• A Detailed look at How HotS Is Better

    Better than what? Everything. LoL is used as the example of the antiquated MOBA design, because it is the most popular and more importantly, the one that I have personal experience in. The goal is not to make LoL look bad, but as the title says, to show HotS as better.

     I'm CarlTheLlama, one of the top support mains in Heroes of the Storm. My competitive teams have placed as high as 3rd/4th in NA, individually I've been as high as #9 on the leader board, and I've played 4500ish games since I started playing in November of 2014. Before that, I was a Diamond 1 support main in League of Legends, with somewhere between 6-8k games played there, and many, many hours spent watching competitive games to match. Before that I had 2k games in Aeon of Storms, a custom SC2 MOBA, so I’ve had quite a bit of experience in the genre over the last 3 years.

     I left LoL months before getting HotS access (and haven't looked back, so a few of my comments about it might be outdated), ultimately because of the toxic atmosphere that seemed to be in every match you found yourself in (HotS has been much nicer), but mostly because LoL was never really a fun game for me.If HotS hadn’t been as good as it is, I probably would have walked away from the MOBA genre and never looked back. The reason I was able to get into HotS as much as I have is because it’s dramatically better, both for people new to the genre and those like myself who are veterans. If you haven't tried it you should, or if you're looking to get your friends into this game, here's what you can tell them.



    The first thing that drew me into HotS was it was boomier. What do I mean by that? Well I've always liked fires,fire is entrancing and enchanting, but a good explosion, a fire in fast-motion, really gets the heart racing. It’s boomier.

     So it is with HotS, it's a MOBA in fast-motion, but simply describing the ways that it achieves this doesn’t capture how the deviations from the standard MOBA path all synergize together, and only touches the surface of how much better the game actually feels. That said, let's look at some of the things HotS does differently, because metaphors are nice, but evidence is nicer.

     The first thing you'll notice being boomier are the champions. Not only do they start with all of their regular abilities skilled instead of getting them one at a time, but their kits are fuller and each can flat out do more. For example, Malfurion is a "sustain bot" similar to Soraka- restores health and (for free) mana, has a low damage/low cost/low cooldown ability for a little waveclear/tickling champions, and is the same type of immobile squishy that is strong in drawn out poke wars.

     However, Soraka's CC (silence) and mana restoration are tied to the same cooldown, so you have to pick one or the other, while Malf gets both on separate cooldowns. Furthermore, Malf's CC is an AOE root + zone control ability (instead of single target), which is generally a more dynamic CC, since you can make more offensive plays with it than a silence, while also having stronger defensive plays. But wait, there's more. Soraka's ultimate is a team heal, and while every hero in HotS gets to choose one of two heroics, usually Malf picks the team heal as well. The difference is, Soraka's is a simple button push, while Malf's is much more involved, creating a healing circle around him for 8 seconds as he moves. So, while Soraka's you cast and forget about, Malf's you have to reposition with, which combined with his squishy nature makes positioning choices much more interesting, making you think about which teammates you can heal for how long. The skills being more manipulable and engaging makes them more fun, but the fact that you have to work to make the ability effective means there's more room for skillful players to get more from the champion when playing him, or to make him less effective when playing against him.

     Those may seem like simple differences, but just as Soraka is one of the least exciting champions in LoL, Malf is one of the least exciting in HotS. However, even his kit has engaging features, and abilities that take care to execute to differentiate the successes from the failures. This lets you connect to the game in a way that you know what you're doing right and wrong. The trend of overall more dynamic champions grabs you from the start, and makes you want to see more.


    Improving the Genre

     While it's a popular opinion of many LoL-philiacs that HotS is a more casual game that lacks strategic complexity, there are more than a few elements that LoL doesn't have that HotS does. While the ability to mount may just seem like a way to make the pace of the game faster, many champions get unique mobilities in place of a mount, such as a Shen-style teleport, a Twisted Fate-style teleport, emergency speed boosts (all on significant cooldowns) and more. It's one more factor to the calculate that makes drafting and rotations more complex.

     Blizzard has also played around a lot with champion bodies as a mechanic. Changing the hitbox of a champion is an old and established mechanic, but Blizzard has taken it to the next level by having a hero that operates remotely from inside the base, with no body on the battlefield, and a hero with 3 miniature bodies (substantially lower HP, damage, etc.) that can move independently so you can have them in all 3 lanes (they've made more characters that play around this idea, but they're harder to explain). The ramifications of that are enormous when you stop to think that an ability healing/damaging all heroes in an area will get between -20% and +40% value.This creates a strategic element that is refreshing and invigorating to the veteran, and gives more options to newcomers trying to find heroes that fit them.

