De-moba-lution

October 27, 2014 by Tim

There’s a conception among the MOBA genre that each new big game since DOTA gets progressively… simpler. “Casual” is the derogatory term I see thrown around quite often (though it also has crossover with MMOs). And there’s some merit to the argument.

League removed some of the perceived difficulty of DOTA in a move towards faster, more exciting matches. Heroes of the Storm is taking another step in the same direction. It rarely matters what mechanics these games might add, the subtractions are the headlines people focus on.

So there’s a related view that these newer, streamlined MOBAs are also less competitive, “easy-mode”, or “for kids.”

I tried some original DOTA when the mod first started circulating, but I never really got into it. I liked my Warcraft 3 as an RTS. Much later, I got into League of Legends pretty heavily for a couple of years. In the midst of it, I tried DOTA2 when that started beta, but it just never clicked with me.

Heroes of the Storm recently performed their final account wipe a few weeks ago, and so I’ve been back into playing the alpha, leveling my account back up for launch next year. Heroes of the Storm has done away with items. You no longer earn up gold to purchase stats to create a build. There is also no such thing as jungle, top, mid, AD carry, etc.

Instead heroes have a general role (melee/ranged damage, melee/ranged support), and pick from talents which augment their abilities as they level up. Last hitting is gone. Oh yeah, and experience is shared amongst the whole team; everyone levels up together.

HotS features some of the biggest shifts to the MOBA formula that I’ve seen, and yet, it all still works. It’s different, but it works. Playing Heroes of the Storm, I don’t feel any less challenged to compete or, more importantly, get any less enjoyment out of it because of some missing mechanics.

In fact, dare I say it, the matches may even be more enjoyable. Freed from preconceived notions about which heroes are allowed to play in which lanes, or the inevitable berating that follows having a bad laning phase/bad matchup, HotS was a lot more fluid.

In League, if you get queued with someone (or are the someone) that gets demolished in lane, it sets the entire team back. Team moral goes down, because you know you’re now carrying dead weight and the opposing team is so much stronger.

HotS never felt that way. There are still sufficient penalties to death; the enemy team gets experience and the respawn timers at high levels are pretty brutal. But with shared experience, you’re really in the game as a team.

And when you’re less worried about being the person that dies or feeds, and drags your team down for the rest of the game, everyone is more willing to get into where MOBAs really shine: teamfights. I’ve seen more early game hero on hero fights in HotS than any other game, and let’s be honest… the laning phase really only exists to facilitate late game teamfighting.

So when all is said and done, I reject the notion that simpler mechanics necessarily make for an “easier” game. The existence of on MOBA does not negate the existence of others, and as much as some players love the “my game or GTFO” mantra, there’s room for them all.

 


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