Heart of the Storm. Heroes of the Swarm. Storm. Heroes of the Storm!
HotS is Blizzard‘s contribution to the constantly swelling MOBA genre. On January 21st, Blizz announced their HotS Founders Pack. Anyone who pays EUR 34.99 gains admission to the ongoing beta, along with three characters to keep forever – Diablo, Raynor and Tyrande. Guess who bought it and checked it out? We did!
While the game is not designed to appeal only to Blizzard fans in some sort of Super Smash Bros. Brawl fashion, they’ll definitely be the ones getting the most out of it. The characters are iconic heroes taken straight from World of Warcraft, Starcraft and the Diablo series, and come complete with lots of intertextual humour and signature abilities. If you get the references, they’ll undoubtedly bring a smug smirk to your face while browsing the hero shop.
Gameplay-wise, familiarity with the cast of HotS may give players a slight advantage in their first fights, simply because they’ll be able to figure out on the fly what to expect from Nova and that they need to quickly get in her face, or that they should keep their distance from Stitches. But a lack of familiarity is not a game-breaker either, so there’s nothing to stop anyone jumping in and having a blast.
The titular heroes are divided into four categories: Warriors, Assassins, Support and Specialists. Comparisons are largely unavoidable at this point in MOBA history (though Blizzard prefer to call their game a ‘hero brawler’), but it has to be said that these categories seem clearer to new players than the way League of Legends champions break down. The cast is also highly varied, even at this early point in the release schedule, so anyone can find their preferred character archetype without much problem.
I personally love the idea of the Specialist category, which is home to heroes with skills that offer unique gameplay possibilities and bring a varied utility to the group. Specialists, for example, spawn minions, which can be set up as artillery and even empower other heroes with new traits. This makes group play very interesting with lots of fun teamwork solutions.