My Top Ten Games of 2015
#10 MASSIVE CHALICE
#5 Yo-Kai Watch
#4 Fallout 4
#2 Heroes of the Storm
If you follow me on twitter you’ve seen my automated Daily Play reports courtesy of Raptr. You’ve probably noticed that a day rarely passes that I haven’t played Heroes of the Storm.
There’s usually a few games a year that I settle in as my primary multiplayer outlet with friends. This year it started with Evolve in February, which we were all excited about. Like most it fizzled out after a few weeks. Things were dire for a few months until Blizzard emerged onto the crowded MOBA market with their own take on the genre, starring all the heroes and champions of Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft, and even the Lost Vikings.
Long have I disliked the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre, which has all but supplanted my beloved Real-Time Strategy. I tried DotA 2 for a few hours and it just didn’t click, despite my friends really enjoying it. Games were too long and the learning curve too steep, leading to endless frustration.
Leave it to Blizzard to finally craft a MOBA experience I could get behind. By shortening matches, streamlining leveling, and offering multiple levels and objectives, Heroes of the Storm is the easy to play, hard to master MOBA that I’d apparently been waiting for.
Six Months, 230 hours, over 500 games. Those are my current stats on Heroes of the Storm, and it doesn’t feel like it’s going to slow down any time soon. It has become my de facto evening cool down, and a great way to unwind with friends. I even sucked my wife into it, and we enjoy cooperatively playing against the AI.
The MOBA genre is notoriously competitive and dense, but HotS does its best to ease you in. Instead of matches lasting 40-60 minutes or more in other games like League of Legends and Dota 2, the average match here is less than 20 minutes, with super-long, close games maybe getting to the 30 minute mark.
Everyone on the same team levels up together, minimizing the skill gap between teammates and emphasizing cooperation. Gone are overwhelming item houses and gold needed to perfect a certain build; instead you select from a series of Talents every few levels, allowing you to slightly tailor your chosen hero on the fly. Instead of one map you play hundreds of times, Blizzard offered a dozen choices with unique map objectives and strategies.
All of these important changes help make Heroes of the Storm the most accessible, and in my opinion, the most enjoyable MOBA on the market.
It helps that my friends and I are all big Blizzard fans. This year we got back into Diablo 3 thanks to a simple patch, and at this point I’ve spent well over 300 hours over the last three years fighting back the forces of Hell in Sanctuary. And of course, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void made my Game of the Year list at #9.
Playing with all of Blizzard’s larger-than-life characters and smashing them together is a fun novelty that’s yet to fully wear off thanks to Blizzard’s colorful art style and funny dialogue. It’s fun seeing all the heroes represented with unique abilities, playstyles, and classes. Nova and Zeratul are both deadly cloaked assassins but play completely differently.
The best teams have a good balance but often just plain superior teamwork will emerge victorious. This can often lead to frustration playing with random allies, but more often than not I’ve found the community to be at least serviceable or fairly quiet compared to other online games.
It helps that Heroes of the Storm offers a fully capable (though oft-exploitable) Versus AI mode. You can even gain experience, gold, and complete Daily Quests without ever having to play against another person, which is incredibly user-friendly. Did I mention most Daily Quests simply task you with playing certain hero classes or factions instead of needing to win? Everyone can earn gold, buy heroes, and have fun.
Heroes of the Storm has absolutely dominated my play time this year, as Blizzard’s own Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft did last year. I thought I was completely soured on MOBAs but let this be a lesson to always try something new (see also my #3 Game of the Year). It’s been addicting and fun to complete Daily Quests and level up various heroes, and Blizzard have churned out new heroes and maps at a nice steady drip. I look forward to dumping even more hours into it well into 2016….at least until Blizzard’s Overwatch comes out.