In its quest to make Heroes of the Storm as approachable as possible, Blizzard has made one grievous error: they only offered players one competitive gameplay mode before become eligible for ranked “Hero League” matches. This hurts the game in a number of ways. Thankfully, it’s also easily fixable.
Like the games that inspired its creation (Dota 2, League of Legends), Heroes of the Storm is a 5-vs.-5 team-based experience. That doesn’t just mean you spend multiplayer matches running around hacking at monsters and doing whatever else you feel like for 20 or 30 minutes. You have to collaborate with your teammates every step of the way towards victory or defeat if you want to play the game effectively. Working together to master increasingly complicated challenges and best your foes is what makes the game so much fun.
Before you can play Heroes of the Storm as a valuable member of any team, however, you have to learn about all the basic elements and processes that go into collaborative gameplay. Currently, Heroes makes doing so far more difficult than it needs to be.
See, until you reach level 30, the only real player-versus-player gameplay mode available to you is “Quick Match.” As the name implies, these are meant to be brisk, simple, easy fun. Whereas in Hero League you have a window of time before the game actually starts to talk with your teammates and decide who is going to play what characters, in Quick Match you just dive right in. Unless you’re in a party with Battle.net friends, there’s no way to make important decisions about a team’s composition.
Blizzard’s omission here limits players’ ability to educate themselves on the finer details of Heroes of the Storm, particularly if they’re in a position where they either a) don’t have any friends who play the game, or b) play the game more seriously and regularly than their friends do. You basically have to go with the luck of the draw in Quick Match after Quick Match until you finally reach level 30 and can start to hone in on the subtle nuances of specific character combinations and collective team builds.
So if you get stuck with a team full of support heroes, or assassins, or any other less-than-ideal combination? Tough luck! The game says. You’re just gonna have to power through this one. Heroes also denies its players a surrender option—i.e., any chance to make an easy exit from a frustrating situation.
This is a classic Blizzard move in the worst way possible. It’s just like the way they forced Diablo III players to grind their way through the entire campaign once at a difficulty level many found so easy that it made the game mindless and uninteresting before they could jump into better, higher difficulty gameplay modes.
The creative decision for Heroes is doubly frustrating because the game’s competitors already had a better system in place long before this game became available.
League of Legends, for instance, lets pre-level 30 players participate in a number of different game modes, each with a different level of seriousness and assumed difficult attached to it. Blind Pick matches let every team member choose at the same time and allows opposing teams to have the same champions, which lends itself to more of an “anything goes” mentality. Draft Pick, meanwhile, makes players choose their characters in a specific order and appoints a team captain who can ban a handful of champions from the oncoming game. This allows you to imitate the form and style of League’s fiercely competitive ranked gameplay mode long before you can actually participate in it, which is a smart way to help players prepare for what’s in store for them once they reach level 30.
Any game that offers a competitive ranked gameplay mode should offer its players the means to try that mode out before they have to dive in and start suffering the consequences of winning or losing. Heroes doesn’t do a good enough job at that yet. All the game needs to fix that is another gameplay mode—one that sits between the carefree fun of Quick Matches and their increasingly combative counterparts in Hero League.