Blizzard Entertainment announced their response to the growing popularity of the Action Real-Time Strategy genre with Blizzard Dota back in 2010, which eventually transformed into Heroes of the Storm. After letting it froth in beta development since 2013, Blizzard is ready to release Heroes officially in June, but a lot remains to be done before it is up to the standards of polish that Blizzard has maintained since 1996.
Although the game is already one of the best third-party ARTS on the market, Heroes of the Storm is riddled with problems, both big and small. The most obvious issues are technical, as some players aren’t able to play the game optimally, despite having computers that run other games perfectly at a smooth sixty frames per second. A myriad of other small bugs also plague the Heroes beta, ranging from graphical problems in the user interface to gameplay bugs involving Abathur’s mount ability. While this is expected in a beta test environment, the number of bugs is too high to match the release quality that Blizzard is known for.
While bugs can be worked out, a blatant lack of polish makes Heroes’ upcoming release date seem far too soon. Some heroes’ skill icons are directly imported from other Blizzard games, like Starcraft 2 and World of Warcraft, but aren’t properly retouched to look better at the increased size that Heroes of the Storm displays them. Not only do some icons look bad up close, others aren’t even slightly related. For example, Anubarak’s Burrow Charge icon is taken from the Starcraft 2’s Zealot movement speed upgrade, which shows a zealot’s leg moving swiftly. Obviously, Anubarak doesn’t have robotic legs, which, while completely harmless, isn’t up to par with other Blizzard titles.
Graphical problems and ugly textures are the most obvious problems in Heroes of the Storm, but basic flaws with the game’s design are much larger issues that Blizzard must fix before the game is released. Heroes’ talent system allows players to build their hero and its abilities to their liking, but each series of options isn’t as strongly designed as would be up to Blizzard’s standards. Most sets of talents have one or two options that are much stronger than the others, leaving players with less actually viable options than a game design might want. There will always be a ‘best’ choice for a specific situation, but the problem starts when one option is the best for most situations. Over powered talents aren’t Heroes’ only gameplay problem, though. Boring talents stand in stark contrast to Blizzard’s keystone game design philosophy for Heroes of the Storm. Not everything is perfectly balanced in Heroes of the Storm, but, no matter how unbalanced things get, each character or ability should at least be fun to play with. Even if a talent allows a hero to deal bonus damage against other heroes, it won’t be as fun or interesting as one that gives the hero a new active ability.
Heroes of the Storm’s release isn’t just another way for Blizzard to make more money and, therefore, carries more weight with it than other game releases. When HOTS is released, it is going to send a message to thousands of ARTS players across the world about how great ARTS can be with proper direction and care. Blizzard’s newest franchise breaks the genre into its most basic components and trims the fat to create the most pure and entertaining game of its type that harkens back to the older, forgotten trailblazers like Advent of the Zenith and Tides of Blood. This means that Blizzard needs to take special care before releasing their great, but unfinished game to the public.