     There's also 9 maps in play already (more will come) to LoL's 1, which is another entire dimension that LoL (and to my knowledge, mostly every MOBA before HotS) doesn't even start to enter into. Even as a new game compared to one that has been developed for years, HotS looks at least as complex, if not drastically more so.

     The reason it's more accessible to the casual gamer is because it's logical and intuitive. Instead of needing to study what runes, masteries, and items are meta (not to mention farming them in addition to your champions) you look at a handful of choices at a time (instead of a sea of them) and say, "Oh this makes sense for this type of champ. These talents look like they synergize. We need more damage so I think this choice might be better here." It feels more like a game that requires some logic, and less like a class in something you have no interest in. The whole game is devoted to this idea. That's right, instead of keeping a veritable notebook in chat of camp timers, you can just look and see if they're up or how long it will be until they are, and make your moves based on information, instead of doing bookkeeping.


    Balance and Variety: Game Design Synergy

     While we're on the subject of competitive integrity, let's look at the talent system. It allows talents to be balanced to an individual hero, rather than needing to balance items across an ever-expanding champion pool. The result of this is that a hero can be accessorized more fully, and that the pool of viable heroes is larger. For example, LoL ADC builds had little to no variation, you simply opted for whichever items were strongest that patch, which in turn largely dictated the tier list for roles, taking champs in and out of the meta. Furthermore, items for ADCs were rarely seen on fighters like Renekton, because they had to be balanced in a way that no champ in the game could abuse the item, which usually meant entire classes weren’t able to get good use of it.

     With HotS, those limitations don't exist. If a talent is OP on a champ, it's tuned down for them without affecting anyone else, and if the talent is too strong on everyone that gets it, the talent gets tuned down and they don't have to mess with a champ "because they always get this item for their playstyle." Of course the same principle applies if it's too weak; it gets tuned up for the individual. If there's really no hope for the talent ever being on that champ without being OP, instead of a champ/item being nerfed into oblivion, the talent is simply removed from that hero and a new one put in it's place. As a result, almost every single hero (there are currently 41) is seen in competitive play regularly in HotS, which is more than you'll see at a given time in a LoL meta, despite having a champion pool 3x as big.

     Even cooler than that, the talent system allows for a lot of build flexibility on each Hero. Instead of following the same rigid item build path (due to the difficulty of balancing items), the only change being the order of a couple items based on the lane opponent. This is one aspect of the game that is still being fleshed out, and while build paths are more interesting and dynamic than LoL when I left (and I assume it hasn't really changed since there’s only so much you can do with an item system),the best is yet to come.

     Because the XP to access those talents is shared, everyone's on the same page as to when power spikes are. What's more, one person having a bad go of their lane is more easily dealt with as a team because the damage is mitigated across the board. It's sort of like an insurance policy that prevents you from taking any single hits that will leave you devastated.

     If you're against someone with 1000 more gold than you, you're always going to be down 1000 gold worth in stats, and they're going to always have their items more completed, meaning that gold will be more efficient, as if it's accruing interest, which allows them to deny more and more gold to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. This leads to the game losing meaning quickly, becoming a painfully one-sided snowball, which is only counteracted by the fact that the snowballer has to walk long distances to impact the rest of the game.

     The main strength of advantages accrued in HotS is generally not the stats that a higher level will give you, but the window of time where you have a talent and the enemy doesn't. The more your lead is, the more larger the window is where you're a talent up, and the smaller the window is where they're even with you on talents. That means both teams have a goal to keep fighting towards, a window where they will be on better footing than they would otherwise. If they're behind they have hope to mostly mitigate that fact, and if they're ahead they have timings where they're heavily favored to win fights.


    Bull Manure

     I don't know much about rodeos, and if you're reading this, odds are you don't either. I don't think it's difficult to imagine however, that people who work in a rodeo have different jobs, and while one person gets to have the fun and attention of riding the bull, someone else gets the menial, inglorious task of cleaning up after it. What Blizzard has done with HotS has effectively removed all the bull manure from the game, so that players get to be the cowboy and not the janitor. Ya know, so it feels like a game instead of a job.

