Heroes of the Storm: Not the game fans are looking for...

"Blizzard's new MOBA is more reminiscent of Mario Party meets DOTA, but in all the wrong ways."

Blizzard's new MOBA-style game has been out for a week now, and since it is no longer in its beta stages it seems like there is no better time to compare it to other games in the genre. So how does it fare? For the lack of a better word: horribly.

The Storm Begins

Heroes of the Storm - like many other MOBAs - centers itself around a simple premise: five heroes set out across one to three lanes to aid their minions in destroying the enemy's core.

 Siege creeps (seen here) can wreak havoc on an enemy base if left uncontested.

What Blizzard has done to separate their game from the crowd is add a set of objectives to each of their seven maps. These maps generally divide themselves into one of two subcategories: get the big weapon that shoots at the enemy base, or take control of a super-powered creature to obliterate the enemy's defenses. 

The objectives that teams must complete to gain these advantages over your opponents vary depending on the map, but the results are generally the same. What's more is that Blizzard has planted various mercenary camps - similar to the 'jungle' from other MOBA titles - that allow you to recruit extra forces such as siege, mercenary, or boss creeps that will aid you after defeating them. These elements give players a fresh new spin on MOBAs; the only game to do something similar to this would be the third-person shooter MOBA Super Monday Night Combat.


Overall, Heroes of the Storm is a beautiful game. As seen in the image above, the game sports a great art style that manages to seamlessly blend the three universes that Blizzard has developed over the course of their company history. Heroes look polished, and the attention to detail is amazing.

Furthermore, the menu screens give off a first impression that the designers knew what they were doing, artistically speaking. Considering this is a Blizzard title we expect no less; however, the game's presentation during gameplay is not so well executed.

What is lacking in Heroes of the Storm - when compared to a competitor like Valve's DotA 2 - is a sense of energy. While maps, NPCs, and heroes are well detailed, the hero skills rarely have noticeable visual effects that make you feel like you are contributing anything to a team-fight. While some characters (like Starcraft 2's Nova) have flashy 'heroic' skills like an orbital cannon that brings down a gigantic beam of energy, heroes like Sonya (as seen below) have nothing more than a barely visible particle effect at the end of her blades. This is a severe downgrade for fans of the Diablo series who expect Wrath of the Berserker to change the character's model completely.

What is also disappointing - and visible in the same image - is the missed opportunity for inspiration from Blizzard's other games. Maps are generic and range from a pirate bay to three garden locales, as well as several Egyptian-themed maps. What could have been done - and was demonstrated in the earliest stages of Blizzard DotA's development - were maps inspired by Starcraft, as well as other games such as Diablo or Warcraft. While the garden stages do have *some* resemblance to Warcraft III's town centers, it is somewhat of a letdown for fans of Blizzard games.

Character dialogues range from lore-heavy rivalries to humourous cross-universe one-liners.

This lack of ingenuity is somewhat made up for by Blizzard's in-game dialogue and music. Much of the music in the game borrows inspiration from other titles, with heavy Terran-like guitar rifts, to trumpet and horn numbers that are reminiscent of Warcraft's RTS days.

Character dialog is believable, with many of the characters able to interact (at the game's start or after team-fights) with lines that make you feel like there are genuine rivalries between characters. While this is a nice touch, it only serves to highlight the missed opportunity to do the same with the maps.


Unfortunately, what little praises I could sing for this game in terms of presentation are completely overshadowed by the gameplay. What first comes to mind in terms of Heroes of the Storm's gameplay failures is the lack of diversity in hero builds. While all characters are given a choice between 3-4 skills every 4 levels or so, and a selection of one of two 'heroic abilities' at levels 10 and 20, many heroes are only functionally sound when using one of two builds that can be found online.

While using your own makeshift build will not completely ruin your experience, it can leave you at a major disadvantage if you select an ability that is typically 'useless' in comparison to the others. Combined with the game's poorly executed ability visuals can leave many players wondering if they contributed anything at all in a battle.

To make matters worse, the only way to tell what the opposing team - or your allies - have set as their skill build is to open the scorecard (as seen above), select "show skills" and then hover over each icon to see which skill has been learned since many skills share the same icon if it is an ability upgrade. This is not only a major inconvenience in a game where real-time multiplayer gameplay is involved, but also criminal in-game design for a MOBA where counter-strategies rely on knowing what your opponent might have planned. 

This issue also carries over to team-fights where your inability to see how much health your opponent has makes your tooltip damage descriptions feel like nothing more than arbitrary numbers.

While the map gimmicks (such as the ability to commandeer the Garden Terror) are fun, they are only enjoyable if you are on the winning team.

Another problem comes from the game's map objectives as well. In several of these maps certain team builds have a distinct advantage, an example being the infamous "Haunted Mines" map where heroes with greater area-of-effect abilities and damage-per-second can easily clear the map's objective and get a 100 skull lead, which typically results in a less than 10 minute victory. 

