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Heroes of the Storm Can Help You Overcome Your MOBA Fears

Can you MOBA? No? That's ok. That's cool.

Heroes of the Storm

I’ve dabbled in multiplayer online battle arena games before, but for me, MOBAs still remain this elaborate puzzle I have yet to crack. For one, MOBAs involve strategy, which I kind of suck at. But with more MOBAs cropping up on PC, consoles, and mobile all the time and influencing other games (first-person shooters like Dirty Bomb and even Call of Duty), they’re becoming harder to ignore. Especially when Blizzard — one of the biggest names in gaming — releases its own version, a little game called Heroes of the Storm (out this month). It’s a MOBA wrapped up in StarCraft, World of Warcraft, and Diablo-themed paper.

So it’s time to tough up, learn to strategize, and see what this whole MOBA thing is about.

Thankfully, as more MOBAs emerge, gamers will have more ways to figure out the genre without flailing about awkwardly (as much). Half of understanding MOBAs is the language — lanes, ganks, carries, creeps and minions, junglers, what does it all mean?! The other half is, well, knowing what to do as you play, including how to make the most of your hero or champion.

If this already sounds like a lot and makes you want to quit, don’t worry. I’ve been there. Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm makes learning MOBAs a lot simpler. Here are a few reasons why you should give it a try.

The tutorial is amazing for beginners

Heroes of the Storm - Kaelthas

Blizzard made card-battling more accessible when it launched Hearthstone, and it’s done the same for MOBAs with Heroes of the Storm. For one, the introductory tutorials — which you play through, not read through — break everything down into itty-bitty basics and teach you how MOBAs work one step at a time.

This interactive training consists of three parts, and by the time you’re done, you’re ready to go. Blizzard has done a lot to make Heroes of the Storm as simple as possible, so the learning curve? Not as big as you’d think compared to other MOBAs like League of Legends or Dota 2. And hey, maybe that’s due to Blizzard viewing Heroes of the Storm as a “team brawler” rather than a traditional MOBA.

The only thing I wish Blizzard had included was a primer on the different hero types — the Assassins, Warriors, Support, and Specialists, and whether they’re melee or ranged, for example — and how best to use them.

Graduating to real matches isn’t that scary

Heroes of the Storm - Garden of Terror

Once you’re finished training, it’s time to choose your hero and either engage in matches against “bots” (with computer or human teammates) in the Versus A.I. mode or throw down for a Quick Match with all-real players. I took a few more deep breaths than I needed to when starting my first real game in Heroes of the Storm. (The last training session in the tutorial made me worried because there was so much going on my screen was threatening to explode.) Granted, I lost my first matches, but I had fun and didn’t feel intimidated.

Part of that is because Heroes of the Storm is set and go. Before a match, you don’t have to mess with a complicated layout for things like runes and masteries. And once you’re on a map, you don’t have to worry about buying items from a store at your base — which means no potions, no equipment, no buffs, and no wards. All you do is play, and as you play, you level up your hero. Doing so lets you choose from Talents, which are basically boosts and mods to your main Abilities, or skills.

Everything you learned in those beginning tutorials you put into play here.

Map themes keep the mood fun and light

Heroes of the Storm - Sky Temple

Each map, or “battleground,” in Heroes of the Storm features a different set of rules.

The Garden of Terror, for example, has players pushing lanes and killing heroes like usual and then entering the jungle at night to destroy evil plants called Shamblers and collect their seeds. With 100 seeds, a team can raise their own Garden Terror to control and, well, terrorize the enemy team. You ride on the back of a giant beast and plow through defense structures like they’re tinker toys and enemy heroes like they’re ants.

The Sky Temple is all the standard fare until ancient temples activate across the Egyptian-style map. Once that happens, you need to rush to the temples, stand within their circle, and defend and hold the territory so your team can use the temple’s laser power against your enemy’s forts.

Whether it’s night falling or temples activating, these moments only last for a short time before it’s back to the routine. But these game twists do a lot to help break up play and give new players a goal to latch onto, even when they’re bad at the regular stuff.

The only bummer for newbies is that once you’re deep in a match (maybe 10-25 minutes, depending), the respawn time is a minute long. So if you die quickly and frequently, you might feel frustrated that you’re sitting out on the action so much. (If you’re having trouble, you can always try choosing a hero with a lower difficulty rating or a different type. Supports are generally recommended for beginners as they’re more about helping teammates than fighting head-on.)

Yup, and it’s free

Heroes of the Storm - Shop

Did I not mention that? Like other MOBAs, Heroes of the Storm is free to play. You don’t need to spend any money to enjoy it. By earning gold from matches, you can purchase new heroes for permanent use or just pick whoever’s on the free rotation that week.

If you want to lay down some cash, you can buy “stimpacks” that give you bonus experience and gold for either a week or a month, purchase new skins for your heroes (think of the variant designs and outfits for characters in fighting games), or buy different mounts, like a rainbow unicorn or a flying carpet.

It’s all cosmetic stuff, and you’re not totally deprived if you don’t want to pay — the more experience you gain, the more you increase your player level and hero level. You can earn some nice rewards from doing that. Some are small, but later on, when you reach levels 30 and 40 and own at least 10 heroes, you can unlock the Hero League and Team League modes.

If you’re worried you can never figure out the complexity that is a MOBA, stop fretting. Heroes of the Storm is just what you’re looking for. It definitely was for me.

Stephanie Carmichael writes about video games, comics, and books when she’s not helping teachers and students have fun together with Classcraft, an educational RPG. Find her on her blog or on Twitter.

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