     If you're a support main, rejoice! Resources don't need to be squabbled over like they do in LoL. Yes, supports have fully functional builds just like anyone else due to the talent and XP system . But more than that, the mindless repetition of PvE last-hitting has been replaced with PvP battles to contest objectives of varying strength. Even in lane, fighting happens much more than in LoL, since minions always prioritize attacking other minions in range over heroes, so there’s no game mechanics to discourage action. Tower diving works similarly, so a better balance is struck between being able to take advantage of being ahead, while not letting a lane snowball completely in one direction, because forts won't aggro while there's a wave there. That wave either gets cleared quickly while you soak the XP, or you can use a rear tower to help deal damage to people diving you. You also don't lose out on anything while being dove under structures, you'll still get the XP. Of course, in LoL if you were in this situation you would still lose out due to not getting last hits.

     Of the many advantages of the XP system in HotS, one is that flat gold farming is replaced by scaling XP rewards.No matter how far behind you get in HotS, if your opponent gets overconfident and screws up enough that you can punish it, 2 strong teamfight wins can take you back to even in stats with them. The first teamfight is obviously the more important one, which will shore up the major differences. Then the second teamfight you're at a stat disadvantage, but it's small enough that good play by you can win the second fight, instead of needing your opponent to reach for too much. What that also means is that you can lose the first twenty minutes of a match, but have more fight in you than the other team, win the last 3 minutes, and walk away with the W, without having the 20 minutes of farming yourself back in between.

     That means the whole game matters, there's no "well it's snowballed and there's not a realistic chance of coming back now," because of game mechanics. There's also no need to argue about surrendering because there's no option (the combination of game time and comeback potential makes such an option absurd). And if you do get snowballed on and get crushed, the game is over in as little as 8 minutes. That sounds brutal, but in reality it means far less time spent needlessly in frustrating, agonizing, and pointless games.

     So to recap, your fun tank fills up much faster in HotS because you're mining it more efficiently. You're doing more dynamic, engaging activities, and there's practically none of that time where you're there because you have to be, not because you want to be. You get to ride the bull, not clean up after it.



     In short, HotS is more engaging, more stimulating, more strategically complex, more prone to encourage civil play, better balanced, and a more efficient use of time to have fun. It discards the useless baggage that LoL has held onto, and is a much better game both casually and competitively as a result. I can't speak at Dota2 since I never played it, but I have a hard time seeing an outdated gold MOBA being able to hold a candle to HotS.

     One thing that many old MOBA players are sure to feel is that they've invested too much in their old games to move on now. Part of me wants to think that's the same as staying in an abusive relationship, but I also felt the same way before I left LoL. I had invested a lot of time, energy, and emotion into it: I had become an expert- accurately predicting cause & effect in LCS games, had some success as a challenger level analyst, and was a published theorycrafter there; and all of that was hard to leave behind. While I left LoL without any experience playing HotS, or even any serious idea that I would someday play it, I found once I started playing that what I'd invested in LoL served me well in HotS.

    Switching over to HotS is not abandoning an investment, but rather adapting it, and doing so to get more reward from future investments. Skills and experiences that I made in LoL carried over well to HotS, and are what allow me to enjoy the game as fully as I do. Similarly, the future of HotS is brighter because of the path paved by LoL. Now, however, the next level has been released, and to stay behind is to cheat yourself.


    For the best strategy guides on HotS, see this: https://goo.gl/eYVNEq

  • Hero Review: Artanis


     Players who pre-ordered Legacy of the Void, the third and final expansion of StarCraft II, were rewarded with early access to the newest Hero in the Nexus yesterday: Artanis. The main character of LotV, it's a fitting an exciting choice to have him added to Heroes of the Storm right now, and as a sister site to SCLegacy, we couldn't be happier with his arrival. From the official Artanis hero page: 

     Hierarch Artanis is an indomitable warrior who seeks to unify his beleaguered people. As a renowned Templar with centuries of experience, Artanis combines martial prowess and tactical acumen—striking swiftly with his psi-blades, taking the brunt of enemy assaults with his shields, or calling upon his flagship, the Spear of Adun, to turn his foes into dust. He’ll let nothing stand in his way to restore the glory of the protoss.

    Artanis has come a long way since his days as a young Protoss upstart, cruising around in his Scout during the Brood War. Now the leader of a shattered peoples, he has taken on the accoutrements of leadership, and seems burdened by everything that his situation entails.

