HotS: A new low for Blizzard

Heroes of the Storm is to League of Legends as Hearthstone is to Magic: The Gathering, and yes, that’s not a good thing.

Old Blizzard made games that were easy to get into but hard to master. New Blizzard makes games that are easy to get into because there is little to master. Hearthstone is an ‘accessible’ card game because not only is it incredibly shallow, but luck plays a huge, often game-deciding role, so even a poor player will think they are doing fine. HotS is ‘accessible’ because most of the actions one needs to think about and make in a MOBA are removed, and what’s left is so slow and ‘who cares’ tainted it puts you to sleep after only a few games.

Before I get into mechanics, is Blizzard not capable of making above-average looking games anymore? HotS doesn’t look bad, but why is a game that is still in beta worse-looking than an older game like LoL? If you aren’t going to make the gameplay interesting, can’t you at least make something that looks better?

HotS doesn’t have a “most people play this most of the time” map like summoners rift. Instead it has a collection of what LoL usually does with short event maps; gimmick stuff that moves away from the core MOBA gameplay. LoL doesn’t keep those gimmick maps around for long because people tire of them quickly and return to the core map. HotS struggling to retain people isn’t a surprise when you ignore the core of the genre and instead make an entire game around a gimmick.

The gimmick maps in HotS are also pretty boring and cheesy. Each one is ‘collect/claim this when the time is up, cash in, move closer to winning’. It makes the fact that the game has lanes and minions comical, because they really don’t matter, and in fact are more of a distraction than a core component. A ‘minion wave’ isn’t really a thing in HotS, which much like Hearthstone and the remove of land cards, cuts a huge chunk of gameplay and strategy right out without replacing it with anything worthwhile. Its a reduction in the learning curve without any replacement at the back-end.

The intent was to kill the laning phase and have the game be all about the team fights (so basically, ARAM), only you aren’t in a single-lane map, so ‘team fights’ is just as often about moving around the map is it is about actually fighting. I don’t think trading minion last-hitting and laning only to ‘gain’ “ride around 50% of the time” is a good trade for a MOBA, but people do love mount collecting so hey, maybe it will work out for the game (spoiler: it won’t).

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the game is how sloppy it feels compared to LoL. Blizzard was known for taking an existing idea (or entire game) and adding polish. HotS is Blizzard taking LoL, making the core design worse, and then releasing it without said polish. Hero movement feels like everyone is ice skating around the map, and skill shots feel terribly off compared to the animations. Standing next to a laser beam still resulting in you taking damage, for example.

Hero design, from my limited experience, is what you would expect from a dumbed down LoL. The usual simple skills are there, while combo abilities or something remotely complex/interesting seems to be missing. Additionally, the game is overall much slower, so killing someone feels like it takes forever unless someone walks into a 4v1 situation, and even then the odds are decent they escape. An entire game might end if two heroes stand next to each other and auto-attack before someone dies. Not that it matters, because killing someone also feels completely unrewarding. No gold gain, no fanfare, and only marginal, behind-the-scenes progress towards victory. Amazingly Blizzard has made a MOBA where killing the other team doesn’t feel special, which is really saying something.

The biggest problem HotS faces is that unlike with Hearthstone and the utter lack of any competition in terms of similar titles (MtG:O isn’t on mobile, and is itself horrible as an interface for MtG), this game is walking right into the most popular genre out with a pitifully weak offering. LoL isn’t just the current king of gaming because of its depth of content and ability to draw in everyone from casual to ultra-hardcore, it’s also the far more polished experience compared to HotS, which usually is the one thing Blizzard does better than others. If HotS makes it out of beta, I’ll be surprised, because right now the game might be the worst thing Blizzard has ever produced, and that includes Hearthstone.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in League of Legends, Random, Review. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to HotS: A new low for Blizzard

  1. Anonymous says:

    I know its a lot of fun to bash Blizzard for some of the mistakes lately but HOTS is a lot of fun. Dont be too quick to bash it for trying to fix a lot of the problems with the genre and offering a variety of maps. I was very hesitant when i heard there are no items but the talent trees and map variety really make up for it to me. I am glad somebody did something different finally instead of another lol/dota clone.

    • SynCaine says:

      What exactly do you find fun about it?

      Also I don’t consider replacing last hitting and lane variety (top/mid/bot/jgl 1v1/1v1/2v2/roamer) with moving around a map a ‘fixing of the genre’, but to each his own I guess.

  2. maljjin says:

    I’m played HotS for a couple hours and I’ve come to the same conclusion : you need to focus on each map special objective. They are way more powerful than anything you can do, controlling them is key to winning most games. I don’t think it is a good plan in the long run, you need more variety and more strategies to keep the players interested.

    Also, I can’t say I felt more powerfull by choosing one skill upgrade path over another. They all gave me the same non-impactful feeling.

    Granted, I haven’t tried all heroes and I’ve played only a limited time, but it doesn’t look great so far. That’s coming from a total LoL noob which I would have think been the target market.

  3. Carl says:

    What I like about HotS is that games are much shorter. I play it almost daily to get a quick MOBA fix and grab the daily quest rewards. For sure, it’s shallower than other MOBAs….guess you can’t have everything in the same pie.

