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Travis Morrow

Travis Morrow is a writer who really likes peanut butter. He plays Dota2, HotS, and lots of tabletop games. Occasionally he jabbers on his personal site.

Bloodlust isn’t as Good as You Think

Or: How to Rehgar to best effect.

Despite his history as a gladiator, Rehgar isn’t a front line fighter in Heroes of the Storm. Sure, he’s beefier than the ranged support, but he can’t stand toe-to-toe with any warrior the way Uther can, and most assassins will eat him. He doesn’t have the strongest basic heal and his disable is good when placed properly but lacks the obvious power of Polymorph or Lunar Flare. It’s like Entangling Roots but just slows, not stops. Lightning Shield is great to drop on your beefy warriors who always find themselves in the thick of it and Ghost Wolf makes you slippery and mobile.

Rehgar’s strengths are in his mobility, mana efficiency, and the diversity of his toolbox. His weaknesses are that none of his abilities, outside of his ultimates, are game changers and his contribution to a team fight, aside from his abilities, is low. He doesn’t hit hard, even in Ghost Wolf, and can often get in the way of Sonya the Slayer, Illidan, or Stitches.

So how do you build and use Rehgar to make him shine? How do you maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses? Well, first let’s talk about his abilities.

Ding Dong the Artifacts are Gone

That was quick. A raucous community outcry, Blizzard developers listened, and a feature that an overwhelming majority of the player base loathed was removed. They even adjusted talent unlocks a bit, sort of as a bonus prize. (There was some vitriol about the talent gating but the focus of the ire was on the artifacts.)

The reasoning for artifacts was a bit dubious given the implementation.

Artifacts were designed to provide you with a meaningful way to spend gold, while also providing additional options to customize your heroes.

 

Meaningful? Customize heroes? Does a raw statistical boost do that? Does my Nova hitting 10% harder for 10% less life really show a customized hero? Were any of the artifacts meaningful beyond the compulsory obligation to pick the correct one?

Pish posh. Regardless of the motivations, artifacts have been pitched. No more artifacts. Gone gone gone.

Right?

Don’t be so sure. I suspect they’ll appear again, but it in a different form. After all, the reasoning is good – gold will eventually pile up and tweaking how Sonya behaves in a match can reflect a player’s preferred style. That’s a great idea.

So artifacts should come back but not as they were. The artifacts should reflect HotS’s central idea: player options. Instead of looking for a match and then picking your hero, you pick your hero and then find a match where you fit. Rather than leveling a suite of abilities akin to Dota2, you get options for them or entirely different talents to change what you bring to a match. Brightwing can crowd control better or call down a MULE and keep structures alive. Bribe mercs or hit harder. These are good things.

So how do artifacts fit into this idea? Talents already offer a way to change how a hero is played in a game, right? A healing Rehgar, an aggressive Rehgar. However, Rehgar is still Rehgar. If you pick Bloodlust and you don’t lose Chain Heal. And when the talents buff or alter an ability, it’s usually subtle or small. For example, an extra .75 seconds on Nova’s tazer round or 20% more distance on Falstad’s barrel roll. Not the most profound alteration.

That’s what artifacts should give: powerful alterations to your hero. Not just an extra 20% to mounted speed but, rather, trade offs. A way to demonstrate a play style, especially in a premade group. Imagine this, just as a jumping off point:

Gazlowe has an artifact that modifies his Rock-It! Turrent into a Sentry Turret. It lasts twice as long, does 1/3 of the damage but reveals stealthed units in its vision radius. He has another artifact that transforms his the turret into a weaker version of a Moonwell – no damage, same duration, 3 charges and restores 15% or so of a hero’s health and mana overtime. Obviously this means that the talent effects will need to be reworked and adjusted to properly effect the artifacts but, that’s what alpha is for. Testing, trying, playing with ideas.

I’d like to see Blizzard attempt something like this with an artifact system. Each artifact is 1,000 gold, you can only have 3 on a hero.