While this would be excusable if team compositions were discussed in a planning phase before the game started, the maps and heroes paired on each team are completely random as players select their characters before entering the queue for the game's Quick Match mode. This is also a problem for players who are just getting used to the game as even the 'Training Mode' uses a completely randomized map order, leaving some players completely unexposed to some maps if they have not played more than twenty rounds.

One final problem is the game's profile-leveling system. Reminiscent of League of Legend's profile level-up system, players have certain skills for their heroes restricted until they have leveled up their character or their profile to a certain point. Profiles must be leveled up to 25 before players have access to all hero skills, or each hero must be leveled up to 5 before they have access to that specific hero's abilities.

While it is understandable that Blizzard likely did this to allow players to get a feel for the basic gameplay of a hero before using what they call 'advanced skills' it actually hinders players.

Many efficient skill builds require these unlocked skills to function, and without them players are left at a severe disadvantage. Furthermore, players need to unlock at least 10 heroes and a profile level of 30 to play in ranked matchmaking modes, a feat that many players likely will not achieve for several months unless they invest many days into the game.

Closing Statements

If you are a hardcore fan of Blizzard Entertainment's various universes and wanted to have your favorite heroes battle it out in a DotA-style MOBA, this is not the game for you. Blizzard's new MOBA is more reminiscent of Mario Party meets DOTA, but in all the wrong ways. The game is horribly designed, completely unbalanced when compared to Blizzard's usual track record with games like Starcraft, and does not offer much beyond a shiny coat of paint.

While the game is undoubtedly still playable and can give you some form of enjoyment, only hardcore fans of MOBA and Blizzard games will be able to find any redemption for what is nothing more than a fan-service-heavy cash grab. But hey, at least it looks nice.

Our Rating
"Blizzard's new MOBA is more reminiscent of Mario Party meets DOTA, but in all the wrong ways."
Reviewed On: PC
Published Jun. 4th 2015
View Comments
  • GabrielKross
    Featured Columnist
    I feel like the majority of your downrates on this game are inaccuracies.

    Map variety: Sanctuary is already under developement Devs confirmed that ages ago. Unless it was canceled and I didn't hear about it.

    Profile/character requirements for ranked. This is a standard for ALL MOBAs outside DOTA2 (considering you don't have to unlock characters from what I've seen in DOTA2), though I think even DOTA 2 has a level requirement. Ranked play in HotS has a draft feature with bans, meaning you have to have enough heroes to not get banned/picked out of available options.

    Skill tier unlocks. Downrating for this is very weird. You can fully unlock all skills on a character in around 5-6 games. I know because I took Sylvanas to lvl 7 in one sitting. It doesn't hinder you, it allows you to get a grasp on the basic character style to know how your talents change the course of a game once you get them.

    Saying there are only 1-2 viable builds is inaccurate as well. How do you think people came up with the builds they post online? They went through and tested the different combinations. Also what works on some maps might not on others. Then there is the ever-shifting meta that players need to adapt to. Saying people shouldn't experiment because they'll feel inadaquate at the end is laughable. That just means you haven't found builds that work for you yet. Case in point I use my own builds and don't look anything up and I don't feel inadaquate at the end of a game.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    While I accept your opinion, I would have to disagree sharply about the review being "inaccurate". When it comes to map variety, I reviewed the game based on what it has now, not what they "might" have planned for the future. When a review is made we - as critics - are not supposed to rate what *might* happen, but what *has* happened. As such, the map variety statement is not "inaccurate" but may be inaccurate in the future.

    Not all MOBAs require leveling up to join ranked matchmaking either. I know out of my own experience that Super Monday Night Combat, Heroes of Newerth, and many lesser-known MOBAs have ranked matchmaking available from the start. Also, while DOTA 2 does have a level restriction it is only at level 10, an achievement that can be satisfied within a week or so of playing, not the near month of 3-games-a-day playing that is required for HotS. What makes this even more difficult is that if players want to purchase heroes outside of the lowest gold costing heroes in the game then this will impede their desire to play ranked games even longer as you may have about 5-6 of the needed 10 without one of the shop's EXP or Gold boosters.

    When it comes to skill tier unlocks, I'm looking at this from a purely multiplayer experience. To me, the inability to use all abilities from the get-go is equivalent to not being able to purchase all guns in Counter-Strike until you have completed at least 90 minutes of gameplay as a terrorist who has the bomb, and then another 90 minutes of gameplay as a counter-terrorist, and again for one who is a terrorist without the bomb. Very few multiplayer games limit players who are starting out as it does (regardless of whether you believe it or not) leave them at a disadvantage, even if only slightly. The worst example of this I can think of off the top of my head is Call of Duty since players just starting out use weapons and perks that are virtually useless compared to others. While this isn't entirely a huge issue in HotS (which is why I actually didn't take that into consideration when coming up with my final score) it does limit players. What I did take into account is that there are only so many viable *competitive* builds. A quick visit to HeroesFIRE or any other HotS build website will reveal that only 1-3 builds are functionally superior, hence why a vast majority of the 110 so builds for a single hero will have the same skill build order.

