Heroes of the Storm 2.0 Makes a Great Game Better [Zam]

Read the full article at Zam

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.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT ZAM

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Heroes of the Dorm Made Me an Esports Fan [Playboy]

My love of Heroes of the Storm never translated to the competitive esports scene, until Heroes of the Dorm.

Read the full article at Playboy

heroes of the dorm

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.”

Read the full article at Playboy

2015: My Year In Gaming

I recap a full year’s worth of gaming in 2015, including new games and my backlog progress.

2015

I should really cut down on all these annual blog posts. The holidays are busy enough, and in 2015 I expanded my Top Ten list into ten separate posts, followed by my full Game of the Year awards and Most Anticipated Games of 2016 lists.

It’s all done in self-indulgent fun. My annual Year In Gaming post is probably the most navel-gazing thing I write on here. Part journal entries and part gaming calendar, I recap what I played on a month-to-month basis, and what really stood out.

2015 was the first full year of being a part-time freelance writer, and most of that was spent writing about video games. I maintained my blog both here and on Game Informer, appeared on podcasts, and can now say I’ve been published on Playboy. I also played lots of great games!

2015 backloggery

Though not as many as last year. I mentioned in my last recap of Rogue’s Adventures that I generally have less game time these days.

Since I enjoy recording my play times and my game library, it has helped me cut down on buying new games – which is painfully easy when you primarily play on PC thanks to rampant Steam sales. I played less games in 2015 but overall my “Progress Index” improved this year, so I’m pretty satisfied.

Progress Index is how Backloggery.com measures your finished-to-unfinished games ratio. Currently I maintain a Beaten ratio of about 63%, which has held fairly steady all year.

On to the monthly breakdown! Continue reading “2015: My Year In Gaming”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: Full List and Awards

My annual Game of the Year list ranks my favorite games of 2015, as well as other fun awards and categories.

ori and the blind forest kuro

This year I wanted to do something a bit more fun with my annual Top Ten Games list. I wanted to give each game their proper due, with their own blog post for each of the 10 days leading up to Christmas. I barely kept pace but it was a lot of fun.

So if you’ve been following my blog you already know my Top Ten Games of the Year. This final list is important for other reasons: I directly compare the results of last year’s Most Anticipated list and 2015’s Mid-Year Top Five list, as well as assign various fun awards and rankings at the end.  Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: Full List and Awards”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #2

My #2 Game of the Year is by far my most played: Blizzard’s all-star MOBA, Heroes of the Storm.

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

#7 Ori and the Blind Forest

#6 Super Mario Maker

#5 Yo-Kai Watch

#4 Fallout 4

#3 Xenoblade Chronicles X

#2 Heroes of the Storm

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. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #2”

Heroes of the Storm Review

I’ve always hated MOBAs but leave it to Blizzard to craft the most enjoyable team hero brawler I’ve ever played.

Read the full review at CG Magazine

heroes of the storm

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.

Read the full review at CG Magazine

My Top Five Games of the Year (So Far)

I rank my top five games from the first half of 2015, and also list my five most anticipated games for the second half.

Why wait until the end of the year to rank my favorite games? I want to talk about great games now!

I’ve done a Top Ten list at the end of each year for the last four years, but this is my very first Top Five for the first half of a year. It’ll be a fun way to highlight some games that may be pushed out by year’s end, as well as reminding me of their greatness when it comes time for the final ranking. I’ll also list My Most Anticipated Games for the second half of 2015.

For reference, read my Most Anticipated Games of 2015 (written in January 2015).

 

My Top Five Games of the First Half of 2015

 

5) Evolve

evolve

I’ll admit that overall Evolve was a disappointment in total staying power, but for a good month when it came out it was all my friends and I played and talked about. Made by the Left 4 Dead developers, it was the closest game I’ve played that emulated that great co-op and survival aspect of those classic zombie games. Unfortunately the emphasis this time was on PvP, and the asymmetrical style and game modes made the experience grow a bit repetitive.

 

4) MASSIVE CHALICE

massive chalice wallpaper

I was a big fan (and backer) of MASSIVE CHALICE’s Kickstarter campaign, and absolutely loved how Brad Muir and Double Fine handled production. Bi-monthly live streams were fantastic and the Early Access beta was superb. Now I’m finally playing the final release and couldn’t be happier with this unique XCOM meets Rogue Legacy’s Traits. The breeding metagame is fun and challenging and the tactical combat scratches all the right itches. A real treat that perfectly delivered on its promise.

