The Massive Online Battle Arena genre – better known as MOBA – has been around for over a decade now, but only received widespread awareness in the last few years. As you may or may not already know, the game that started it all was the original Defense of the Ancients, aka DotA. The game was created as a mod for Blizzard’s Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos and was later improved in the expansion Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne. While certainly unique and innovative for its time, DotA wasn’t nearly as popular back in the day as modern MOBAs are because of its difficult and competitive nature. The genre only really caught on in 2009 with Riot’s release of League of Legends, a game just as competitive, but a little more user-friendly and helpful with new players.
Riot not only sparked the modern MOBA movement, but also came up with the name for the genre, which didn’t really have one until that point as there weren’t any other notable games similar to DotA around. 2009 was also the year when Valve hired IceFrog, one of the creators of the original map, to work on Dota 2. This lead to a heated trademark dispute between Valve and both Riot and Blizzard over the use of the name, which Valve eventually won and followed by releasing Dota 2 back in 2013. While League of Legends and DOTA 2 are by far the most popular, there have been other MOBA games over the years, with notable mentions going to Heroes of Newerth and Smite.
That brings us to the present where a new MOBA that promises a lot is currently in its alpha phase and gearing towards the beta. The game in question is Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s own take on a genre that was created using their own engine. While the company is a little late to the party, Heroes of the Storm is shaping up to be a great game with an overall different feel than all the other MOBAs. But will it be able to compete with League of Legends, Dota 2, Smite, HoN and all the upcoming ones like Strife, Dawngate, and Arena of Fate? Well, aside from Dota 2 which is a faithful recreation of the original, the other enumerated games all bring something new to the table that make them stand out from the crowd. League of Legends is the most successful so far, but Smite is also becoming pretty popular lately thanks to its unique third-person view.
So what does Heroes of the Storm have to offer that we haven’t already seen? For one, it has Blizzard’s name on it which is something that always attracts plenty of attention in the gaming community. The game also features heroes from across all three major Blizzard universes: Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. I mean, who doesn’t want to see Arthas going toe-to-toe with Kerrigan and Tyrael? In terms of mechanics, Heroes of the Storm does a couple of things different and is arguably less challenging than all the other MOBAs, certainly less challenging than DOTA 2. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it makes for a more casual and fun experience, as opposed to the rage inducing one that’s normally associated with these games.
While all MOBAs are build around team play, Heroes of the Storm does it a little better by allowing players to feel equal and level up roughly at the same time. Blizzard succeeded this by creating a game where there are no last hitting mechanics and players receive gold even if their team mates scored a kill on the other side of the map. Basically, you won’t have to worry about farming as you’ll have gold thanks to the other players in your team and in turn, they will have gold thanks to your actions on the battlefield. By removing the need to worry about gold, Heroes of the Storm manages to keep you focused on the non stop action, but it also means that matches are generally less shorter than what you’ll see in other MOBAs. All these differences can be seen as both strengths and weaknesses, depending on what the player is looking for in a MOBA game.
In conclusion, Heroes of the Storm is bound to become popular and will probably be able to compete with just about any other MOBA out there aside from Dota 2 and League of Legends in my opinion. Those two already have millions of die-hard fans and their popularity is growing with each passing day. As mentioned, Blizzard is late to the party here and is offering a game that’s more appealing to casual players rather than the hardcore competitive ones. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but the MOBA genre is about something else entirely, so unless Blizzard wants to reinvent the wheel, I’m not seeing Heroes of the Storm becoming as popular as Dota 2 and League of Legends anytime soon.