Valeera slashes her way into Heroes of the Storm

Valeera Sanguinar

It is time for my semi-regular check in with Heroes of the Storm [official site]. That game has reached the point where I’ll boot it up when a character I’ve heard of or who sounds mechanically interesting turns up, but nothing keeps me actually playing beyond that. Valeera Sanguinar is the hero who has brought me back this time. She’s an assassin and… well, Heroes of the Storm needs more assassins like the NFL needs more commercial breaks. It has 25 assassins and 38 characters split over the other three classes.

Anyhoodle, let’s take a look….

Her abilities are roughly as follows:

Sinister Strike is a dash-n-slash. You dash forward dealing damage in a line.

Blade Flurry deals damage in a small area of effect around Valeera.

Eviscerate deals damage based on combo points which you accumulate by using her other abilities, so it rewards ability-based aggression.

Her Heroics (the HotS version of an ultimate ability) are Smoke Bomb and Cloak of Shadows. Smoke Bomb lets her stay stealthed as she attacks as long as she’s in the smoke cloud as well as boosting her armour and reducing damage taken. Cloak of Shadows removes all damage over time effects from Valeera as well as giving a far bigger boost to her armour and damage taken although for a shorter period of time and limited to spell armour and ability damage taken.

The other thing she can do is use her trait to enter stealth mode. It does the usual stealth things, so a bit of extra move speed and it’s far harder to detect her, but it also means her other main abilities change a bit. Sinister Strike becomes Ambush so she can deal a whole wodge of damage to an enemy as she attacks from stealth. Blade Flurry becomes Cheap Shot and stuns and damages a foe. Eviscerate changes to Garotte and lets her silence and deal damage over time to an enemy.

I took her for a small spin (which is a vague Blade Flurry joke) in the public test realm and she definitely feels slashy, although at first it’s more about delivering paper cuts and trying not to get killed so that you can ramp up to actual stabbing.

On the assassins front, though, maybe that’s part of why HotS is just not part of my regular multiplayer rotation. I can dip into games of HotS just fine, but given assassin isn’t a role I’m particularly interested in the roster doesn’t seem to offer me huge variation or potential enjoyment when I look at the roster, regardless of how they end up playing. I also don’t have an existing investment in the characters because I wasn’t ever a World of Warcraft player. My ears pricked up at Valeera solely because I dabbled in Hearthstone.

The Blizzfolk did actually address the concerns about this class skew on the official forum so I’ll post their response here. It’s basically that the development pipeline for characters and what’s makes most sense for the studio doesn’t always align with class spread.

“We’ve seen a lot of discussions about our recent hero releases in the community lately, and we agree that we definitely overdid it a little bit with the Warcraft assassins over the past few months.” said Centaurik.

“Something that’s important to consider is that our development process for each hero starts nine months to a full year ahead of their planned release dates. After a certain point in the pipeline it becomes very difficult to shuffle heroes around without slipping on our goal of putting a new hero into your hands every three to four weeks. By the time we took a step back and said ‘You know, we sure have released a lot of assassins lately…’ we were well past the point where we could change things up. :-(“

There’s a bit more about how the heroes were actually conceptualised which is interesting if you want to read the full post/thread.

I dunno. Heroes of the Storm just confounds me. I keep looking at it and I look at its hero spotlight videos and I think “yes, that could or should or will be interesting” and then I play it and there’s still no hook. I slide off like a greased duck on a buttered slide and forget it even exists all over again.


  1. Alice O'Connor says:

    Where is this delicious slide?

  2. kirito says:

    I tried so hard to play and enjoy this game, even getting a few master skins. The problem is matchmaking – due to the team-based nature of the game, in competitive draft mode you have about a 30% chance of an even match and otherwise it’s a stomp either way. “Quick match” without draft is literally a coin-flip.

    Basically, matches aren’t decided by which team has the strongest player, but by which team has the weakest.

    The community response to complaints about matchmaking is “Well sometimes YOUR team gets to dominate the OTHER team.” Which really misses the point, that stomps are boring.

    • kael13 says:

      But competitive draft is league based, so really it shouldn’t be and isn’t a stomp.

      • kirito says:

        Oh, ok. It isn’t a stomp. I just got unlucky in my 2000 game run. There’s nothing wrong with placements, MMR, or adjustments.

  3. Koozer says:

    Quickly, someone suggest a MOBA that doesn’t require memorising 248 different items and optimum builds, but with more ability complexity than HotS!

    • Xocrates says:


    • nearly says:

      Honestly, I feel like Dota 2 is in a pretty friendly place this patch. They’ve always had guides in-game (basically, the guide is a package of skillbuild/items with the option for the creator to add extra notes about each) but they recently made some changes that promote fighting more throughout so you don’t necessarily need to put as much time into timings and laning rhythms as a beginner. A lot of the item changes also opened up some of the more meta-centric builds and made new options for heroes.

      Apparently they just did another minor patch a day or two ago where it automatically populates popular item builds from the past month of pick-ups in upper tier matches, so even aside from a guide that’s telling you what items to get and explaining why, you can see what other people are choosing without having to put in research time. You can make it so you’re being told a lot of good options throughout the match without having to put too much thought into it (though you’re obviously better off if you have a basic item understanding and know when to pick one item over another).

