What Does Heroes of the Storm Do Right?


Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!

I have been playing a lot of Heroes of the Storm lately, and I’m enjoying myself quite a bit. I find myself wanting to get back into the game to level up characters, or level up my account, or just get a few rounds in with my friends. I can’t recall a time where I have wanted to play a MOBA, or have enjoyed a MOBA, as much as I have with Heroes of the Storm. I have played League of Legends in the past but it couldn’t hold my attention for very long. Due to not being able to get into Leaugue of Legends like many of my friends had, I was in the mindset that the MOBA genre just wasn’t for me. Heroes of the Storm has shattered that mindset in some interesting ways, and I believe I know why. For today’s topic, I will cover a few of the aspects I believe makes Heroes of the Storm a better MOBA—if not just more fun to play—than League of Legends and other similar games.

Recognizable Roster

The Heroes of the Storm (HotS) roster is composed of iconic Blizzard characters. This doesn’t have anything to do with gameplay (that will come soon), but when one compares the rosters of other MOBAs with what HotS offers, it’s hard to compete with a character selection that includes Thrall, Sylvanas, Illidan, Tyrael, and the Butcher. Now, this isn’t a jab at the expense of League of Legends (LoL), because Riot clearly puts a lot of effort into each of their characters, especially with the more recent revamps and updates to older characters. However, the rosters of other MOBAs aren’t quite so exempt. The biggest advantage that HotS has in this regard is that each character has either existed in an entirely different game at one point in time, or remains an important character in the lore of a currently running franchise. There is a history behind each character and they come from established universes, which is something that other MOBAs just aren’t able to mirror.

Massive Map Diversity

There are a large number of maps in Heroes of the Storm and there will likely be more. One of the single greatest facets of playing HotS is the massive variety of maps that exist. Each map is built around the traditional principles of the MOBA genre, but they all have a relatively unique map-specific objective that changes the gameplay, and can turn the tide of a battle. Personally, this has always been one of the negative aspects of League of Legends. There has only ever been one map, Summoner’s Rift, for the standard 5v5 gameplay mode. The map has since been revamped, I think, and there are plenty of mini-objectives to engage with, but it’s the same every match. While it could be said the focus of LoL is on the characters, the team composition, and how the players use the map to their advantage, it still would be nice to get a change of scenery.

Designed for Team Play

The design of Heroes of the Storm clearly emphasizes team play more than other MOBAs. If there is a single aspect of League of Legends that I absolutely despise, it is the idea of last hitting; if there is a mechanic that could keep me from playing LoL ever again, it would be last hitting. I cannot explain how much I hate that mechanic. Okay, that’s a lie. I can tell you, but I won’t. If you’re unfamiliar with what I am referencing, allow me to elaborate.

In League of Legends, players must acquire experience to earn levels and acquire gold to purchase gear and consumables. The primary way to acquire those two resources is to get the killing blow on minions. This can be difficult if you’re playing a melee champion trading with a ranged champion. It can also be difficult if you’re playing a support character and have toxic players on your team complaining that you’re stealing their kills. Do you know how HotS got around this incredibly idiotic inconvenience? The teams have a shared experience bar and level. So, unlike in LoL, the experience earned by one player benefits the whole team. No individual player is responsible for their own level, and it is beneficial when all players are contributing to the acquisition of experience. Additionally, intentionally feeding to an enemy player will earn the entire enemy team additional experience and levels. This mechanic can be a bit of a double edged sword, but it eliminates the issue of each player on a team being at different levels.

Simple Character Customization

Playing, building, and customizing a character in Heroes of the Storm is very simple. Here’s a surprising fact: HotS doesn’t include any of the shitty power creep mechanics that you see in any other Blizzard game, or any other titles within the MOBA genre. That’s right! There is no grinding for gear. The one thing that hardcore MOBA players would probably say helps to define the genre doesn’t exist in Heroes of the Storm, and it’s fantastic.

The core character customization mechanic in HotS is the Talent system, which is available during a match. Through the talents system players can enhance their characters, modify their abilities, gain access to new abilities, unlock passive bonuses, and choose between two ultimate abilities. New players can easily jump into the game with any character and spend a few minutes reviewing the abilities and talents before entering a match, or while waiting for a match to start—a huge bonus to not having all of the features that LoL possesses. Before even thinking about joining a match in LoL, a new player has to scour the internet for proper rune and mastery builds, and for the varying number of item builds for the one character they are playing. Thank you HotS for not wasting my time.

Focused Gameplay

The overall design and pacing of Heroes of the Storm keeps players in the action. Unlike League of Legends, the action can begin at the very start of a match. Abilities don’t require unlocking and upgrading one level at a time, because HotS characters start with their three core abilities at level 1. Since there is no grinding for gold and gear, there is absolutely no reason to return to the base unless a player’s character is out of mana, the sippy cup is on cooldown, or a player’s character has died. This keeps the gameplay focused on getting experience for the team, pushing the lane, and completing objectives. Matches in LoL can easily run for 30 to 45 minutes, but in HotS, matches usually stay within the 15 to 20 minute range. The gameplay is fast, and much more engaging than the half hour waiting game at the start of LoL matches.

I must say that I don’t absolutely hate League of Legends, but there are simply too many systems in place that make it real difficult for me to want to play the game. Other games like World of Warcraft and Diablo III have cemented my disdain for gear grinding, gear treadmills, gear disparity, and any power creep mechanic in games that are Player-versus-Player focused. Granted, WoW and D3 are far from being PvP-focused games, and never shall they be. There are enough similar elements in LoL and other games that make me loathe playing, or dread the idea of playing, games from the MOBA genre. I don’t get the same feelings from playing Heroes of the Storm, which is incredibly odd because it is a Blizzard game.

Blizzard has made bags of money by producing games with awful design philosophies and itemization. Losing a match in HotS doesn’t feel quite as debilitating due to the matches not lasting for days. There are mechanics that aid players in pushing lanes faster, and no features that can cause matches to drag on. There’s just something satisfying about playing a game that is easy to jump into, doesn’t waste time with too much setup, and still leaves room for some much needed improvement in play.

Do you agree with my thoughts? Do you disagree? Do you prefer one over the other? Do you enjoy both? Is there another MOBA that has caught your attention? Do you wish MOBAs would just die? Join the discussion below.

War Fist out.

I'm a gamer, writer and aspiring game designer with a penchant for creating something from nothing. City of Heroes is the game where I acquired my taste for MMOs, and is the birthplace of my gaming persona. I played World of Warcraft for nearly six years, but now I only mention it when I need an example of poor game design. Presently, I am playing Guild Wars 2 and Heroes of the Storm, awaiting the free-to-play release of WildStar, and keeping a close eye on Crowfall.