By Anni Simpson on April 29, 2014 at 11:30am
On Friday, I opened the Battle.net launcher to a shocking surprise: a new icon on the bottom of the games menu. It took a moment before I realized what that meant: alpha access to “Heroes of the Storm.” I was not prepared.
A game offering itself up to players in early stages of release – beta and alpha alike – deserves leeway when it comes to criticism from its users. Receiving feedback about bugs and mechanics is exactly what testing is for. You have agreed to a large-scale QA environment in which you provide a service back to the developer (theoretically) in order to play the game earlier and participate in its community. That’s the attitude that guided my view of “Heroes of the Storm” when I launched it for the first time.
“Heroes” introduces you to the concept of the game and genre with an initial cutscene featuring “Starcraft’s” Raynor and “Warcraft’s” Uther. Uther has summoned Raynor to the Nexus, a place where worlds “collide across time and space and even dimension” to battle each other … for “glory.” Not much of a back story, but do you really need one for this genre? Not really.
Playing Raynor, you’re dropped in Raven Court alongside Uther with the ultimate goal of killing Diablo’s defenses. As you move forward, Uther explains the mechanics behind using an ability and weapon attacks, healing orbs and fountains, destroying enemies and their resources, and utilizing your camera and minimap.
With so much going on in the first 30 seconds of playing the game, you absolutely need this tutorial if you’re unfamiliar with “Heroes” or how to play battle arenas in general. “Heroes” introduces mechanics like map-specific goals (e.g., collecting dubloons in Blackheart’s Bay), which aid you in actual combat. While you can probably ignore those goals if you want to play by just zerging your enemy’s camps, it adds a level of depth and complexity to the title that I appreciated.
At the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. Every time your character levels, you choose a talent for them from a menu at the bottom-left of your screen while still in combat. This particular element was overwhelming, but it forced me to evaluate my character choice quickly, which forced me to think on the fly in a situation where every second counts. If you don’t want to make quick decisions, this game probably isn’t for you anyway.
Towards the end as I started leveling up (which is separate from your character in a game), it became easier to understand what was going on and how to execute my choices. Blizzard aids you in this regard by having your new talent key bindings next to each other (i.e., Q, W, E, left click, right click). You also get concise explanations for what each talent does and which key binding/talent it impacts. By the end of my weekend playing the game, I understood three different characters on a very basic level (i.e., Raynor, Tyrande, and Diablo), and I'd decided I enjoyed "tanking" and slamming my enemies into the ground.
Execution of Free-to-Play
“Heroes of the Storm” wants you to pay for the game without actually paying for the game. This isn’t news or a deviation in the free-to-play universe. However, “Heroes” has an interesting take on this by offering specific characters for free temporarily. These characters change weekly.
If you want to play a character that isn’t free that week, you have three choices: try the character out, buy it with gold earned in-game, or buy it with real money. The cost is determined by the character and presumably how useful they are in a given match. Before you buy a character, you’re given a breakdown of the character’s backstory, starting abilities, heroic abilities, combat trait, and universe from which they hail (e.g., “Starcraft”). Big names like Arthas, Diablo, and Kerrigan are all present.
You can also purchase skins, mounts, and bundles. All bundles are currently on sale with a “Starter Bundle” at 70 percent off and universe-specific bundles at 60 percent off.
The biggest problem I see with the system of buying characters is not having an option for “starter” characters that are free by default. Blizzard may want to implement a system where a few characters are available to all players in order to avoid punishing new players who won’t be able to get a handle on a given character in a week’s time.
There you have it! Player Theory will continue to look at “Heroes of the Storm” as the game expands, so stay tuned. And be on the lookout for streamed games in our Twitch channel.
Heroes of the Storm Gamespot Heroes of the Storm Wiki