    Even if I really like and played a lot of LoL a couple of years ago, it would be almost impossible to play now, having a house and kids to take care of. I can’t go back to 30-45 minutes games without risking having to drop in the middle.

    I know Dominion games were shorter, but I played the Rift only…couldn’t get into this new mode. Maybe they added more maps/scenarios since ? I’m pretty much disconnected from news about LoL.

  4. tithian says:

    While I cannot comment on gameplay (because I haven’t played it), but from the footage I’ve seen graphics wise HotS blows LoL out of the water. I get a feeling you’re running down a checklist on ‘things to bash next’ here.

    • SynCaine says:

      Both games maxed out at 1900×1200, LoL imo is the better looking game, both just in pure graphics and also in terms of the graphics assisting gameplay (visual hints).

      At worst, they are even, and LoL came out in 2009.

  5. Frosth says:

    The moba genre is shallow any way.

    Blizzard may not have completely lost their touch, they just picked the wrong genre to polish/streamline. Most actions done in a dota-like are just complexity rather than depth and when you trim the fat, there isn’t much left.

  6. cristiand90 says:

    just try smite.

    It brings a fresh experience(third person). If you liked WoW PVP you will love Smite.

    It’s not a rip off, the price per hero is under 1$ or so if you want to pay for it. Which isn’t required since you have to master the gods before you can play them ranked, so farming them is not a grind.

    The side maps (siege, arena, assault, joust) are fun and everything makes sense in them.

    It has its flaws, but nothing major, I can’t even think of one(gameplay related) at this moment.

    The community is shit in all mobas, so don’t expect pixie fairies to be playing this either.

    I can go on about the game, just try it, it costs nothing and you might like it more than lol.

    Hots has nothing on any MOBA currently out there, it’s just trash released in another attempt for Blizzurd to stay relevant after wow dies. I tried to cheer for it, but they screwed up.

    • I’ve tried Smite and I just can’t get past the crap graphics. And I run it at max settings. I’m enjoying HoTS a lot actually. Yes the map mechanics are the important thing but really LoL is simplistic as well, there’s only so many strategies that you can actually win with. I enjoy LoL, Dota, all of them at times. But I will say that having the lore from the Blizzard games I enjoy, even if other than the initial training part it doesn’t really use it.

  7. As someone who wasn’t even interested in MOBA’s enough to try one before I’m surprised how much I enjoy playing HotS. I was bored one night, installed it on a whim and ended up staying up pretty late playing. I play casually, currently level 20 and still learning all the heros.

    So far I have two friends who weren’t interested in playing MOBA’s playing now as well. When reading about the additional complexity LoL and Dota offer none of us have any interest in trying them out.

    Much like Syncaine, some people I have run into with previous MOBA experience just shit all over HotS. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

  8. CF says:

    I love your blog because you are so opinionated and most of your opinions are negative. Its fantastic.

    I played LoL for years and DotA before that. When I started playing HotS I tentatively liked it. it was very different from LoL but solved a lot of the annoyances. The next phase I experienced was that of growing annoyance with HotS, much like what you describe I felt like the maps were very gimmicky, I wanted a “pure” map more like LoL. I almost quit then, but I didn’t. I refocused on learning the maps and the heroes and the strategy and now I really like HotS I don’t think I could go back to LoL now. The mechanics of the map are a way to focus the fighting. When the mechanic of the map kicks in everyone pretty much needs to drop whatever they are doing and go support their team at the mechanic location. Sometimes the mechanics are spread out and need to be accomplished at the same time making opportunities for small team fights.

    Having access to 3 skills from level one is great.

    Each hero has 2 ultimates to choose from and they are drastically different from each other.

    The talent system which replaces items has a huge affect on how you play your character. many of them also change how your character’s abilities look to help tell other players what choices you made.

    No more worrying about last hitting, there is no kill steeling no one gets mad at you for last hitting a player kill, everyone gets credit who was involved. player kills level your team up faster, and laning is still important because its a method to get xp. if you have a team that 5 man groups from the beginning as long as you don’t feed that team then the other team that is spread out in the lanes is soaking more xp and will level faster and outpace the grouped team.

    I love how they changed the jungle mobs into mercenaries that once defeated join your side until killed. There is tons of strategy here, I’ve had games in HotS where my team was being dominated kill-wise but we played the map smarter and pulled out a win.

    the mounts are a gimmick like the skins, buy them if you feel like. some of the characters don’t use mounts but have a different movement mechanic which i think is cool. some teleport, some can jump half the map, others have a quick short high speed boost.

  9. gmbad says:

    Have you not considered that Blizzard developed HoTS (and Hearthstone) specifically not in attempt to directly compete with or copy LoL or MtG, and that that is a completely valid decision on their part.

    That instead they developed these 2 games to provide their existing (and new) consumers with another choice of Blizzard game, in a genre that is different from the existing Blizzard games portfolio available. It seems to me that this is a very sensible business decision to take. That the game is exploring different features than LoL seems just as sensible a decision.