      I don’t at all play at a high tier but I still find Dota to be the most accessible. I wouldn’t say it’s just because it was my first MOBA, though, because I really didn’t understand what I was doing until I tried League for a little while and then gave Dota another shot.

  4. Xocrates says:

    I really really would like to know what HotS player numbers are like.

    I’ve expressed concerns about how Blizzard makes their games before, but HotS is their only game that I would be tempted to call outright bad (for a variety of reasons, though my biggest problem is that I don’t get who the game is for), and I suspect that Pip’s reaction to the game is not unusual, but without hard numbers it’s really difficult to make any conclusions because it may simply be that we’re not part of the target audience and the game is actually quite popular with a less vocal/hardcore population.

    • Freud says:

      The target audience are moba players who are tired of the toxicity of LoL and Dota 2 and prefer games that last 20 minutes on average. Also it has twelve maps compared to the one map of the competitors and it’s more teamfight focused and less focused on a long laning phase.

      • Xocrates says:

        Which is who, exactly?

        The game is too straightforward for Lol/Dota fans, but requires too much team coordination for casual play.

        You have 20 maps, many of which are crap, and you pick your characters before you even know what map you’re playing on so you can be screwed from the start.

        The reason HotS doesn’t appear to have a target audience is because different systems appear to target different people, to the point that the whole package effectively excludes everyone.

        For every group that could theoretically be interested in the game, I can name a reason why they wouldn’t or at least why they wouldn’t stick with it.

        • Freud says:

          It seems that you think your own preferences are universal.

          There are tonnes of people that love the shorter, more action filled games and the map variation of HotS.

          You have 20 maps, many of which are crap, and you pick your characters before you even know what map you’re playing on so you can be screwed from the start.

          There are currently 12 maps and in both Unranked Draft, Hero League and Team League you know the map before you pick your hero.

          You come off looking like you have an uninformed agenda here. The HotS community are used to it. Moba communities are tribal and love to dismiss the competition.

          • Xocrates says:

            “There are tonnes of people that love the shorter, more action filled games and the map variation of HotS.”

            Are they a sustainable audience though? And are we talking for solo play or team play?

            “There are currently 12 maps and in both Unranked Draft, Hero League and Team League you know the map before you pick your hero.”

            I don’t think any of these existed last I played, and I wasn’t aware they changed that between the “default” gamemode and the other modes since the game didn’t seem designed for that. I stand corrected.

            “You come off looking like you have an uninformed agenda here.”

            I really really don’t. I’m genuinely curious to understand the game and its position in the broader landscape.

            I’ve seen nothing to suggest the game is doing well, and from personal experience I found the game a bit of a mess, even if it had plenty of good ideas, so I’ve been trying to figure out if my perception of the thing corresponds to reality or if I’m dead wrong, and if so why.

        • Darloth says:

          Well -I- like it.

          It’s more fun than Dota without the massive time input, it’s easier to learn, and it doesn’t have as many bloody stupid mechanical contrivances as other MOBA style games.

    • Moraven says:

      Shorter matches.
      No boring laning phase, last hitting, denials.
      Once the team objectives come out, there is a lot of team action. Periods between ganks and team actions is quick and not 5 minute setups.
      No need to worry about losing gold, item builds, Rune builds.
      Variety of maps that play differently, allow various heroes to shine on certain maps. We have been playing the same map on LoL/DOTA for over a decade, with small refreshes happening the last 3-4 years. But its still the same map.

      • Xocrates says:

        All of which are good ideas that I approve of, none of which by themselves make the game good.

        Heavy team focus means solo play was terrible, hero design seemed to forget heroes need to be fun to play against as well, many maps, particularly early ones, are not interesting or fun.

        Bottom line is, the game seems to lack focus. It has great production values, and plenty of good ideas, but no clear idea of what it actually is trying to achieve. All the features you name suggest a focus on more casual and chaotic play – which I would actually like more mobas to do – but that’s clearly not the way of playing it.

  5. Viral Frog says:

    I would really like to get into HotS, but the game queues take way too long. Last time I attempted to play, it took me 8 minutes in queue before I gave up trying to find a match.

  6. Freud says:

    I haven’t played WoW since 2009 but I still cringe when I hear that Cheap Shot sound.

  7. shagen454 says:

    This is one of my favorite games and a game I have played weekly the last few years. When it came out, it wasn’t so great but after about a year of work it’s come around to the point that I don’t even play DOTA2 any longer.

    That said – a lot of the new toons are a little lackluster and actually a little annoying. At least Ragnaros introduced a new mechanic to laning – but another stealth kind of sucks. Especially, because I play Sylvanas a lot.

  8. deak says:

    This hero is another example of Blizzard tacitly admitting they cannot get their matchmaker to work.

    Instead of heroes who can fulfill a team function, here we have a hero who has stealth, burst damage, damage over time, crowd control, damage mitigation, an escape, single target damage, AoE damage, a purge/cleanse… and, the best bit, no mana!

    I love HotS, but recent hero releases (Samuro, Ragnaros, Varian) have me questioning whether someone in charge is competent in any way. Valeera looks to be the worst example yet.

    Re: matchmaker taking too long… my average wait time is 60-90 seconds, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. The match that I get, however, is too often unbalanced.

    In quickmatch, I think we’ve all probably ended up on a team stacked with specialists on a two-lane map vs. a team of assassins. That should never happen, but sadly it does.