Heroes of the Storm and Fear of Trying

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For a guy who doesn’t much care for MMOs or RTS games, I think about Blizzard a lot. Some of that is Diablo, which is one of my favorite games. Some of that is Hearthstone, which is the game I most wish I had designed. And most of it is my fascination with how Blizzard can refine and popularize a genre, which is why I had to give Heroes of the Storm a try.

Heroes of the Storm is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), which is an offshoot of real-time strategy, which as noted above leaves me cold. A bunch of people running around a set map, clicking and shouting at each other in real time, exploiting subtle differences in builds to eke out a victory over an hour?

Okay, when I put it that way it actually sounds a lot like a cross between multiplayer Diablo and Euro board games, which I DO like. So maybe the ground is more fertile than I thought, but I was still intimidated by the combination of intensive practice, real-time play, and my pathetically slow reaction speed.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Heroes of the Storm?

Blizzard lowered that barrier, because the Blizzard brand is all about accessibility and ease of use. “If Blizzard is doing this,” I semi-self-consciously told myself, “then it can’t be too hard. I won’t embarrass myself if I try it.”

So I did, and the game itself was a pleasant surprise. I thought of MOBAs as incredibly fiddly and overcomplicated, but the tutorial allayed that fear, starting simple and stepping gradually into the complicated stuff. The maps were fun and offered some variety. It was fun to see the Blizzard characters running around, and I had no trouble finding a hero who fit my style. The controls were easy to use, so I felt confident even though I was clueless. The matches are short, so I could afford to play “just one more” before bedtime.

In other words, Heroes of the Storm is accessible and fun, just like every other Blizzard game. I appreciate that, all the more so because I know just how hard it is to achieve.

Heroes of the Storm may be a little too easy-going to conquer the e-sports world and become the dominant player in MOBAs. My sense is that the kind of player who would get really serious about this kind of game is going to spend more time and money on League of Legends and DOTA.

That doesn’t mean it won’t monetize well for Blizzard, though. Even as a casual player, I can feel the temptation to spend cash on a hero I like. The value of each game piece is obvious, whether it’s functional or decorative. There’s a strong message that whatever I feel like spending on, I will get my money’s worth.

Again, that should be no surprise to Blizzard fans. But it’s nice to see them turn out yet another game that strengthens my confidence their brand rather than testing it.

 

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