Blizzard’s online service Battle.net wasn’t quite my first foray into online gaming, but it did solidify my love of computer gaming throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. Many a Friday evening in the early days of high school were spent constructing marines and mowing down Zerg with friends. To say I have deeply ingrained nostalgia for StarCraft is an understatement.
StarCraft: Remastered is a very faithful HD update to one of the best strategy games ever created. It suffers a bit from forgoing any gameplay or UI updates that strategy games from the last two decades have evolved (such as StarCraft 2). But make no mistake, StarCraft: Remastered makes a great game better.
No one would accuse Activision-Blizzard of being the “little guy.” But when it comes to the MOBA space, Heroes of the Storm remains in a distant third (or maybe even fourth) position behind Valve’s Dota 2 and the reigning champion, Riot’s League of Legends.
For the last two years, Heroes of the Storm has benefited from a steady flow of balance patches and additional heroes and battlegrounds. The iterative updates have culminated in a massive overhaul known as Heroes of the Storm 2.0.
The Heroes 2.0 update launched in April, adding an entirely new loot chest system, revamped experience and leveling, UI improvements, and more Overwatch content. It has never been a better time to jump into the most intuitive and user-friendly MOBA.
I love the Blizzard game Heroes of the Storm. But despite its growing popularity as an esport, I’d never cared much about the competitive scene. That all changed when I spotted my wife’s alma mater among the college teams on the bracket for Blizzard’s second annual “Heroes of the Dorm” tournament. I suddenly found myself tuning into broadcasts and cheering on my adopted team. I learned about popular strategies and costly mistakes. I watched scrappy underdogs win against all odds, while big favorites fell apart. I forged a love for insightful commentary, risky gameplay, and college rivalries. I became a fan.
Heroes of the Dorm is the first of its kind—a college esports competition broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3. This year the tournament returned more popular than ever, and could be viewed on on Twitch, YouTube, ESPN2 and ESPNU. The Final Four and Grand Finale air today and tomorrow.
“Heroes of the Dorm is so cool because we’re from this culture that recognizes the growth of esports and how it provides a really positive form of entertainment,” says Adam Rosen, co-founder of college esports organization TESPA. “You tune into an average esports competition, you might not know who Evil Geniuses or Team Liquid are. You tune into ESPN and see Cal Berkeley vs Arizona State in the finals and you’re gonna have some affiliation with those schools.”
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. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #2”
Playing new standalone expansion Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void is like slipping on a comfortable pair of slippers, or ordering your “usual” at a frequented restaurant. Knowing what you’re going to get is comforting. Legacy of the Void relies on your familiarity and love of Starcraft to create an enjoyable, if cheesy, campaign. And there are enough new features to warrant a return to the war-torn Koprulu Sector.
There’s a poem titled “Ode to the RTS” rattling around in my brain somewhere. If you grew up playing PC games in the 90s it was pretty tough not to become a fan of the real time strategy genre. Blizzard and Westwood competed for our love with their growing mega-franchises, while numerous knock-offs flooded the market. It was a magical time.
These days you have Starcraft II, and that’s about damn it. When Blizzard announced the sequel I was ecstatic; Starcraft was (and still is I guess) one of my all time favorite games.
Then they announced that SC2 would be split up between three games, with the three races’ campaigns as their own standalone games. Because it’s Blizzard, these games took years to come out. Five years after Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, we finally get the third and final Starcraft II experience in Legacy of the Void.
Blizzard Entertainment doesn’t release very many games. They still have only a handful of franchises to their name, and half of them have “craft” in the title. Blizzard has abstained from releasing yearly entries in its popular franchises like many big gaming companies do, instead releasing just one or two games a year total, then giving players years’ worth of post-game updates, improvements, support, and the occasional paid expansion.
Blizzard’s successful approach to mainstream gaming and commitment to their games has never been more apparent than with Diablo 3. Originally released in 2012, an agonizingly long 12 years after Diablo 2, the latest entry made the surprising changes of breaking and reconstructing many of the series’ (and the whole genre’s) beloved systems. And fans were not happy.
Skill points were completely scratched, the game instead rewarding everyone with the same skills and skill-runes every level. The art style was bemoaned as being far too bright and cartoony compared to the series’ former Gothic, sinister tones. An auction house, at which you could buy other players’ in-game items and sell your own, destroyed the exhilaration of finding your own loot, and a real money store—where you simply paid the developer for stuff—threatened the game’s basic integrity.
Then there was the infamously derided always-online component, which forced even those that just wanted to play by themselves to sign into Blizzard’s servers, at the constant mercy of their internet connection. On launch day players who simply couldn’t play the game they had just purchased spewed enough bile to fill a Grotesque.
Many purists and diehards of the genre quickly dismissed Diablo 3 in 2012. But then a funny thing happened. You see, underneath all these derided changes beat the demonic soulstone of a solid action-role-playing game. The desire to swiftly kill things to get more powerful and get fancy loot so that you can then kill more things is still a winning formula. Its near universal popularity has been co-opted by shooters and action games like Borderlands and Destiny, and is particularly adept at bringing friends together in a more relaxed, cooperative environment.
I hated MOBAs. These weird games that called themselves Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas have all but supplanted my beloved Real Time Strategy genre. Requiring minute micromanagement, synchronized teamwork, and a critical familiarity with dozens of heroes and hundreds of abilities, MOBAs are not exactly known for their accessibility.
Leave it to Blizzard, the masters of gameplay iteration, to create by far the most accessible and enjoyable “Online Hero Brawler”. By leveraging their famous stable of larger-than-life characters and streamlining every single aspect of the genre, Blizzard have crafted one of the most enjoyable team multiplayer games I’ve played in years.