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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Heroes of the Storm (Technical Alpha) First Impression


I received my Technical Alpha invite to test out Heroes of the Storm last night. I've been curious about this one for some time, since I heard the announcement that it was being made. While I was interested, I wasn't exactly "excited". Blizzard has shown signs of phoning it in, and living off of a reputation that is long gone for some time now (at least in my opinion). With that said, I wasn't about to get super excited for it like I was for Diablo III, only to be terribly disappointed. After playing most of the night last night, and half of the day today I am ready to give my honest first impression of Blizzard's new free to play MOBA.

Remember that the game is currently in the technical alpha phase. HotS is nowhere near finished or polished. I am giving my first impression of the game with that in mind. When the game is released, and even beta I'm sure the game will be A LOT more polished, and complete with many many changes.

Ragetrip Gaming first impression

The first impression matters, and honestly what has become a blizzard trademark the first thing we see when loading HotS for the first time is a pretty epic cut scene. Blizzard has grown to make amazing opening cut scenes as we saw in Diablo III (Sure the game sucked, but the opening scene was awesome!). This one will not disappoint either.

The Beginning
Once inside the game, you go through a tutorial mode as Jim Raynor and meet up with Uther (from wow) who tells you why your in this strange place. From there, Uther leads you to a town that is being attacked by none other than Diablo. The tutorial walks you through a battle with Diablo there, followed by another full game simulation to teach you how to use your skills and what not. Overall the tutorial was fun, and the dialog between Raynor and Diablo is pretty epic.

After you've worked your way past the tutorial, you must play a game with all AI team and opponents to get a better handle of an actual game. Once you hit lvl 2, you can do Co-Op vs AI. Do one or two games there, and you'll unlock actual 5v5 PVP.

Team based objectives over lane phases & item boosting
Unlike traditional MOBA games HotS is not about pushing lanes, killing your opponents, and gearing up from the item store. In fact, there is no item store in HotS. Instead, with levels, you get to choose new abilities which make your character stronger. With the lack of gold gain, there is no real urgent need to stay in a lane. Instead, Blizzard offers objectives. Teams need to work together to clear jungle camps, but unlike League of Legends, when you kill a camp you must stand there a few seconds and those minions who are dubbed "Mercenaries" will go to the closest lane and push it for you. There are easy, through hard mercenaries that appear 5 minutes into a game. I find this to be a bit funny, that to get mercenaries to fight for you, you have to beat them down, but it is a unique way to go about it.

The Maps & Map Objectives
There are a few different maps one with a pirate like theme, one with mines, and another that is the dragon level, and I'm sure more to come. Each map hosts different objectives. Each map is unique with it's own traits. You will still have your mercenaries there, but the team objectives will change.

The pirate map, your team must work together to secure doubloons to pay the pirate, who will then use his ship to blast away at the enemies defenses. Whichever team gets the most doubloons each time the chests spawn and pay the pirate first gets to use that special assault. The interesting thing is, when you die, you drop those doubloons so expect team fights to ensue during this phase which happens every few minutes during a game.

In the mine level a mine will open up at both the top and bottom lanes. Your objective is to go into these mines and collect the skulls of the minions inside that you kill. Once collected. Remember, your team isn't the only one in the mines and like the pirate level, if you die you drop your skulls so expect violence in these mines. There is a boss down there as well that drops a ton of skulls. Once that's downed both teams will spawn a golem on the regular map, who's strength is determined by how many skulls your team collected.

The dragon level is a bit different. Instead of collecting items for your objective every few minutes you get the options to take control of two key points on the map, one on bottom and one up top. When the same team controls both, someone needs to click on the dragon statue in the middle. Doing so will turn that character into this dragon, who can rush lanes, enemies, etc. Doing massive damage to them until it dies or wears off.

Some people hate that there is no item shop, or gold and with that no real reason to stay in lane. I actually enjoy the fact that there are more team oriented objectives and commend the developers for not taking the easy route and making another DOTA clone. I understand the people who don't like it as well, but honestly if your looking for a more traditional MOBA, perhaps you should stick with DOTA 2 or League of Legends.

The Queue system
The Queue system in this game is totally different than MOBA's we are used to. Instead of the champion select mode where people choose, fight, and bicker over who they will be playing blizzard has taken an approach to this that I actually like a lot. You pick who you want to play, and then queue up and it matches you with a team. Sort of like Dungeon queuing in wow. Sometimes you may be stuck with 2 support or what not at this stage in alpha, but it seems to be pretty good at balancing the classes. I do think this needs to be tweaked even more like wow, where it selects 1 Tank, 1 Support, 2 Assassin's, and one specialist (only for solo-queue) to make it a lot more balanced.

