Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Heroes of the Swarm

I loaded up the Battle.Net launcher today to see if there was any news in there about the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion. There was a 5th game listed in the launcher, one that I certainly hadn't purchased: Heroes of the Swarm. It vaguely rang a bell and I figured that if it was a free to play game in a genre I love by Blizzard I owed it to the game to check it out.

My wrist has been feeling a little better and I figured I should give it some work to keep it from losing too much strength. It didn't hurt while playing which was good, but I also took breaks to cool it off. The numbness thing is still around, but whatever.

Anyway, Heroes of the Swarm is still in alpha so it's not a finished product but what they have seems pretty good. It has a good tutorial, mediocre AI bots to play against, and it uses heroes from different Blizzard franchises (Diablo, StarCraft, Warcraft...) so there's all kinds of cool nostalgia moments. Plenty of different map twists too to shake up the basic game.

The basic game is a very, very 'dumbed down' version of a DotA or a League of Legends. It's like Blizzard is trying to make a moba game for the masses who find LoL too complicated. If there's actually a market for such a thing this game could really take off. Here are some of the things they changes to make things simpler...

- You earn experience for killing minions and champions same as always, but your team shares an experience bar. Everyone gains a level at the exact same time. There's no jockeying for who gets to have a solo lane to get extra experience. There's no falling behind and becoming useless compared to your teammates. If one lane does badly and another lane does well then your whole team will remain balanced. On the flip side if one lane does badly and everyone else goes even then your whole team falls behind.

- There is no gold. There are no items to buy. There is no concept of last hitting a minion as a result. There's no yelling at people for buying terrible items. There's no needing to know a huge list of items to have a chance at playing decently.

- You start with (almost) all of your skills at level 1, and you don't get to put more points into them to make them better in your own choice of skill order.

- There is some customization. Every so many levels you earn a talent point which you spend by making a choice from a small list of options. I was playing as Jim Raynor (a ranged assassin) and at level 4 I have to choose between having a longer attack range, or getting life leech on my attacks, or doing extra damage on my attacks, or getting extra cooldown reduction when something I recently attacked dies. So I certainly have a choice to make! I've mostly been going with extra attack range because I like to kite in fights but I could see the argument for other choices. But maybe if you had a team full of people healing you and stunning the enemies you'd just want to take the point that makes you do more damage. If you're just fast pushing a lane then the cooldown reduction for killing minions could be game winning. And extra healing on attacks is always good...

- There are jungle camps to kill, but the reason to kill them is you get to spawn versions of them to attack the enemy base. Running off to summon up some powerful siege monsters felt really good when it worked.

- You get a mount. So basically everyone always has boots of mobility.

Now, I've spent a lot of time playing LoL, and I've gotten pretty good at all the annoying fiddly things. I can last hit to earn more gold than many people earn. I know all the items. I know what order to take the skills. Also LoL is an actual finished game. So for me, LoL really feels like the game to play if I want to be playing a moba game. But if someone was starting fresh? They probably want to play HotS. And that bodes very well for this game in the long run I would think...

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