Saturday, May 30, 2015

Things you should know about Heroes of the Storm!




                In the last years the MOBA genre had an explosive increase in popularity. While most of the titles of this genre follow the same baseline of game mechanics, Blizzard attempts a slightly different approach with Heroes of the Storm in order to attract their playerbase. The game is a little more casual and addresses a larger audience and not only the diehard fans.
The game's mechanics are more softcore focusing more on team play and fun while not being that punishing. The changes made don’t help the game escape the oldest problems of MOBAs however(be prepare for toxicity and clueless players), but try do address some of the issues through the simplification.
                Heroes of the Storm entered the Open Beta phase on May 13 and keys are no longer required to play the game and we are nearing its release on June 2. With this occasion I wrote some of the essential things that the new players should know about Heroes of the Storm.


1. Expect toxicity

                In matches in Heroes of the Storm you can only communicate with your team members (if you want, there is an option to shut down the chat all together). This was a measure to prevent the trolling and toxicity that follows MOBA games and while it might help a little it doesn’t entirely get rid of this problem. So, even if is your own team, expect toxicity in Heroes of the Storm, but if things get out of control, you can always mute the players that bother you.




2. Try Mode, versus AI and guides

                MOBAs have a steep learning curve and their focus on team play makes every player important during matches. If you are a newcomer to the genre and the game, before playing with and against other players you should prepare yourself. The players with more experience usually don’t have patience and ruining their games will probably result in a scandal and considering the awkward matchmaking of Heroes of the Storm that will happen more often than not.
                The Try Mode allows the players to test each hero’s abilities against one enemy bot. It is very good to decide if a hero is suited for your play style before buying it. The Versus AI mode allows you to test your skills against AI controlled heroes with or without player controlled team mates. It is great practice for the novice players, so leave your arrogance aside and train before playing against other players.
                Last but not least, read guides about the heroes you intend to play. Guides are extremely helpful and can teach you tips and tricks on how to play against counter heroes and all kind of situations. They also help by providing some more competitive builds that might not be so obvious for the beginners.
I recommend going to: Heroes Fire and checking the top rated guides there.




3. Roles and setup

            There are four distinct roles for the heroes in this game: Assassin, Specialist, Support and Warrior.
                The Assassin is the known carry from other MOBAs, it deals extremely high damage, either by using burst damage combos or through sustained damage, this makes the Assassins very good at killing the enemy heroes.
                The Specialist is something new to this genre. This type of hero is designed to push lanes as hard as possible by taking advantage of the AoE abilities and attacks to deal high amount of siege damage (damage against buildings or creeps). The Specialists usually lacks the mobility of other roles, but make up for it with increased range of attacks and should stay further behind in team fights. The Support role is the well known healer of every game. It can usually heal, shield, provide buffs and assist with crowd controlling. It is a role with lower damage compared to any other, but it is crucial in any setup. The Warrior is the tank of the team, it has a high health pool and usually has crowd control and engaging abilities which make him the perfect fights opener.
                In Heroes of the Storm the usual setup of a team varies, but a good team should have a Warrior and a Support, as the last three spots can be accommodated between Assassins and Specialists. A second Support might be extremely helpful in some setups.




4. The progression system

                Heroes of the Storm has two separate progressions: one for the hero and one for the account.
First of all, each hero can be leveled outside matches with the experience gained by playing with them. Leveling a hero will unlock a new Heroic Ability (ultimate) and talents that can be used during matches. It will also unlock skin variations for the hero and its mounts and even award some in-game currency (gold).
                There is a level progression for the player’s account as well, up to level 40. The account can be leveled with experience gained by playing any kind of matches except try mode and it awards various bonuses. A lot of in-game currency can be earned by leveling the account. At level 10 a 7 days booster will be activated which will increase the gold and experience gained from matches.
The account progression also unlocks two extra slots for the free hero’s part of the weekly rotation, but more importantly at level 30 the ranked mode will be unlocked and at level 40 the team ranked mode.




5. It is a team effort

                While all the MOBA games are about team play, Heroes of the Storm puts a much higher focus on this than any other and almost removes the need for individual play. The greedy chase for kills that ruins other games has been toned down by adding a shared Takedowns system. A kill is a kill for everybody that participated into that fight. To push matters even further, Blizzard has removed the individual leveling and replaced it with a general level for the entire team, this way the experience cumulated by one player goes to the XP pool of the team and when the team levels up all the heroes’ level up.
                As there is no gold gaining during the matches, the most important resource is the experience. In order to maximize the experience gain, each lane has to be occupied by at least one player from your team, as experience is awarded only if a hero is in range of the killed creeps.




6. No items

                Heroes of the Storm has removed the well known gold farming and item builds which are so popular in other MOBAs and has replaced them with a talents system.
                Talents grant passive bonuses to the existing abilities or active abilities based on each hero. The talents represent a simplification of the itemization and build from other MOBAs and add some complexity to the game without requiring a huge knowledge on the player’s part.
Talents are awarded at team level: 1, 3, 7, 10 (Heroic Ability), 13, 16 and 20. Each talent used better defines the hero’s role and build by enhancing particular abilities or strengths of that hero. Even if the number of talents is quite lower than the items from other MOBAs, there is a decent variety of builds and not all of them are so competitive.




