changes to heroes, talents and abilities in a separate post. There’s also a visual guide to everything Blizzard are up to, development wise, on YouTube including next-next hero Rexxar and various new skins. If you’re wanting to get in on the action early, here’s the guide for joining HotS’ public test realm.