Heroes of the Storm: Day 1

Yes, I know that this is a StarCraft blog. I do feel a little dirty about writing about another game, but this is my best venue to write about Heroes of the Storm, and having just gotten access this morning, I figured I would document my journey.

(Note: I’ll be abbreviating Heroes of the Storm to “Heroes”, not “hots” because of the conflict with Heart of the Swarm. I think it’s less common, but contextually, it’s more confusing)

Before the Beta

Like many things, it started well before yesterday. I have of course played StarCraft 2 from beta and some Brood War before that, though not seriously. Over the past year or so, I have gotten into Dota 2 by playing with my coworkers, which culminated in us joining AHGL for this season. With a trip to watch TI4 and roughly 200 hours of playing, I think I’m decently knowledgeable about the game.

For a year and a half, I have been playing StarCraft 2 weekly on Tuesday nights until we recently switched to other games, such as TF2 and Terraria, for alternating weeks. We had talked a lot about trying out a MOBA, but being a try-hard Dota player myself with many League friends, there wasn’t much common ground. As of 2 days ago, my office team forfeited AHGL, so now that I no longer feel obligated to practice Dota, I figured I would give Heroes a try.

Getting into the beta

It was surprisingly easy to get beta access. The two most obvious pathways were:

  1. Adding Heroes to beta preferences for random picking https://us.battle.net/account/management/beta-profile.html
  2. Paying for the Founders Pack https://us.battle.net/shop/en/product/heroes-of-the-storm-founders-pack

Still being a big StarCraft fan, I actually toggled the first one off because I wanted to maximize my chances of getting into the Legacy of the Void (LotV) beta. That’s probably not how it works, but I didn’t want to risk it.

As for the Founders Pack, I was open to paying for it because Blizzard really does deserve my money at this point, but I figured I would take a gander on getting a free beta key first. Fortunately, that took less than a day. There were 2 ways I pursued that:

  1. Lurking on /r/heroesofthestorm for posts about giveaways, especially on new posts
  2. Watching Heroes streams on Twitch for random giveaways between games

I stumbled across an NVIDIA giveaway this morning, which netted me an EU beta key. I then posted on a few threads and eventually made a trade with someone looking for an EU beta key in exchange for a NA beta key. And with that, I was in!

My first games of Heroes

I played through the tutorials, which were pretty straightforward and easy to get into. The most surprising part about it was all of the stuff that wasn’t discussed: items, gold, last hitting, laning, etc. For someone without a MOBA background, it probably was nothing remarkable, but I was left wondering whether they were just skipping things for simplicity or whether it really wasn’t present. It turns out that it was the latter.

After that, I ended up playing 3 Quick Match games with a friend. In all 3, I played as Li Li, which was comfortable because I generally play supports in Dota as well. We were soundly defeated in the first 2 games, then crushed our opponent in the last game with a kill count of 19-1. I don’t really think my play changed much between the games: I was using all of my abilities on cooldown, and my reaction time to get to fights was about the same. I would say that the difference was just luck, but I also have no understanding of what matters in the game, so I won’t claim there wasn’t some other very relevant factor in there as well.

Reflecting on the game

Heroes was fun and easy to get into. The controls were extremely familiar, and I had no problem figuring out how to cast abilities and even trying to stutter-step and work on little micro tricks. That I have nothing to complain about and experience low switching cost is a great testament to what Blizzard has developed.

I think the best part about the game is that the games are really fast. Whereas Dota games are typically at least 45 minutes, these games were no longer than 15-20 minutes, which makes it way easier to get in and out between matches. I was shocked when I looked at the clock in one game and saw that we were already 6 minutes in: in Dota, we would have just barely started, but I already felt like a lot had happened!

It’s definitely a far more casual game than Dota, which I think is great news for my Tuesday night gaming: I want it to be really accessible for my friends to have a fun time without stressing too much.

I will probably regret this paragraph, but I felt like there just wasn’t that much to the game. I don’t see a really high skill ceiling in mechanics: I think I’m mostly there in being able to use all of my abilities off cooldown already and moving around during team fights. My map awareness and understanding of objectives needs to develop, but I think I can learn those relatively quickly. Knowing the hero pool will take longer, but that’s just one aspect. And the art of engagements seemed lacking, compared to Dota with a lot more preparation and thought and rougher consequences for choices. Teamfights just felt very casual in Heroes.

It sounds bad, but I’ll probably appreciate this: I don’t need another competitive game to get sucked into, and I really do appreciate how accessible it is for my friends to jump into together. I definitely look forward to playing more and will update this blog with my observations as I learn more.

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