So I did it...yes. I was lucky enough to get into the alpha technical test for Blizzard's new MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. This alpha is also a marketing campaign because it does not have a Non-disclosure agreement, so the Blog today is brought you to you by Blizzard-Activision! The same company that ruined Diablo 3 for you has set out, yet again, to try to monetize and devalue a genre that is beloved by all. That being said...the game is pretty good!
So the game starts off with the typical MOBA story. Hero type guy sucked into another dimension, greeted by an old guy with a hammer, goes somewhere else, fights the "evil" guy, right click this and that stuff. The main difference here is that the clever Blizzard flavor shines through; of all the things Blizzard has lost over the year, the wit has been great. My first impression of the graphics and the overall aesthetic is great! It captures the essence of that classic Blizzard razor-thin line between cartoon and serious work of fantasy/sci-fi. The look is not too foppish and not too straight-laced, The Goldie-Locks of art between DOTA 2 and League of Legends.
The gameplay here is the real gem. The mechanics, from the ground up, have been crafted for a team play experience. The game itself is an anti-trolling device. It blends kills and assists in your kill score! That in itself is a huge step towards calming the community down a little bit. Assists in DOTA and LoL (league of legends), are separated. So all those supports who allow the kills to happen get zero recognition, as their kill score reads 0-3 for the whole game while the AD carry get all the laurels even though they would have died like a peasant if the team play was not there. They have removed last hitting. So all that matters is killing the creeps/minions. All experience is shared. You start with all of your abilities! Crazy! So there is no wrong way to build it! You will not get berated by a 14 year old Brazilian for putting your third rank into a passive because there are no skill ranks! These are just some of the little details that really begin to take this genre in the right direction!
So I could extol all the virtues of the new mechanics and game-play... since I am the official video game troll of RI, let me get into the good (and not-so-good) stuff. The one issue I have with game-play so far are some of the special level scenarios. Now, the game is still in early alpha and I have only played a hand-full of matches but...I think they are a little crazy. Now, in each level there is a mechanic or a secondary objective. The one that really got my goat was the curse one. In the level Cursed Hallow these tributes spawn. If a team collects enough tributes, it summons this guy who curses the other team. It is a supposed to be an "advantage"; it's pretty much game over. All your creeps are reduced to 1 hp, your towers cannot shoot, and all your structures are at half health. This does not just last for 30 seconds...it's more like 5 minutes. That number is not exact, but if a team gets that secondary, it's pretty much game over. Which makes it a primary objective. Obviously they are aiming for short matches with a game-ending mechanic like that. However this feels a little cheap to me. The target team should be 25-30 minutes, not 15-25. It's just too short of game for my taste and I think it makes the games feel a little less significant. This contributes to making the whole community a little less troll-y but it takes away from the intensity of the game play. Every win should feel great and every loss should sting a little bit.
That being said, the real devil here is the business model. There are only 6 champions available for free every week or so, Ala LoL. However you can buy other champions with cash. Gross. Why make a freemium game? What are you, King.com? I mean, what is next, you can only play 3 matches a day and then after that you have to wait on cooldowns or pay money per match? It truly is despicable. Just release all the damn heroes! Make money off the exorbitant cosmetic purchases like a unicorn for $20 dollars! Now, I understand...everyone has to eat. There has to be money somewhere. But give me a complete game to play and I guarantee you I will spend the money on it.
This game has a Tauren's butthole full of potential. It really could be the next generation standard of MOBAs. However, in typical blizzard fashion, it's all about the Benjamin's. When you monetize everything, nothing has value. Just make the game, bros...the money will come later.