Saturday, May 10, 2014

Heroes of the Storm

So I've been playing a lot of Heroes of the Storm lately. You may ask, didn't you say Dark Souls II is the greatest shit ever? Well not quite, it is merely the 7th or 8th greatest shit ever; but I think if you find something truly brilliant it's in your best interest not to overplay it so that you cherish the times when you do play it. I've only played Vagrant Story 3 times through or so for example, and even a short game like Super Metroid I've only played 5 or 6 times. Yes, I do eventually have to write a review for Dark Souls II and ideally another couple miscellaneous blog posts; but I could write them in several months instead of immediately and do just as well.

Back to the point, Heroes of the Storm is a lot of fun. A bit of history here: I played Brood War for 10 years and played all sorts of custom maps, the vast majority of which were awesome and unique. Then Warcraft 3 comes along with DoTA and that's all anyone played or made maps of (well that and just garbage or TDs), in essence DoTA killed mapmaking, so I passionately hate it for that. I don't care how good DoTA is it doesn't justify killing off over a thousand genres of maps; that shit's just stupid. Yes, eventually mapmaking would have died because of indy games but that's not how it went down.

However I did enjoy the predecessors to DoTA and even Temple Siege in Brood War; Aeon of Strife was reasonably fun and I even talked to the mapmaker at some point; as I talked to all mapmakers in Brood War over the course of a decade. Sure Aeon of Strife didn't have the amazing depth of some of the other genres (which had more depth than DoTA as well), but it was a fun, relaxing game to play. Star Wars: AoTR was the best rendition of this type of map, as it had 3 factions and fairly radically different heroes. The troops in the game were so balanced that given no human intervention it took over 36 hours for the game to conclude; in favor of the most frequently doomed faction in regular games.

So, DoTA was popular and a lot of developers thought "Hey let's make the exact fucking same thing and call it something else" because there's so little creativity in this genre (in sharp contrast to the UMS scene in Brood War). That's why they're DoTA clones and will always be DoTA clones. For a long time people just called them DoTA clones; but then some incredibly smart genius superman heroic majestic wordsmith came up with the term MOBA instead. What the fuck does that shit mean? Multiplayer Online Battle Arena? You mean like every game ever that has online multiplayer? How descriptive. No it's just an acronym that sounds like DoTA.

Anyway basically every company has to make either one of these or a mobile game and Blizzard is no exception. Full disclosure: I played Guardians of Middle Earth when it was on PS+ and *gasp* enjoyed it (actually has more depth than Heroes of the Storm at present), but it did largely eliminate the needless obfuscation elements of DoTA. This is to some extent a relic from the UMS days in Brood War; a huge bias to people who had already played the game. It never really made games better it just made them inaccessible for no reason. Heroes of the Storm also eliminates the needless obfuscation; and thus is on the right track to actually doing something with this genre while still keeping true to the same format (there's plenty of examples of Non-DoTA Clone DoTA clones that exist in other genres and perform admirablly).

For whatever reason the game is just not popular at all on twitch, which is basically the kiss of death for DoTA clones. But that also means that the vast majority of people playing the game are just straight up awful at it; so no matter what class I play the game is fun as shit because you can just massacre everyone. Note: I do think that approximately half of the players playing are actually just bots since they don't speak and don't act like humans. Not the Elite AI bots mind but lesser difficulty ones.

I've played a lot of Nova in this game, and as you might expect done well with her. But strangely it feels almost exactly the same as Warhammer Online did with a stealth character, the creeps are basically the zergling players; the other players are still quite stupid and require herding. So there's zerg-herding masterminds in Heroes that tell people what to do even if they don't have much of a conception of the game themselves. Most importantly almost no one knows how to use stealth effectively and frequently just pops and dies instantly; so being one of a scarce handful that do know how to use stealth makes you a mastermind or something.

But I've also played other characters, and while Nova is the most fun for ridiculous scorecards you can still dominate with a support hero or a specialist; just work at it a little. Groups are very rarely of the super suffocating kind in this game and you've pretty much always got an open shot at winning easily. It's basically like the incompetence of players in Battlegrounds in WoW combined with the mechanics of Warhammer. In a stroke of utter brilliance Blizzard actually made more than one map; sacrilege for DoTA clones; they've been using that same fucking not even as good as AoTR map for decades. And having more then one map; Surprise! makes the game more interesting. So 3 out of 4 matches will be different and interesting relative to the map you just played; and they'll probably eventually add more maps.

Put simply this is a great game to play if you want to destroy a bunch of mediocre-poor players. And since there is literally no popular streamer playing it if you're a competent player I'm sure you could start having a large following on twitch. I actually have a job for the time being and despite having a magnificent voice am not overly interested in playing video games as a job; but I'm sure someone else out there is. Just get good with a few different heroes and you're set; takes like 3-4 matches with a hero to get better than say 95-99% of the people playing right now.

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