This idea might be too complex and the artifact system may not return, or not in this form. Regardless, the stat boosts are gone and Heroes of the Storm is once again fun, versatile, and simple.

If I wanted to play League, I’d play League

One of the major reasons I played Dota and Dota2 for so long was that I knew my work in the game, no matter how good or bad, was relegated to that game. My opponents were in the same position. The fat, farmed Doom would have to start over in the next fight. No advantages. Everyone starts at zero. That feels good. That feels competitive. Sure, outside of this game you’ve been working on CS and I’ve been practicing lurking for ganks but that’s the amorphous “player skill” component, not a raw numerical advantage. That’s why athletic competitions are so dramatic and captivating – no team or player starts off with an extra point on the board, a field advantage, or a extra player. In games and events where there are those advantages, like starting position in NASCAR, there are time trials before the race to determine the starting position. The others create as equal a footing as possible for all players and, ostensibly, let t the mastery of the game determine the winner.

I Don’t Want to Hear It

stitches-with-bra-feature-boxOne of the first things, it might even be the first thing come to think of it, I do when I join a Dota2 match is mute everyone on the other team. They’ve never said anything I needed to hear anyway. Any potential for humor, meaningful exchanges, friendly asides has already been destroyed by playing this game. What they’re going to say probably cruel, racist, sexist, homophobic, insulting, angry, demeaning, and pointless. So I mute them. It helps. Sometimes I mute my teammates if they’re especially vitriolic or crude but not always. They might  say something useful, organize a gank, or talk about a useful push strat.

I love that I can’t communicate with the enemy team in Heroes. Love it. I don’t want to talk to them. If I want to, I can friend them and chat that way but the freedom to scream via a keyboard at a stranger on the internet is gone, and I don’t miss it.

Hero Guide: Nova

Nova is a nasty little hero – a ranged assassin. She’s a predator, a ganker, pure and simple. She can lane and pick up a few talents that boost her laning potential, but Nova shines when she’s cloaked, stalking, and punishing heroes low on life. Or not low on life. With a single ally nearby, Nova can bring almost anyone down. She’s fragile though, and a few hits from enemies is enough to kill her. Used correctly, Nova is brutal and terrifying. Used poorly, she’s free food.

Raven Lords, Dragon Knights, and Pirates

I’ve played about twenty games of Heroes since I was inducted into the Alpha about a week back. The first few were against bots, with bots, but once versus opened up I jumped in and went to town. I don’t know what my record is and I don’t care much to know – what I do know is that collecting and using the environmental boons is the most fun I’ve had as a support player in a long, long time.

Creep stacking is boring. It get tedious quickly, you never reap the rewards from it directly, and you spend most of your time dodging enemies, watching a clock, and trying to ensure the ancients are piled high enough for your AM to butcher.Sure, there’s some quirky fun to be had pulling creeps, stacking neutrals, XP denying by raiding camps, but it’s an empty sort of fun. I’m working for someone else. My decisions have been made for me. I want to help and that means creep stacking and babysitting.

Heroes of the Storm has freed me from that routine. I still babysit the assassins and warriors; but it feels less obligatory. They’re capable and nasty from the get go. My presence with a shield or HoT just amplifies their threat. I can wander and collect tributes, help control or contest shrines, hoard doubloons to buy artillery bombardments. I like that. The maps are small enough to give me room to work, to hit merc camps and wittle them down, but to slide back into a fight and shield Kerrigan before she dies. I’m out of the fighting, but not entirely. I get to help my team but I’m not stuck stacking creeps.

Instead, my tributes weaken minions and towers. My doubloons get cannon fire. I’m useful in an active sense, not a passive one. I got twenty skulls and made our golem even better. I like helping my team. I love contributing to fights with heals and buffs, stuns, and crowd control. I can do that, and I can power us up with a rampaging Dragon Knight who breathes fire and kicks enemies.

Everyone wins.

Except the red team.