You can however invite your buddies into a group to queue together and pick your own roles. I think this should be left alone since some teams may "want" to play with some strange comp and do well with it. But for SOLO Queues, I'd like to see it be a setup like I posted above so that you don't randomly get 2-3 supports in random queues. Other than a little fine tuning though, I do quite enjoy being able to play whoever I want to play, and it not be a race for who types "BOT" or "TOP" first. It also eliminates a lot of fights, and arguments that take place in other games. Some people claim that it destroys the strategies before a match and coordinating your picks.....but lets be brutally honest for a second....that rarely happens in Solo-Queues to begin with in normal play, and since it's alpha and the ranked system isn't in effect yet we have no idea what sort of changes will be made in solo-queue ranked play.

The one thing that does irk me though, and this is really an issue of it being alpha with only a select few people getting invites thus far, but the skill level of players, and lack of overall teamwork and caring. There is NOT an option to report bad players. You can report for harassment, cheating, etc. But at this time (It is alpha after all) no reporting of bad players, or afkers. I'm sure the reporting of AFKers will change, but since blizzard caters to the casual player, I'm not holding my breath for being able to report unskilled players. It's not the lack of skill that really bothers me though, it's the lack of teamwork. I can understand that the game is new, and different and there is going to be players new to MOBAs in the alpha. However, the fact that everyone just runs on there own and seemingly ignores objectives in some games is awful. I guess you get the same in league and DOTA 2 in low level games as well. Also a lot of people are so used to league and DOTA that they are just programed to lane for 5-10 minutes straight but its still frustrating as hell, and with the lack of players since its alpha it's even worse. My advice is if you get into the alpha work on finding a team who will get in your voice chat server, and work together as soon as possible. There are TONS of people on the forums looking for teams to play with so they don't have to random queue so it shouldn't be too difficult. I forced myself to random queue all night last night just so I could write about my first impression of it as well.

Graphics, Voice Overs, and Soundtrack
The graphics are pretty awesome. The maps are unique and visually pleasing for sure, the cut scene at the beginning is great, but that's a given with blizzard games. There is small issues with heroes and such that I'm sure will be fixed by release. Overall though, the game is amazing in it's looks and I have really nothing bad to say about the graphics and level design of the game. The voice acting is what you'd expect from Blizzard if you've played any of the other blizzard games. Humorous at times, light hearted and fun. The music is actually really awesome. You get throwbacks to old school Warcraft games, and other blizzard titles in it. If your a fan of the old games, this entire game is almost a love fest from blizzard to it's fan base.

The Item Store
There is so much complaining right now about the prices in the item shop. I've looked into it, and the prices are around the same as in other games such as League of Legends and as of now, you can even purchase characters and even SKINS with in game gold and patience. I can't really speak on my thoughts on pricing. This is alpha, and who knows what will change before launch. You CAN buy stuff right now, I bought a nice bundle pack of heroes, which once the wipe happens you will be reimbursed your purchase price in in-game currency to re-buy what you like. But if your super concerned about high pricing just don't buy anything. Do what a lot of other people do. Wait, be patient, and earn your heroes and skins via gold.

Another interesting addition to a Moba is daily quests. You get these quests daily, which could be "Play a support role in 2 games", or "Play a character from Diablo". These games must be completed in PVP games and award a large experience gain as well as gold gain. This is one of the ways you'll earn your gold which is the in game currency to buy Heroes and Skins. I like the addition, since these quests get you gold, which means free heroes and skins. There is also another quest option, but I am not high enough level yet to use it so I cannot comment.

Mounts are another addition that aren't typically in MOBA games. By hitting Z you can mount up and ride your horse around the map, and get back to things quicker after a death. I'm not 100% sure how I feel about mounts as it associates to game play just yet....however, there is no denying that this is awesome....

While I will not sit here and tell you that this game totally dwarfs league of legends and DOTA 2 and that blizzard is on it's way to being the undisputed king of MOBA's.....I can tell you that the game is fun, adds a lot of new features to a genre that has become stale with all of the DOTA clones out there, and has a ton of potential to be a really fun experience for it's players. Do I see it being a serious "E-Sport" like League of Legends and Dota 2?.....No, I don't. Do I think that's a bad thing? Not at all. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy League of Legends and play it often. While I'm nowhere near pro, I do love playing it. However with Heroes of the Storm it doesn't feel as "serious". It's fun, exciting, and games generally take 20-30 minutes to complete which are usually much shorter than League. I'm saying there is room in the market for an innovative MOBA with new ideas and mechanics that maybe isn't as "hardcore" as the others.....and to all the "Elite" and "Pro" League and DOTA 2 players......Give it a shot without comparing it to the others. Like I said, I love league myself....and this game WILL NOT replace league for me, not by a long shot. But if you give it a shot, you might find a fun, not-so serious game that you can play when you don't really have time for league, or your burnt out from all that Elo grinding. In conclusion the game needs a lot of work, and even then I doubt it will be a super serious, hardcore game. Blizzard hasn't been about the "Hardcore" fan base since Wrath of the Lich King (and some could argue even earlier than that). However that doesn't automatically make it a bad thing. If you go into this game looking for a new LoL or DOTA 2 your going to be disappointed. If you are going in with the mindset of having fun, while playing as your favorite characters from Blizzard's library then I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what you find and have a great time.....that is, unless they totally screw it up before release.


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