    Of course, I could write an entire article on the issues alone, but that wouldn't be a review. That would be an opinion piece. Reviews - in my opinion - should focus mostly on facts, not opinions. If I wanted to base this purely on nostalgia and my love of Blizzard games I would have easily given this game a 9 or 10 out of 10. But after researching the game, playing it through to level 27 myself (mind you I started at the beginning of the Sylvanas patch), and viewing the process of Ranked games and competitive events - the game just doesn't deserve any higher based on what it is now.

    TLDR: I reviewed the game as it is now, not how it might be several patches down the road or for players who have played since beta or alpha. While the game has a lot of potential to get better with future patches, as it stands right now a little bit of in-depth research will show that there actually is very little variety in the competitive scene in terms of ability use - with some heroes falling out completely depending on the patch.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    517 games in (not including the games I played back in early Alpha when there would only be about 1000 people online, they would show the number back then), I could not disagree more. I absolutely love this game and do not plan to stop. Anyone who reads this, please give the game a try, yes it isn't going to be for everyone and if you are into the extreme depth of mechanics that Dota2 for example provides, this game may bore you. The thing is, the game has removed everything that was annoying about MOBAs and gave a nice steroids injection into the fun parts of MOBAs. The game is literally non-stop action from start to finish without the little things like CSing and items.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    I've played HOTS since the closed beta, and I think I have somewhere around 177 games? I couldn't agree more with your comment. The game is fun, but a "fun MOBA" is not what they're trying to advertise it as. I remember Blizzard releasing in a press conference that Heroes of the Storm was supposed to be an accessible MOBA (not to be confused with casual MOBAs). However, once they started competitions like Heroes of the Dorm it started to bug me because now you are venturing into the competitive mode. Once you do that you have to be criticized by that standard - at least in my opinion.

    All that being said, the game can be fun, which is why I mentioned that at the end. It's playable, and can be enjoyable at times, and during those times I love the game. The problem is that from a critical standpoint it's got a lot of issues in terms of balanced competitive gaming. If I wanted to judge it on its own terms as a standalone game not associated with competitive games or other MOBAs I think I would have gave it something more in the 7-8 star range.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    Fair points, I get what you mean about its competitive nature. In my personal opinion, a ton of the imbalance issues comes from the still very small hero pool. I think by the time there are more like 75-100 heroes, some of the heroes and particular builds that aren't exactly viable now, will become viable. Plus they probably have a lot of hero reworks planned, at least I would assume.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    Oh, I hope so. This is the closest to a WCIV we're going to get (at least in the foreseeable future) so I don't want the game to be a bust. But that's sort of the hole in doing reviews for these sorts of games. They're constantly updating, so what is true in a review done now may not be remotely true in the future. Same reason I plan to do more of my "rewind reviews". Some games age gracefully and transcend time, others get better, while some just stop being good. I know a game that I could do a rewind review on that would get a lot of hate is something like the original NES Zelda that - although arguably is great for some reasons.- can also be seen as a major failing by today's standards.

    On a side note: am I the only person who noticed that they used D3's Diablo in the cinematic trailer, but D2's Diablo for the actual game?
  • Ashley SSS
    Associate Editor
    Unfortunately, as a Dota player, HotS bores me to tears.

    You can argue that it's "non-stop action from start to finish" but most of that action is so lacking in strategy and so same-y over the course of a single match, that I can't even fathom how someone can spend hundreds of hours in HotS. It's definitely not for me.

    I can't see the game getting anywhere in a competitive sense just because it lacks even the skill required and depth of League of Legends -- and that's really saying something if you look at the skill required for LoL in comparison to Dota. HotS really is the bottom of the barrel in regards to required skill.

    I can see why some people will enjoy HotS in the long run, but (just like with Hearthstone), people need to stop trying to make every new PvP game an eSport. It's a fun game for what it is and it definitely has the fun and ease of access factors to hold the casual crowd and hardcore Blizzard fans (which you are :P), but I don't see it branching out from those two sects.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    It's not a game for everyone, that much I can say for certain. However, the appeal (for me) comes from the shortness of the games. I like to play HOTS around the time I go to bed, or if I have something I need to go to in the next 15 minutes or so. It's a great laid back MOBA, but it needs to decide - quickly - if it wants to be a competitive game (as suggested by the Heroes of the Dorm and other competitions being held) or an accessible casual MOBA. Right now it's sitting in the middle, hence why I gave it such a low score. It simply doesn't know what it wants to be yet.

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