Much like when the MMO genre was king and we broke down ‘core systems’ like daily quests, breaking down a core system like last hitting in a MOBA is today’s topic, and much like with daily quests, people tend to have fairly strong opinions around the topic.
As the title states, to me last hitting is like XP in an RPG; without it I’m questioning if you are even the type of game you say you are, and more often than not the removal of the system is more of a mistake than a streamlining or benefit.
Last hitting is a very simple mechanic; if you deal the final blow to something, you get the reward. Generally this relates to minions in a lane, but it also covers killing the enemy hero. Systems like assists or gains-by-proxy (XP or gold) factor in as well, either making last-hitting more important (support champion only gains their bonus gold if their laning partner last hit successfully) or less so (assists reduce the one-character power spike of a kill).
In a standard MOBA setup with laning, last-hitting is a competition and gameplay driver during the laning phase. You need to not only watch the health of your own minions and correctly time your attack, but at higher levels of play you also watch the health of your opponent’s minions to better predict their actions and to make laning life for them more difficult.
One reason people don’t like last hitting is due to the fact that it’s a living scoreboard. If you are in a lane and have half the creep score of your opponent, even if the lane is 0-0 in terms of kills, everyone can see you are being crushed. Sadly we now live in a time when pointing out that someone is losing is a bad thing, and many are quick to get offended or defensive when their failure is put on display. Without last-hitting, someone who is 0-0 k/d is doing ‘fine’, and can’t be directly blamed for the game going south.
Last hitting is also something that, on paper, sounds so simple, yet in reality is extremely difficult to truly master. As you increase in skill level, your mentality goes from trying to get the last hit to ensure you don’t miss a minion in wave. The very act of scoring the last hit on every minion in wave is difficult on its own, but when you also factor in a laning opponent who knows what they are doing, and suddenly things go from difficult to seemingly impossible, or you find yourself on the wrong end of laning exchanges more often than you are comfortable with. Factor in overall map awareness and jungle pressure, and it’s almost a requirement for the actual timing and prediction of a last-hit to be second nature to a player at higher levels of play.
Removing this level of complexity, and the near-endless decision points it introduces in every game, is a massive change to the base game, and unless its replaced by something equally solid (which it is not in HotS), you end up with a simpler game that is easier to master and shallower at the deep ends. Worse still, you end up creating other problems. In HotS, since last-hitting isn’t a thing, ‘laning’ isn’t nearly as important, and specifically keeping an eye on any one minion is completely pointless. A ‘minion wave’ is less of a factor, and when standing in a lane far more focus is placed on the enemy hero since you don’t care about the minions. That might sound like a good thing initially (more direct hero fighting), but constant fighting the other champion, especially if the result is 0-0 (more likely in HotS than LoL due to damage/health scales), gets boring very quickly, and doesn’t create interesting gameplay or player decisions.
To me someone not liking the actual gameplay of last-hitting is like someone not liking questing in an RPG; at some point it’s not so much the game as it is the player needing to find something that better fits them. Just like an RPG doesn’t need ‘fixing’ by removing quests, the MOBA genre doesn’t move forward by removing last-hitting, at least not without a suitable gameplay replacement.