7. Objectives, objectives, objectives

                Unlike any other popular MOBA, Heroes of the Storm is a game about objectives. Each map has its own main objective that can help in defeating the enemy Nexus and winning the game. Completing these objectives better and faster than the enemy team can lead to a swift victory. But the main objective should not be the only focus of the map.
                Defeating mercenary camps will recruit them at your team’s side. There are numerous mercenary camps spread on both sides of the map, taking advantage of them and recruiting them when possible (they have a respawn timer) will help push the lanes better. Timing powerful mercenary camps before the main objective starts will force the enemy team to make a decision between defeating the mercenaries and going for the objective.
The strategically opportunities are many and the objectives open up even more.





8. Map awareness, vision and control

                MOBAs are games about skill, patience, attention and team play. The more competitive the play gets the more demanding becomes on the player. The players must always pay attention to everything that happens around themselves and around their team mates. The (strangely placed) minimap in the bottom right corner is a great tool to keep in check everything that happens and everyone who intends to play this game for a longer period of time should gain a habit of paying attention to it, as this kind of attention wins games.
                To make the minimap more useful, vision is important. Most of the maps in Heroes of the Storm have special places which if controlled provide vision in the surrounding area. Keeping these objectives controlled will make things much easier on the adjacent lanes. But BEWARE (!!!), it is pointless to fight for these areas at the beginning of the game, it will most likely result in bad things happening. So have some patience and try to control them when most of the heroes are on their lanes.



9. Walls and structures

                The bases arrangement in Heroes of the Storm differs a bit from similar games and feels more like taken from strategy games. Each lane has a Keep protected by a destructible gate, towers and walls. The gate serves as a tactical building as only the heroes of that team can pass through it and in order for the creeps to push forward towards the Keep the gate has to be destroyed.
                Besides the protecting buildings, each lane has a well from which heroes can drink to regenerate some of their missing life and mana, once used the well goes on a 90 seconds cooldown. The well is a strategic building, it helps greatly in improving the lane sustain by reducing the number of teleports to the main base. It is a good strategy to try and destroy the enemy well as it will cripple that lane and make the pushing for the enemy’s Keep easier.
                All the team buildings are destructible and take damage from anything, be it normal attacks or abilities, but only the abilities that can hit multiple targets can pass through the buildings in order to hit targets behind them.




10. Unit collision

                Heroes of the Storm has a unit collision and blocking system that is part of the game mechanics, this can be both useful and annoying at the same time.
Creeps and heroes can have their movement blocked by the units in front of them and the unit collision goes as far as to completely stop a unit from moving if it is surrounded. This mechanic greatly extends the tactical play and everyone should get used to it fast and learn to use it at their advantage. Blocking the enemy heroes can trap them to their death, but this is a two edged sword as it is just as easy to block teammates and bring their death.
                The path of movement should always be carefully selected and a great deal of attention should be given to it because the unit collision system heavily interferes with the pathfinder sometimes causing serious problems.




11. The visibility of invisibility

                In the current stage of the game there are two heroes that have invisibility by default: Zeratul and Nova. Other heroes might get a short duration invisibility buff through various talents. While the invisibility is good and has a great value in scouting and ambushing and you should always know that these heroes are not truly invisible. While moving, an invisible hero blurs the image at their position, making them noticeable for the enemy team. It is not always easy to spot an invisible hero, especially in the heat of battle, and is impossible to see them in the bushes, but pay attention, you might surprise them before they surprise you.
                The invisibility ends when taking damage or engaging in combat. A good thing to do when spotting an invisible is using a skill shot ability to damage that hero so it remains revealed for a while or even kill him on spot, as they can be caught off guard.
I can see you!!!


12. Mount up

                The mounting is an unusual feature for a MOBA, but very usual for Blizzard’s games. Heroes of the Storm has a mounts system which allows for faster traveling when not taking damage. There are few default mounts to choose from including some unique ones for certain heroes and more can be purchased through the cash shop. The mounts skins serve only as cosmetic changes and don’t imbalance the game at all as they all the mounts have the same speed.
                The default key for mounting up is Z. The heroes dismount instantly when taking even the slightest damage and the mount will be put on a short cooldown. As this is so unusual for this type of game, mounting will require a time to get used to at the beginning, but it can save time, lives and matches, so get used to this feature fast.



13. Grouped but not clumped

                Heroes of the Storm is a game where AoE damage trumps over single target damage (part of the simplification of the game), the difference is so big that the few heroes that have little AoE aren’t viable options for competitive play (Raynor, Nova).
                After the team reaches level 10 farming experience is not a priority anymore. In case your team reached level 10 before the enemy’s, you should take advantage of the heroic abilities and force a fight. If that isn’t the case, the team should still group up and complete objectives while waiting for a favorable engagement opportunity.
                When the team groups up doesn’t mean everyone has to be clumped up, this will lead to disastrous outcomes during team fights. Stay spread out to avoid as much as possible of the AoE damage and AoE crowd control.




                Heroes of the Storm is clearly a more casual MOBA and is way easier to learn than other similar titles, even so, the game has quite a steep learning curve and there are a lot of tricks to be known and game mechanics to be learned before piercing the depth of this game. I only covered in this article some of the basic things that should come in handy to the beginners, for a better understanding play the game more, the rest will come naturally.




Nodrim

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