First Play: Heroes of the Storm preview

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tested on technical alpha build
Blizzard’s battle royale is both a fan service and challenge for MOBA players

The irony isn’t lost on us. Blizzard inadvertently created the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre when StarCraft was modified into current forms taken by Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) and League of Legends (LoL).

And it has taken the makers of Warcraft years to finally launch its own MOBA game, when others have already established their presence in the realm of competitive gaming with global tournaments like Valve’s The International.

So is it a question of too little, too late, or has Blizzard seized the opportune moment to revitalise the MOBA arena? We are leaning towards the latter.

Familiar faces

MOBA clone or not, Blizzard’s greatest contribution to its fans is the character base. Heroes (and villains), new and old, are gathered from Blizzard’s gaming universe. Jim Raynor could be charging the frontline in your first game, but if you’d rather be the Lord of Terror Diablo and rain hell upon your enemies, go ahead.

First Play: Heroes of the Storm

Except, you might be a burden to your team if you aren’t well-versed with your character. There’s no shame in using an easier character, which is denoted during the character selection screen. The aim is to assist and live another day to play your next co-op or versus game.

Winning isn't a matter of the strong pummeling the weak, it’s also about knowing when to charge into the line of fire, or hold back and keep your team alive with healing abilities. That, unfortunately, will take days, perhaps even weeks of practice. Meanwhile, prepare to inadvertently send your team to their doom when you are so fixated on an enemy and ignore the bigger picture of healing and covering teammates.

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The winning formula

A quick tutorial, and a few massive losses later, we realised what Blizzard meant when it said HoTS isn’t a clone of the other MOBA games.

Ignore all you know about jungling, because there are practically no resources to gather and allocate in the name of improving your team’s fighting chances. That means you’ll be focusing all your attention on your hero and pitting them against your enemies.

While there’s constant cannon fodder being sent towards enemy forts, spend some time at mercenary camps. Defeat them, and you’ll have additional manpower wreaking havoc on enemy forts.

Ultimately, the only goal is to gain access to the main core and obliterate it for the win. Seems quite straightforward, but when you have side quests and objectives that could make or break your team’s winning streak, it’s anybody’s game.

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More after the break...

Paramount objectives

Ye landlubbers shouldn’t ignore them doubloons desired by Blackheart. And you should eliminate as many undead minions as possible to strengthen your grave golem. Strategy is paramount when you need to simultaneously capture the sun and moon shrines before you lay claim to the dragon knight that breathes fire.

While the objectives sound deadly simple, it’s simply deadly to your team if you ignore them. Curses that reduce your minions HP and deactivate your fortress cannons will give your opponents the advantage to turn the tide. We’ve had a taste of that, confident that the core is within our grasp. Only, we failed to notice that a dragon knight broke through the gates, slaughtered our minions and pulverised the core in record time.

Moral of the story? Never join a random party which usually falls apart without the right rapport and strategy. Firstly, talking to strangers isn’t very exciting. Not to mention, leaving the fate of your team’s victory to a group of unknown and untested rookies is bordering on suicidal. It goes both ways, you might end up doing a Leeroy Jenkins and cause a massive wipe out.

In short, don’t stick with a pick-up group. Friends don’t let friends charge into a fort and die a horrible death.

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Quest for Gold and XP

Ah, grinding for gold and experience points. Trust us, you’ll want to do this. In some ways, this is the jungling aspect, constantly hunting for gold to unlock more heroes. Gathering experience points lets you expand the pool of skills, or talents as it’s called in-game, to tweak your heroes skillset.

While a hero like Arthas could be a full-fledged damage dealer with attack talents, you get the flexibility of adding more health and reduced damage. Why? To either counter your opponents’ aggressive builds, or fill the gap within the team and be the legendary tank you were meant to be.

Oh, and one more thing. Heroes of the Storm is a free-to-play game. Yes, not a single cent is required to play the game. What, you’re asking if it has in-game purchasing options? Why yes, nothing escapes your keen eye. Cash is used to pay for the usual - unlocking more heroes, gaining access to skins and mounts. Not that you need real money to get those - if you have an unlimited amount of time to grind for gold, that works too.

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Heroes of the Storm initial verdict

You’ll die. A lot of times. It gets tiring. But every death brings a new lesson, and every time your character levels up, you’ll be surprised by new skills that dynamically change the way you treat your heroes.

The fun isn’t in facing AI opponents in a solo game or working with fellow human players against them nasty bots in co-op mode. Versus mode is the real challenge, one that tasks you to be an asset to your team or show the ropes to newbies.

Considering the amount of time you can sink into this MOBA game, Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm can easily hook you in and never let you go. Plus, it costs you nothing to download and play. Well, almost, if you don’t spend a single cent to add ink to your character and patiently level till you have enough shinies to unlock more heroes.

READ MORE: Blizzard senior designer David Kim reveals noob-owning tips for Heroes of the Storm

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First Play: Heroes of the Storm

First Play: Heroes of the Storm
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