    I’m presuming Blizzard are clever enough to have done some basic market research into other existing MOBA style games before investing in this new game, and have developed it based on their own realistic success criteria, as well as what would appeal to their target market, which may simply not be the same group who are happy with LoL, and to differentiate it from other games in the same segment.

    This could be seen in the same way a motor manufacturer decides to create a new model in their line up in an existing category; SUV, Hatchback, luxury sedan etc. They don’t necessarily do this intending to become or even compete closely the worlds best SUV manufacturer, but instead to give consumers a greater choice based on price, options, value, brand or reliability with differentiates their products from others.

    Your criticism seems to be based on your own presumed subjective assumptions of Blizzard’s own commercial objectives, and then compares these assumptions to another game in a completely subjective way.

    Your views are interesting to read, but ultimately no more relevant or valid than in for example very simplistically comparing a Skoda hot hatchback and BMW M1. They may be both hot hatches and are of course both cars, but they are very different products designed and developed to appeal to different groups. The fact the Skoda is not a clone or better than the M1 in speed, handling or gizmo’s doesn’t then make the Skoda a bad car in any objective sense, or mean that Skoda should not have developed or sold the car. They make the product they see as having a market of a certain size, based on commercial research.

    you should consider doing another review of HotS in a more objective way, if you feel you can do so.

  10. Ravious says:

    HotS is like the current TF2 of MOBAs. It’s just fun to get in and play. It is definitely not aiming to be a MLG-style game and writing as if it should be is missing the mark.

    • SynCaine says:

      Except TF2 is a massively successful FPS, and HotS won’t even reach third place (SMITE). What TF2 does works. What HotS is trying to do doesn’t.

  11. adammtlx says:

    Couldn’t disagree with you more.

    My experience with the two major MOBAs (LoL and DoTA2) has been largely negative. Apart from the known quantity of the toxicity of the communities, I hated that I had to set aside 45 minutes or so just to play one match. In Heroes I can usually get 2 if not 3 matches done in the same amount of time, which helps to cut bad behavior because losing a game doesn’t feel like such a punch in the gut. I hated the last-hit mechanic. Maybe that makes me a carebear but it felt like an unnecessarily finicky aspect of an experience that simply didn’t require it, and it was another thing that encourages bad player behavior. The rigid laning requirements of the established MOBAs is done away with and with good reason. It allows players to contribute more fluidly and not be afraid to try new things without getting yelled at.

    You say it’s all about team fights which is simply untrue. That depends on the map, the team makeups and the players themselves. I’ve had games that consist largely of roving team fights and games that consist of laning 90% of the time. Most games fall somewhere in between with a laning phase that lasts about 5-10 minutes followed by map mechanics that encourage team fights, followed by a laning/merc camp phase interspersed with more map mechanics (again driving team fights), after which the final pushes start to happen. It’s not as structured as LoL or DoTA2 for a reason–because it doesn’t need to be. Higher level, competitive play is certainly more structured but in casual “quick match” play it’s more about just having fun.

    The hero design is FAR from “dumbed down.” I can only imagine what would make you think that is your admitted lack of experience. There’s nothing in LoL like The Lost Vikings or Murky.

    Killing enemy heroes is very rewarding, both for the fact that you did it and for the fact that it helps put your team ahead–just like gaining gold. Your opinion seems to differ with most people on that front. In fact, I work in an office full of LoL players who used to play League almost every evening together and now most of them have switched to Heroes. Why? Because they like it more. It’s more accessible, faster, less toxic, has new and interesting mechanics and heroes pulled from familiar and beloved properties and still maintains an extremely high skill cap.

    I think you’re in the minority on this one.

    • SynCaine says:

      I know I’m not in the minority given how popular LoL and DOTA2 are and how lukewarm even Blizzard is about HotS internally.

      Uther vs Taric as an example of similar heroes but the HotS version being dumbed down to the point of near-pointlessness. I could list a dozen on more heroes LoL has that HotS doesn’t have mechanically, but that’s not exactly fair at this point.

      • adammtlx says:

        “I know I’m not in the minority given how popular LoL and DOTA2 are”

        That’s not remotely a fair comparison. DOTA2 and LoL have had YEARS to establish a customer base and Heroes is still in beta.

        “and how lukewarm even Blizzard is about HotS internally.”

        First, evidence? Or is this just speculation on your part? Second, I don’t think Blizzard has any intention of competing head to head with League and DOTA2. They’re different games for different audiences, and while they certainly might steal a few players away from both, I don’t think their intention is to “compete” with them any more than they were trying to “compete” with EQ and UO when they made WoW. With WoW they were attempting to introduce new players to an established genre by making a more accessible experience. That’s what Blizzard excels at. That’s what Heroes is and that’s a far more useful context from which to make a judgment.

        • SynCaine says:

          The somewhat recent Blizzard info leak is the source, feel free to google.

          As for WoW, it 100% was made to compete with EQ (1 and 2), it just so happened that SOE made the giant mistake that was EQ2, and WoW’s timing ended up being perfect. But during production, Blizzard was aiming at the 500k or so EQ1 baseline. Google again is your friend on that history.

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