 

3) Splatoon

splatoon

Splatoon wasn’t even on my Most Anticipated list and really came out of nowhere for me. I’d only just recently aquired a Wii U and wasn’t sure about this quirky team shooter from Nintendo. Fear not, as Nintendo really struck gold with an amazingly simple but brilliant concept of covering arenas in paint. The short three minute matches ensure a steady stream of fun, and the post-game free additions and updates have been impressive. The only thing keeping this one from being nearer the top is the terrible local co-op mode, where it loses out big time to last year’s Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros.

 

2) Heroes of the Storm

heroes of the storm

Another game that sprung onto my radar. I’ve hated MOBAs for as long as they existed. Even when my friends were super into DOTA 2 I just couldn’t get into it. Leave it to Blizzard to draw me in with their streamlined gameplay, much shorter match lengths, and awesomely familiar characters. I’m super addicted to HotS and my friends and I practically play every evening. I easily see it as becoming this year’s Hearthstone (which I sunk over 140 hours into last year).

 

1) Pillars of Eternity

pillars of eternity

It took me 70 hours and two and a half months but I finally completed Obsidian’s latest Mangum Opus. I’ve always been a huge fan of computer RPGs but only just played and finished the highly revered Baldur’s Gate II last Summer. Pillars of Eternity is both a lovely spiritual successor to the golden age of cRPGS (late 90’s/Early 2000’s) and a great game with tons of wonderful innovations in its own right.

The intricate yet accessible combat system is wonderful, and the writing is absolutely top notch. For someone that went back to back to back with 70+ hour RPGs (Divinity: Original Sin, Dragon Age: Inquisition), Pillars still managed to completely enthrall me. Another title I was super proud and satisfied to have backed on Kickstarter, and a tough one to dethrone in the second half of the year.

 

Both Batman: Arkham Knight and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt were on My Most Anticipated List, but I still haven’t played them. Neither was probably going to be a Day One purchase; my gaming plate is consistently full and I have the luxury of waiting for most games to be deeply discounted before jumping in (and patches/updates to fix the game).

I definitely see myself playing both games before the end of the year when I have a bit more time. I’ve heard great things about both games. I’ve also recently acquired a few indie darlings in the last Steam Summer Sale, such as Crypt of the Necrodancer and Ori and the Blind Forest that I still need to play.

 

My Top Five Most Anticipated Games of the Second Half of 2015

(alphabetical order)

 

Cosmic Star Heroine

cosmic star heroine

The only game on here without a definite release date, Cosmic Star Heroine is another Kickstarter game being made by a developer I love (Zeboyd). Zeboyd understands old school JRPGs like no one else, and crafting a game in that SNES-era style using their subversive and funny writing and innovative mechanics sounds just peachy. Everything I’ve read and watched looks like it’s shaping up wonderfully and I hope we get a chance to play it this year.

 

Fallout 4

fallout 4 dog

Fallout 2 is one of my all time favorite games, and the franchise in general is one of my most beloved in gaming. Fallout 4 was an inevitability but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. I already know I’m going to love it and drop dozens (hundreds?) of hours into exploring another post-apocalyptic wasteland.

 

Just Cause 3

just cause 3

Just Cause 2 was an amazingly fun open world action game that eschewed any real characters or story-telling for pure mayhem and freedom of destruction. I especially loved the fun ways Rico could traverse the world, using his infinite grappling hooks and parachutes. If JC3 is just JC2 but more, I’m totally on board with that.

 

Super Mario Maker

super mario maker

This one has kept me attention for a while but it wasn’t until E3 and the Nintendo World Championship that I really set up and said, “Whoa.” My wife said we had to get this game and I swiftly agreed. The ability to make your own Mario levels sounds simple on the surface, but the incredible amount of tools and freedom to manipulate each object looks astonishing. I trust Nintendo to make it incredibly user-friendly and fun. As long as the online and sharing components are up to snuff, this could be a huge hit.

 

XCOM 2

xcom2 announcement

Despite being a big fan of tactical strategy games, I was late to the party with XCOM. I jumped on with Firaxis’ excellent remake back in 2012 (my #4 game of that year). Since then I’ve put 150 hours into XCOM over several playthroughs. I adore XCOM: its brutality, its emergent story-telling, its trend-setting UI and turn-based combat. My wife even bought me the XCOM board game for an anniversary present. To say I’m super excited for XCOM 2 would be a pretty big understatement. GIVE ME MORE XCOM!

 

There you have it! Can’t wait to revisit this list when it’s time to make my final top ten list at the end of the year. Will my anticipated predictions hold up? Will these Top Five make it to the final round? Stay tuned!