Last Friday, a thick sandstorm passed through Anaheim and, blowing with it, a Blizzard Entertainment logo. Jim Raynor's searchlights shimmered through the storm as the crowd braced for yet another epic Blizzard cinematic. The message? Heroes of the Storm is finally here, and this time, it's official.
This year's second new franchise after Hearthsthone is Blizzard's much-anticipated take on the MOBA genre. Their attempt at defining a unique and different game starts with the description: online team brawler. Yet that is exactly what it is. Blizzard has completely removed last-hitting, individual rewards and items. Instead of trying to earn gold for items by getting the crucial last hit on wave after wave of minions, Heroes - as Blizzard likes to call it - enforces teamfights and brawls from the get-go.
Visible at first glance are the several unique battlegrounds, which set Heroes apart from its established cousins. Each battleground is characterized by a core event that shapes the strategy for the entire match. On Blackheart Bay, for example, you need to find and earn gold doubloons to win a ghost pirate ship's captain over, whose bombardements then destroy the enemies base.
Haunted Mines adds an actual second level, where you need to collect skulls in the underground by killing neutral mobs, to spawn giant grave golems. The more skulls you collect the more giant the grave golem, which helps to destroy the enemy. The third known battleground lets you slip into the role of a mighty dragon knight. Two obelisks and an altar need to be controlled to take control of Dragonshire's core forces.
Heroes of the Storm (so far)
Heroes' true strength comprises, well, the heroes. Over the last 20 years Blizzard established three of the most popular video game franchises of the industry. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994), Diablo (1996) and StarCraft (1998) and their sequels spawned an infinite supply of iconic charactes, which have now come together to fight each other!
18 heroes were available at BlizzCon; some of them seem familiar to what we are used to, some of them offer completely original strategies. Abathur, for example, a support that lacks direct attacks, Instead he can possess almost any allied unit (other heroes, minions, creeps, structures) and give them new abilities which he controls directly. For every hero you choose, you'll also choose from an array of masteries, abilities and combat styles that affect how you character behaves on the battleground.
To lighten up the bloodthirsty brawling action (and probably to create a means to make money out of this otherwise free-to-play game), you'll be able to customize your hero's appearance. Send him dressed as a lumberjack riding on a rainbow pony (what, we didn't mention mounts before?) onto the battlegrounds or dress your Elite Tauren Chieftain as an 80's glam rockstar.
We hope the sandstorm returns soon and carries keys for an upcoming beta.