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A MOBA by any Other Name

Dota 2 is complicated. It doesn’t have a learning curve so much as a learning wall. The volume of information to memorize and master is immense and intimidating: the multitude of hero builds, items, crafting, ward locations, creep respawn timers, rune types and timers, the hundreds of hero powers and status effects that can change them. Factor in team fight tactics, lane strategies, and meta game organization and the game has moved from complex to daunting, even unwieldy. That’s just the knowledge required to play, not the mechanical skill required from the player like last hitting, hero ability timing, and map awareness. I’ve put more 500 hours into Dota 2, and about as many in the original, and I’m passable with a few heroes.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Heroes of the Storm so in my first game at BlizzCon I dropped my expectations. Whatever I played was whatever I was going to judge the game on. I’ve read the briefs from Blizzard, watched the videos, but I wanted to go in as open as possible. I did, I think. Over the course of the two day Blizzard celebration I spent about 4 hours with Heroes of the Storm and played 6 games with different heroes each time. My time certainly wasn’t wasted. Heroes is fun, but that’s almost unnecessary to say as a fan of MOBAs. It’s got the standard trappings – lanes, heroes, pushing, and frantic team fighting – but Heroes does a few things differently.

First, there are no items (and no gold!). None. At all. No health potions, no tangos, no town portal scrolls. Your hero has a town portal ability that recharges. I don’t miss the items. They serve a purpose in other MOBAs but items usually come with the baggage of being boring most of the time. They improve stats or damage, rarely adding powers or altering the ones a hero has. It’s easy to be crippled by missing an item or two because you’re not attacking as fast as you should be. The lack of items means the hero powers improve significantly on their own or via talents. It’s a simple system that leaves more cognitive power for fighting and less for GPM and shopping.

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No last hitting. This isn’t unique to Heroes, *cough*League of Legends*cough*, but it’s not common either. Last hitting is usually the sign of a precise, skilled player in Dota. It’s how you earn most of your gold. With no gold to gather, last hitting has gone out the window. I don’t mind it in Dota but I didn’t miss it here.

Shared XP. Not reduced XP when another hero is close by, but even, shared XP for all heroes. Everyone levels at the same time. Your carries won’t be 22 while your support are struggling at 10. The even power curve makes everyone solid in a team fight – no Crystal Maiden syndrome.

Mounts! What’s a Blizzard game without animals you can sit on? Mounts do exactly what you’d expect – they help the heroes move faster. Easier grouping, more team fights. Everyone wins, except those that die.

The differences Heroes has from the other MOBAs reflect the game’s thesis: it’s about the hero punching, plain and simple. There are creep waves and towers and forts but Heroes wants you and your friends to square off against 5 opponents and beat each other silly. It succeeds on that goal – no one I spoke with didn’t enjoy their time with Heroes and want more.

So who were the heroes I played?

Falstad and Nova from the Assassins, Sonya from the Warriors, Malfurion and Uther from Support, and Abathur from the Specialists type. The highlights:

  • I enjoyed Malfurion the most but that’s because I’m biased – I love playing support and looking like a weirdo. He heals well, roots, and silences.
  • Uther heals well, gives his buddies invulnerability through Divine Shield, and can stun. Like any paladin, he’s sort of a frustration to counter but rewarding to play.
  • Nova is a sniper. Chances are that if she shot you, you’re not going to live very long. She hits hard, summons an annoying clone, and can call a nuclear strike. It’s as great as it sounds.
  • Abathur is…different. He’s interesting. He’s a mix of Lifestealer and Wisp which makes him absolutely terrible to fight against. He’s rated “Very Hard” to play and it shows.
  • It’s not that Falstad isn’t fun, it’s that the others were much more fun. I really liked flying over the jungle and descending on enemies as a hammer throwing alcoholic.
  • Sonya didn’t feel particularly special. Her abilities are simple and straight forward, as one would expect a barbarian would be. Maybe for the carries out there that like fighting and fighting and fighting (any Alchemist fans?) but she was the lull in my hero selection.

Heroes is a fun game so far. I want to play more. Boy do I want to play more. Hint hint, community reps. It’s got some room to grow and I look forward to watching (and hopefully playing) as it does so.

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