At this point, the words “PC” and “League of Legends” are synonymous with one another. If you were to ask someone familiar with the medium about it, chances are it’d be the first thing that comes to mind, alongside perhaps its competitively toxic community. And as someone who’s dabbled more hours into it in the past than I’m willing to admit, it’s hard to ignore just how much of an issue that can be. Sure, you can report it all you want, but the sheer quantity of those griefing matches because one person didn’t do what they should have is endless. It’s partially why I left, alongside the game’s damagingly addictive nature (that’s a topic for another time) and in that, I often searched for a solid alternative. Oddly enough, I found that in the one place I didn’t expect, Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm.
The Calm Before the Storm
As a bit of background for those less knowledgable, Heroes of the Storm is essentially Blizzard’s answer to League of Legends mixed with a Super Smash Bros. style roster. Utilizing iconic characters from Blizzard’s award-winning IPs such as Diablo, Overwatch, and Starcraft, you jump into iconic locations from these universes and battle it out in the quest to destroy the enemy team’s base. Each map helps you towards that goal, with particular objectives gearing you closer and closer to victory, and teamwork taking center stage.
When Heroes of the Storm was released, it saw slightly favorable opinions among both critics and players, but a fair bit of criticism alongside that. In their defense, a lot of this was earned. It lacked a lot of the difficulty that other games had, removing the idea of last-hitting minions as an example. Naturally wasn’t a huge amount available for the competitive community, especially when compared with its competition. And the idea of talents, while intriguing, lacked that heightened sense of agency that items in League of Legends brought to the game. While the competitive crowd was and still is a tight-knit community (though a very passionate one at that), where Blizzard drew from was a community of gamers who liked League of Legends’ idea, but not so much the focus on a hyper-competitive nature that breeds the game’s toxicity issue. And with that, its diehard fanbase was born.
I myself first stepped foot into Heroes of the Storm back in late 2016, when the game was still in its infancy (relatively speaking). Few will remember this, but it was back when the game hosted its “Nexus Challenge” event, which rewarded those who played a few games with the Oni Genji skin in Overwatch. To say I was a fan of Overwatch at that time would be an understatement, so getting this skin was a must. Playing those five required games though, my companions and I quickly felt tired of it and logged off to likely never play it again. Alone though, I hopped back in, hoping to give the game a second chance without the primary goal hanging over my head (it was a really good skin). Surprisingly enough, I quickly found myself interested. There was something especially intriguing about the game’s focus toward the casual crowd. Blizzard had made something unique with Heroes of the Storm, and I was enthralled in it.
Like the Good Old Days
Fast forward a few years and about every six months, I’d jump back in for plenty of games for a week, only to stop for six more months and repeat the process. That eventually stopped after a few years, and I moved on to other endeavors. As it came into the beginning of June this year though and having broken free of League’s shackles for a nice chunk of time now, my itch for an enjoyable MOBA had returned. And that reminded me of the game I once cherished playing, even having brought a close friend of mine along for the ride. So away I was reinstalling Battlenet and Heroes of the Storm, ready to see how much the game had evolved over time.
To my lack of surprise, not much had changed, though I didn’t mind that. See, Blizzard went under fire over Heroes of the Storm a couple of years back, as a result of the game being pushed into maintenance mode. This was unheard of prior to the whole Activision-Blizzard partnership and, as we’re aware of now, was a sign of a drastic shift in company policy from gamers first to pockets first. In fact, the first article I ever wrote was on this very change (I’m admittedly not proud of how I used to write back then). As a result of this, HotS has seen only a few heroes and major changes come along in the following years, and a balancing update comes around once a month at best. With that, you might say “well at this point the game must be dead”. To my actual surprise this time, that seems to not be true. It’s not as lively as it once was, but I tend to find games within the first minute of searching for a match (two if it happens to be one of my midnight matches).
Why You Should Play
And jumping back in has been nothing short of awesome. Sure, there are still a few bad apples in the community, as any game has, but the love for its casual community is still unparalleled. Mind you, the community still holds that small, passionate competitive scene, but the casual experience is the main focus. It reminds me of the many fond memories I had years ago, and the nostalgia flow has been great. In fact, I’m likely to go play some more after I finish writing this up.
But I’d like to believe Heroes of the Storm is more than a simple nostalgia trip. There’s a lot to love about the game, and I genuinely feel that for casuals like myself, this is the alternative to League of Legends you’ve always wanted. The cast of characters is arguably more diverse than League’s roster, there are a lot more maps with plenty of objectives to learn, and a full set of talents worth experimenting with to find the best combinations. And if experimenting isn’t your sort of thing, a quick trip over to sites like HotsLogs or IcyVeins can remedy that problem easily. There’s so much on offer for casual fans, and it’s more than worth your time, especially as a free-to-play title.
That, and there’s a distinct lack of Darius stomping your team into oblivion.