Heroes of the Storm breaks conventional MOBA design with its wacky characters and varying map designs. Which is exactly what it should continue doing.
Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm is known for its unique variations on the MOBA genre. The game includes several features making the often complicated gameplay mechanics of MOBAs more accessible to new players. Perhaps more noticeable are its varying, objective-based map designs and numerous wacky characters. Ever want to control one character together with your buddy while you fight against DiabloImmortals? Heroes of the Storm is your game.
The game features a whopping thirteen maps, each with their own lane layouts and objectives. While other MOBAs like League of Legends and Dota 2 both focus on a single standard map, Heroes gives players huge variety between each match. This is actually a hot topic amongst the Heroes of the Storm community, especially when it comes to competitive play. Each map has its own strategy and ideal team composition, making for a high knowledge gap for competitive players. It’s gotten to the point where Blizzard has introduced a map rotation.
While a large number of available maps introduces competitive complications, it also gives more casual players a much more diverse experience other MOBAs don’t currently offer. With everything from summoning hordes of Zerg in Braxis Holdout to controlling giant dragons in Dragon Shire, Heroes of the Storm takes the standard lane pushing gameplay mechanics of MOBAs and turns them upside down. The hybrid PvE and PvP gameplay mix is not only unconventional, but borderline wacky.
Take the most recently added map, Hanamura. Borrowing from Overwatch, players must escort payloads to target locations, which deliver shots to the opponent’s core once delivered. While taking down enemy forts empowers future core shots, teams cannot actually attack the enemy core directly. Add the relatively small, two lane map on top of that, and things can turn into a hectic brawl that gives true meaning to the phrase “battle arena” in the MOBA acronym.
Sure, Hanamura might not be the most balanced of maps, but it’s map designs like these that give rise to copious 5v5 team fights. Combat is fast and frequent, making your ability to land those skill shots all the more important. While this might not seem like a big deal to players unfamiliar with MOBAs, this is a fairly large divergence from the norm. The craziness of 5v5 brawls breaking out at set locations every few minutes can be much more appealing to players new to the genre, or just players looking for something a little different.
Heroes of the Storm‘s unique and unusual characters, though, is what really sets the game apart. The examples are plentiful. The new hero Stukov can extend his arm like Mr. Fantastic and shove an enemy hero across the entire length of the map. Ragnaros can take over a fort, raining fire down from above or summon a wave of fire engulfing the entire lane. The two-headed ogre Cho’Gall is controlled by two separate players, one moving the body while the other acts as a ranged assassin. Abathur hides behind forts, spawning creeps to deal structural damage while attaching symbiotes to allies from anywhere on the map. The Lost Vikings are three separate characters all controlled by a single player, soaking experience across lanes. Not to mention, they can summon an unstoppable Longboat (and give you sore wrists).
And these are just a few examples from a long list of wackiness. Yes, they can be difficult to play effectively and might not be an ideal hero selection in a lot of team compositions. But guess what? They are a whole lot of fun to play. I can’t help but crack a smile at The Lost Viking’s silly jingle playing when they use their Longboat ultimate ability, or anytime Stukov’s huge arm comes thrusting out of nowhere. These characters give Heroes of the Storm a unique flair other than your typical skill-shot based ranged assassin or your sword and shield tank. Hell, they take that uniqueness to a whole other level.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying other MOBAs don’t have quirky characters. Take Dota‘s recently added Meepo, for example; he can summon up to three copies of himself, all controlled separately by a single player. Invoker can play nearly any role in Dota 2 with his arsenal of fourteen potential abilities to select from as he levels. League of Legend‘s Cho’Gath grows infinitely in size as he devours enemies.
But the difference is that compared to Heroes of the Storm‘s roster, these quirky characters are few and far between in other MOBAs, and arguably not nearly as eccentric. Of course, Heroes of the Storm has its fair share of more conventional heroes as well, like Raynor or Johanna. And obviously, Blizzard has vastly different design goals and play styles in mind compared to competing MOBAs, allowing them to get a little more creative with their hero design.
I want Blizzard to continue to embrace this uniqueness and keep pushing out these wacky character and map designs. I want Heroes of the Storm to be Saints Row whileLeague of Legends is more like Grand Theft Auto. Or be like Mario Kart is to Forza, Mario + Rabbids is to XCOM, and South Park: The Stick of Truth is to Final Fantasy (but without the rude sexual jokes, of course).
With the recent announcement of Garrosh Hellscream entering the Nexus, I hope that we continue to get more unusual hero abilities. And according to a Blizzard developer on the game’s forum, they “added some really cool new system interactions for him based on his design.” When it comes to heroes, it seems Blizzard is of the mindset that anything is up for grabs in Heroes of the Storm. And it should continue to be that way.
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