Heroes of the Storm: An Agonising Death
A few days ago, another dagger was put into Heroes of the Storm’s (HotS) bleak future. A job listing: Esports Coordinator, Classic Games. This cemented the fact that HotS is soon to be forgotten, joining the likes of Starcraft Remastered, Starcraft 2 and Warcraft III. After dropping the HGC (HotS Global Championship) and moving/firing developers back in December, as well as the fact that since then only one hero, Imperius, has been released, HotS is soon to fade into memories. But where did it all go wrong? I’ll be looking into my experiences playing to find out.
This is a purely opinion based piece. None of what I am about to say is the definite, clear-cut reason why Heroes failed to succeed as well as Blizzard would have hoped. However, these certainly didn’t help.
One of the major reasons I feel Heroes wasn’t as popular as other MOBA titles is the vague role classes. Prior to March 2019, HotS had four main classes: Warrior, Support, Specialist and Assassin. It sounds all well and good, until you realise that Warriors include Tanks and Bruisers, Support includes Healers and Utility supports, Assassins had both Melee and Ranged and Specialists were everything that didn’t seem to fit in the above sections. Due to how the matchmaking worked, the game would try to pair you up to have a semi-decent composition. A tank or two, an assassin or two, a support and depending on the former two, a specialist. Unfortunately, it often meant you would get two tanks who did no damage, a specialist who was designed to be solo in a lane, a healer and a ranged assassin. Lo and behold, you do no damage to the enemy team and they will break through your health and healing. It often made games unfair and almost impossible to win.
Specialists were also one weird role. You had heroes like Sylvanas, who did well in a teamfight and amazing in lane. But you also had heroes like Murky and Gazlowe—they can fight, but they are much, much better off being on their own split pushing. These characters also had one harsh side effect of being either too easy to play, or have a severely high skill ceiling. Using the above examples, Sylvanas requires little to no effort or training compared to the likes of Murky, who needs to think of their egg placement, combo’s, whether they should fight or push and whatnot. They also seemed to have a habit of being god-tier in certain metas, or trash in another.
To top off the hero role issues, there was no role select in Hero League or Team League, Heroes of the Storm’s version of ranked play. In League of Legends, you queue for two roles and more often than not, will get one of them. In Heroes? Nothing. It often mean that players will pick compositions that doesn’t work, the healer gets forgotten and often trolls roam the ladders and ruin everyone's experience. I feel this deterred a lot of players from playing the ranked mode, making it more casual and also lowering the general skill of an already barebones game (if you take into account the lack of items and jungle).
In total, there are fifteen maps playable within the games rotation (ignoring Lost Cavern, which is only found in private matches). Heroes of the Storm is the only MOBA to have more than one map in its’5v5 playlist and while this is unique, I feel fifteen maps was too many. Blizzard introduced a rotating map system for Team League and Hero League, but not Unranked or Quick Match. This system meant only ten maps were played, which I feel is a strong number of maps. Additionally, it was known among the community that two maps - Blackheart’s Bay and Warhead Junction - were not liked at all. The former had been in the game since Day 1 and never got any type of changes to make it better. Blizzard have proved it was possible after a horrible launch of the Overwatch-inspired map Hanamura, which was removed a few weeks after release and re-added with a redesign several months later. My friends and I would often leave if put into Blackheart’s Bay, which would of course ruin my other teammates experience as they were playing with some pretty terrible bots.
Finally: The reporting system. It simply didn’t work. I’ll be honest here, I was one toxic player in my day and I likely got reported more times than I would have liked. But not once did I get a warning, a silence (HotS version of a mute) or a ban. It meant toxic teammates could get away with anything and vary rarely got punished. It became more reliable in the latter stages of its life, but even then it was proven to be automated and not based off reports. Intentionally get yourself killed or leave the game? No punishment.
That’s why I think the Nexus never got the love it deserved. I’m upset that the development seems to be on the rapid decline as Heroes of the Storm was my first, and more importantly favourite, MOBA. However, Blizzard never seemed to fix some fundamental flaws in their system and that meant it couldn’t compete with it’s competitors like DOTA 2, League of Legends, and even SMITE.