With two weeks until Blizzards eSports arena reveal, Heroes may still be experiencing an identity crisis.
Anyone who has discussed Heroes of the Storm eSports recently has likely heard that the game is too simplistic and only enjoyable casually. However, there is unprecedented depth to the hero brawler steeped in rich Blizzard lore.
Heroes of the Storm finds complexity in new places unlike any other MOBAs on the market. Opting for a different route, the game removes gold, individual experience, strict laning, and all-chat. In an interview with Polygon, Dustin Browder, the previous game director of Heroes of the Storm stated:
“If you come looking for complexity in exactly the same places, you will be disappointed.
If you come looking for complexity wherever it may be, I think you’re going to be surprised and have a great time.” – Dustin Browder
Character customization is changed through talents, which are earned at team levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 20. Reflecting on LoL, when was the last time you didn’t max Q first on almost every champion? Or, when was the last time you didn’t (purposefully) take a skill into your ultimate? In Heroes, talent choices can grant new abilities and play styles, which results in hundreds of combinations based on the map and team composition of choice.
Characters in Heroes of the Storm push the boundaries of concept and design to their maximum. Blizzard has released characters which almost never leave their core, characters that have 1/10th the hp of others, and those who cannot only create towers (Azir), but literally become them. The result? On a competitive level, unseen compositions can be wildly successful – consistently surprising onlookers and breaking the meta.
Complexity Score: On par with top MOBAs
Still, low viewership and player counts are the results of something bigger. We can speculate on two main reasons why:
To casual players, the game appears to offer little depth. There are fewer decisions to make, which makes every single one more important and game-changing. For the occasional player, these nuances may go unnoticed. To harken back to Browder:
“I think a lot of players aren’t using the talent system relative to the map, relative to their team, relative to the enemy heroes.
So when I make a talent collection in Heroes, I look very carefully at what the enemy team is playing as, I look very carefully at what my team is playing as.” – Dustin Browder
Heroes of the Storm utilizes shared experience progression over individual exp gain. The ability to make clutch 1v5 plays in Heroes is not possible, which often results in feelings of inadequacy when losing. If your current team is not cooperating well, even a Faker-level player may not be able to save the game from defeat.
This is resulting in a divide between the game’s casual and eSports communities. When watching LCS or TI professionally, it is very easy to recognize an amazing play (insert Faker or xPeke backdoor). Similarly, item choices and rotations are comprehendable, and the games reward both individual and team-play.
Heroes of the Storm skill choices are more nuanced and intricate. Because of the team-focused gameplay, flashy solo kills are few and far between, while complex, team-oriented gameplay shines. For the casual viewer, it becomes difficult to understand and replicate a pro player’s style in their own games. With 100+ hours in Heroes, one can still have difficulty analyzing team fights like this one:
Heroes of the Storm is highly complex, just in different ways. If it isn’t your cup of tea, however, there is sure to be a MOBA that is. On October 7th, the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles will aim to further professionalize competitive gaming. While Blizzard has discussed their detailed plans for Overwatch and Hearthstone, we can only wonder what they have in store for Heroes of the Storm eSports.