    At BlizzCon 2014, Blizzard described their three core values when designing a hero:  

    • The Fantasy: What role does the hero play in their respective universe?
    • The Look: What does the hero look and sound like?
    • The Design: How does the hero function in their respective universe?

     DISCLAIMER: It's with these design values in mind that we will discuss our first impressions of Artanis. If you were seeking a discourse on his power level, his viability in Hero League, or his best builds, there are plenty of resources for that even after only a day. For us, those things are a temporary and rapidly fluctuating element, a matter of numbers that will inevitably be changed both by Blizzard and by the creative players playing the game, as well as the ever-in-flux meta. These three core design elements are what really makes a hero a favorite in the long run, and Blizzard is just getting better and better at them. We will also be taking a look at the hero's available skins and giving a quick impression of them. So let's get to it! 


    The Fantasy: Artanis is the Hierarch of the Protoss people in Legacy of the Void. As I mentioned above, he comes from much humbler roots, as a beloved but minor character from the original StarCraft games. A Templar, he became an Executor at the tender age of only 262, and after the Second Great War, Artanis has taken command of the Golden Armada and seeks to reclaim his people's ancestral homeworld: Aiur.  So what should his character convey in Heroes of the Storm? Gifted Leadership. Pride. Zealous (pardon the pun) loyalty to his people. He should emanate power, nobility, and an almost untouchable aura of void-fused majesty. His abilities, movements, and sound effects should convey the rapid, clean, crackling speed and power that only a great Protoss warrior can provide.

    His abilities lend to conveying his role in the StarCraft universe, as his Blade Dash moves him with an elegant speed, he almost appears to dance his way through the enemy lines, leaving carnage in his wake. His Heroic Abilities both call upon the Spear of Adun to aid him in battle, and much like Raynor's Hyperion, knowing that this hero has the support of an enormous flagship in orbit really drives home the fantasy of a great and powerful military leader. 

    The Look:  

    Artanis stands tall and proud, with his new armor set from Legacy of the Void gleaming and ornate. His floaty-ring-backpack (Which I'm sure warps in Pop Tarts or something, someone fill me in on what this sweet accessory is called?) gives him a distinct look from the game's other Protoss, and he won't be mistaken for anyone else on the battlefield. His fists clenched, his legs astride and poised for action, he exudes controlled reservoirs of power, which is exactly how he should look. His sound effects may be Blizzard's best work to date for a Hero in the Nexus. Every ability he casts is accompanied by the kind of sci-fi sound that we dream of in our heads, the slashing energy blades screaming while sounds of psi shields crackling echo over the thuds and sword clanks of more normally equipped Heroes.  

    The Design: 

    A Leader of his people, Artanis should always appear to be firmly in control, every movement and action calculated and contrived. He is not a berserk warrior, losing himself in bloodlust on the battlefield, but a meticulous and finely-honed warrior striving for perfection in all things. He is a Lamborghini in a Warrior class that is mostly occupied by monster trucks with bulldozer blades.  His model is large, the largest of all the Protoss, but not quite so huge as warriors like E.T.C. and Stitches. 


    Continuing the grand master skin tradition of "Give that dude a crazy hat", the Artanis master skin adds some ornate details to his armor and beefs up his backpack with a large, pointed shape and scalloped flair. Some excellent color swaps here, and all three are very pleasing to the eye. It would be fun to get some really out there master skins, but being able to still identify the hero in game should always take priority, and this skin still looks like Artanis while still giving him a major visual upgrade. 

    Eldar. Blizzard has been adapting the aesthetics of Games Workshop (which of course is adapting Tolkien) for near on 30 years now, and this skin is another example of just that. It looks very much like an Eldar Aspect Warrior, which just so we're clear: is freaking awesome. The third color is a nod to Neon Genesis Evangelion and the EVA-01, which, again: oh my god, awesome.  

    So, How can we rate Artanis overall from the perspective of Blizzard's stated hero design philosophy? Very highly. He feels like the leader of the Protoss, he looks like a warrior with centuries of experience in battle behind him, and his abilities and playstyle are befitting of that. If Blizzard can continue to produce heroes that feel and look like Artanis, every hero release will be a treat for us. 


    Thanks for reading StormLegacy's first Hero Review! You can expect continued coverage articles like this one, and much more, as we continue on in the very near future. Say, why don't you follow @StormLegacyTeam and @SaharaDrac on Twitter, while you're here? Then you'll know whenever we update. :)