Today Blizzard opened the floodgates with information on Heroes of the Storm, the game that made waves two years ago when it was tentatively titled Blizzard All-Stars. Heroes of the Storm will undoubtedly draw comparisons with existing MOBA titles, but Blizzard is keen on differentiating their title, hence the Online Team Brawler moniker. While Heroes of the Storm may share certain elements with MOBA games, a number of key differences will likely shake up the landscape from a design perspective.
Firstly, Heroes of the Storm features a far more customizable and versatile talent system. As an example, players will be able to decide mid-match between different ultimate heroic abilities. This will undoubtedly create greater strategic choice for players and add yet another variable players will have to consider when playing a match. Blizzard offered a specific example with Arthas, the legendary Lich King, who can either summon the giant frost wyrm Syndragosa to do a strafing run or the ability to raise an army of undead to swarm opposing players. These options should allow for dynamic decisions even in the case of mirror matches. It will also make opposing players harder to read and anticipate.
Map variety is another key component for Heroes of the Storm and Blizzard is designing each battleground with unique interactive elements and features in hopes of creating far more dynamic matches. In an official statement, Blizzard notes that maps will allow players to "unlock the mysteries of each battleground, including ghostly pirate ships, the fickle Raven Lord, and massive grave golems to achieve a glorious victory." These unique elements will undoubtedly affect the overall strategy of each match.
Blizzard is also tailoring the game towards quicker, more action-packed matches around the 20-minute range with more intense back-and-forth player encounters. This is a far cry from most games in the competitive MOBA genre that tend to average 40-minutes in length. As an Online Team Brawler, Heroes of the Storm is tailoring all design aspects of the game to fit this fast and furious new standard.
As Blizzard's first free-to-play title, Heroes of the Storm will use a very standard approach to monetization focusing primarily on cosmetic upgrades in the forms of skins, equipment, and mounts. Whether or not mounts will provide some sort of gameplay advantage remains to be seen. Newly released characters will also be monetized, but Blizzard also intends to release new battlegrounds for free to all players. The show floor demo at Blizzcon featured 18 playable characters, but Blizzard assures that countless more heroes and villains will be added into the mix in the future. Blizzard is even considering adding additional talent trees and options for existing champions and unlockable content.
Blizzard is actively distancing itself from the MOBA genre by calling the free-to-play Heroes of the Storm an Online Team Brawler and hopes that the crossover of iconic champions and villains from the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo universes will win the hearts of players across the globe. Based on early impressions, it's certain that players will have to approach Heart of the Storm as a whole new beast in the competitive online gaming world.