There is a new universal language for Massive Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games: profanity. I tried to avoid it to the best of my abilities, but soon I was guilty too. Thankfully, Blizzard has given us a new MOBA that is fun to play, good for beginners and experienced players alike, and, so far at least, free from the vitriol of some of the most popular MOBAs.
Heroes of the Storm for Mac is the latest addictive substance coming out of Blizzard to stand among their behemoths Starcraft, Hearthstone, Diablo, and Warcraft. In a strange loop-de-loop, Blizzard has created a MOBA similar to the one created by the community as a player add-on for Warcraft 3. But is Heroes of the Storm “just another clone” of other popular MOBAs like League of Legends, Dota 2 or SMITE? Close – but not quite a clone. Someone unfamiliar with these games may not see the differences, but anyone who has played one for even a short amount of time can see the larger differences between all the various titles.
And Heroes of the Storm does stand by itself.
Enter Heroes of the Storm
A MOBA game requires a group of people (I removed the term “friends” since I think I lost friends playing LoL and DotA more than made them) working toward a common goal. The overall team goal is to destroy the enemy’s keep/tower/base/etc. before they destroy yours. The biggest problem with many of these MOBA players is the fact that 90% of them fail to grasp the objective of “team play wins games.” If you watch professional teams on YouTube or Twitch, they’ll work as a team and tackle objectives strategically, but the games themselves have the same problem the NBA does: one person can “Carry” or “MVP” the entire team.
Heroes has no such “MVP” slot available. If one person doesn’t play well, the entire team feels it and must work together (or work with that person) to help them and thus the team plays better. The “Team” has to work as a team and together conquer the other team. Simple. Basic.
The other thing, and I think this makes all the difference between these games, is Heroes removes in-game items and upgrades. Some people whine about this uniqueness, but that’s where the talent system comes into play. Instead of grinding and getting last hits (two things that don’t exist in Heroes) in order to gain gold during each match, Heroes offers unique talents for each hero from each game Blizzard’s made – including their first game: “The Lost Vikings.” These talents offer a different and custom play style depending on the map, team build, user’s skill level, and comfort with the game itself. Instead of in-game items, each player can adjust the play style of their hero on the fly, or stick to a tried-and-true build of what they know is a solid loadout. Certain heroes have weaknesses against other heroes, while others have weaknesses against maps or towers. Each game really is a challenge depending on the unique layout between the other 9 players and the random map.
However, Heroes and Blizzard did have some problems through the alpha and beta process on MacOS. During the alpha, the Magic Mouse’s scroll and double tap feature worked similar to a zoom in/out and auto center on the map, while in the beta, these were removed. However, on a normal wheel mouse, the scroll wheel still zoomed, which was later removed. Various changes throughout the builds proved problematic as well, with heroes changing into overpowered and then into weaklings the next patch (cough/Sonya) while others seemed to gain power, such as Diablo’s tank build.
There are some things to know if you are new to Heroes or MOBAs in general, and many of these come from the excellent podcast “Into the Nexus” over at Amove.tv:
- Finish the tutorial, gain 1,000 gold. Save the gold, it’s the cheapest way to buy new heroes. The newest heroes always start at 15,000, but after a few weeks always drop to 10,000. The original alpha heroes are the ones that are 2,000/4,000 gold, with the rest in between 7,000/10,000. Save up gold by doing daily quests, leveling free heroes to level 5, and playing with friends/winning quick match games.
- Find a hero you enjoy playing and stick with it.
- There are both levels for each hero (and bonuses for unlocking various levels) and a main “account” level. The goal for each hero should be to get to level 5 (to unlock the basic talents and get the 500 gold) and get your main level at least to level 10 (to get the free stimpack and more gold.) I also suggest playing with friends or finding a group to play with to do quick-match instead of AI matches. Even a loss in quick-match will often give you more gold and XP than a win in AI.
- The goal is to get to level 30 for Hero Play and buy 10 heroes.
What I like the most about Heroes:
- New player friendly. Grabbing a new hero and testing her out is easy, harmless, and not succumbed to the vitriol of the DotA2 community on how to L2P, OMGN00bBBQUSUXX)RZ!!111!
- Learning the game is much like golf: Easy to learn the basics, a lifetime to master the skills for the highest ranks.
- Tons to do: From collecting gold on the dailies, leveling free heroes, learning the maps and their variances, all the way to mastering each Hero, one could spend a lifetime playing.
- Vibrant and friendly community: The community, for the most part, is very open and inviting. There are still evil bastards out there from LoL and others trying to turn this into “their” game, but the number of people new or playing since Alpha and Beta (like me) keep standing in their way and keep them from bullying new people. Even on sites such as Reddit and YouTube, the conversations go from Hate to Heart in a few moments. Don’t be bullied online – you’re better than a game.
What I dislike about Heroes:
- There are still assholes from LoL and DotA who think they can make this a “Bully” game. They won’t win this battle, but there are people out there. Kindly walk away. There’s more of us who will stand up for new players and help than there are hateful players who just yell obscenities for no reason.
- Heroes is still being “balanced” quite often, which means you’ll have a favorite hero one week who is wrecking face in a lane and then nerfed the next week.
- Time in the day: There simply isn’t enough time in the day to play all the Heroes one would like to play while the rest of life carries on…it’s just not fair.
Heroes of the Storm feels natural and fluid using Mac hardware. On my 2012 MacBook Pro with a dedicated NVIDIA 650GT card, it outperformed and saw higher frame rates and response than my son’s ASUS ROG laptop. He would often lag during the beginning loadout screens or when team fights bled between lanes, where the OS X client saw no issues whatsoever.
Heroes of the Storm System Requirements:
- OS: OS X 10.9.x
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo
- Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 4670 or NVIDIA GeForce 330M
- RAM: 4 GB
- Hard Drive: 10 GB available space
- Unsupported cards: ATI Radeon X1000 series, HD 2000 series, NVIDIA GeForce 7000 Series, 8000 series, 9000 series, 320M, GT 100 series, Intel GMA series
- 15-inch, Mid 2012 MacBook Pro
- OS: OS X 10.10.3
- CPU: 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 512MB
- RAM: 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
As in all Blizzard software to date, Heroes feels at home on a Mac; almost like it was built and designed on the OS X platform from the start.