MOBA and I don’t mix well. I’m getting older, and all that clicking and responding is a young person’s game, but being as that I’m always up for expanding my horizons, I dip my toe into different waters now and then.
Every other Monday my local friends and I gather together virtually and collaborate on some online ass-kicking. Where those asses reside varies based on what we all own, what we all have installed, and who’s present at the time. We’ve played a lot of Borderlands, some Gauntlet, and even some EVE Online many, many years ago. But this week we chose Heroes of the Storm because like 98% of the rest of the Internet, we had gotten into the oh-so-exclusive beta.
We had tried League of Legends in the past, but never in public. We had enough people to field one side, and played against the bots until we managed to reliably beat them down without too much difficulty. It was fun, until we reached that grey area where we were too good for the bots, but didn’t want to venture out into the toxic world of Other People(tm).
HotS, however, is 100% pure Blizzard ethos in MOBA form: Take a popular genre, streamline it, and pack it up for the masses who might not enjoy the more “refined” source material. HotS takes complexity out of the MOBA and reduces the pre-game research, and where it offers such research is to allow you to “test drive” characters in a sandbox debug mode of sorts so you can get a feel for a character before you take them out in your first match. Brilliant!
We only had three of the five slots filled for our team for HotS this week, and padded the roster with bots. We played against bots as well, thinking that with our LoL bot matches having evolved into a cake-walk, this would translate handily.
In short: it didn’t. We didn’t win a single match. Against AI. In a postmortem, we realized we were playing this game like we’d play LoL, with the focus on pushing the lanes to the exclusion of all else. HotS don’t work like that. There are little objectives here and there, like collecting gold dubloons to pay the pirate to bombard the enemy towers, or collecting gems to unleash a spider army on your foes, not to mention the camps in the jungle that you can subdue to fight under your banner. We didn’t focus on that — but the AI did, a lot of the time, and that often cost us. In addition, the enemy AI seems to favor a “battering ram” strategy of focusing on a single lane to just steamroll through the map. I’m not going to say that we would have done better to have a full five live bodies, but if the AI on the opposition side was kicking our asses, I have to say the friendly AI wasn’t really pulling their weight in kind. But that’d deflecting blame: we just suck at this game.
I don’t know how much punishment we want to subject ourselves to going forward, but there is a nagging feeling that with time and practice we can overcome. The game was fun, quick, and easy to get into. The only difficulty was the mindset of switching from lane pushing to teamwork, and of exploiting the features of the map before the enemy did.