The game is finally live after around a year of player testing, and a whole whirl of exciting news has followed it! For one of the few times in Blizzard history, they decided to do the official launch event here in the UK, with a free celebration in cloudy London (which, when it was evening and indoors, didn’t really matter much anyway – we’re all nerds!) that left people feeling a little underwhelmed, in true modern Blizzard fashion. Let’s face it, even Hearthstone was just a switch-flip and suddenly it was live.
At least with Heroes and the London party, it had a little more pizzazz! What we got for the free event however was a pretty neat light show (shown here); a recap of what we already knew since BlizzCon 2014; the Johanna hero trailer; the same length of discussion about the game as the length of a Madeon gig; some awesome cosplay; a presenter that seemed like he didn’t know an awful lot about the game (when we had people like Khaldor and MFPallytime there who were both even interviewed), and some free swag. So there were lots of ups and downs, but the main downer in my opinion that for a launch event of a video game… We didn’t actually see any gaming going on other than the 20 PCs they had set up for. Key developers were there, the Yogscast were there, many famous streamers were there; I don’t think it would have been too much of a stretch to get a shoutcast going of a Blizzard Brawl or something.
Nevertheless, it was a free event that I probably wouldn’t have gone to if it wasn’t in the UK anyway, so I can’t complain too much – it was mainly a thank you to the players for supporting Blizzard over the past year. If we’d have known beforehand what to expect I’m pretty sure that people flying in from all over Europe (and I think I even heard an Aussie accent!) likely would have just watched YouTube at home.
The very next weekend however we were teased and presented with an event that included a matchup between Heroes of the Dorm winners UC Berkeley and pro team Cloud9 Maelstrom. It was a very close game to prove that the collegiate scene is very competitive when they held up so well against one of the best teams in the world – even if two of Berkeley’s team members were pro players Fan, who plays for Cloud9’s other team, Vortex, and Suppy, who plays for Evil Geniuses in Starcraft II. The game could have gone either way right up until the final team fight where 3 of Berkely’s players fell, and the remaining two could not defend against Cloud9’s five push through the lane’s final keep and eventually core.
That was followed shortly by BlizzCon 2014 Blizzard Brawl’s champions Low Expectations – Jesse Cox’s team – up against an assortment of streamers teaming up as The Challengers. Low Expectations used an unconventional lineup in using both Murky and Abathur, neither really seen on their own in pro play let alone together, but with Johanna, Brightwing and Jaina rounding out the team they managed to get plenty of global play, alongside massive sustainability with the warrior and just heavily pushed and forced The Challengers to split up enough for effective teamfights. In the end, although Low Expectations suffered more team deaths, they ended up winning through the brutal split push and objective domination. With amusing smack-talk and a much more relaxed atmosphere in comparison to the previous match, it definitely shows a different light on high-skill games.
Next up we were teased with the first event coming to Heroes of the Storm – the Eternal Conflict! Already starting with Johanna the Crusader at launch, we’ll be seeing some Diablo-focused content for the next few months, and once we hit June 30th we’ll see the new battleground Battlefield of Eternity and new assassin, the Butcher! Looking at Butcher first, we were shown his entire kit, which looks as follows:
- [Trait] Fresh Meat: Nearby minions drop 1 and heroes drop 3 fresh meat when they die, which you can pick up to gain 1% bonus attack damage. Can hold up to 25 meat. All meat is lost on dying.
- [Q] Hamstring: Slams your axe down into the ground, dealing 40 damage and slowing units by 50%. This slow fades away over 2 seconds.
- [W] Butcher’s Brand: Deal 32 damage to an enemy and cause your basic attacks against them to heal you for 75% of the damage done for 5 seconds. Healing doubled versus heroes.
- [E] Rutheless Onslaught: Charge at an enemy, becoming unstoppable and gaining movement speed. If you reach the target, they are stunned for 1 second and take 110 damage.
- [R1] Furnace Blast: After a 3 second delay, fire explodes around you dealing 685 damage to enemies. Can be cast while using Ruthless Onslaught.
- [R2] Lamb for the Slaughter: Throw a hitching post that attaches to the nearest enemy hero after a 1 second delay. This deals 75 damage and causes the enemy to be chained to the post for 4 seconds.
There’s also a full list of talents ready for him to go out of the gate, so it’s a bit disappointing that the PTR isn’t testing him. Cited as being the Illidan counter, we also saw a matchup of heroes that are good with Butcher, and not so great against him, and I have to admit the heroes they picked for this (Diablo, Sylvanas, Tassadar, Rehgar and of course Illidan) is a setup you’d typically see in ranked play. To see that Butcher feeds well on this kind of set up is going to make July onwards very interesting for Heroes ranked and competitive play! It’ll be interesting to see if he’s balanced for assuming he has 12-15 stacks of Fresh Meat, or for 0 or even 25!
Not only do we have a new hero, but as I mentioned earlier we’ll also be seeing a new battleground coming to Heroes along with Butcher! The High Heavens and Burning Hells are at war with each other as always, and this two-lane map looks to be an interesting addition to the map roster:
Looks pretty gorgeous, doesn’t it? I’ll likely do a breakdown of the map once I get my hands onto it for tips and tricks, but holy cow it looked good on the playtest match! The main map objective of two immortals duking it out anime-style, the mercs being Diablo themed… My only issue when we saw the playthrough was that the map objective didn’t really appear to do much, but we didn’t really see what a full powered immortal does down the lane.
Finally, E3 recently happened, and while there’s plenty of stuff that I could talk about there, Blizzard did appear at the PC Gaming Show on Tues 16th June and talked even more about what to expect over the next few weeks with the Eternal Conflict! It looks like they’re going to try to stick to their 3-4 week schedule of new heroes as we got information about two more heroes after Butcher – it hasn’t even been that long since we saw Johanna make her debut.
The first hero announced was Leoric, as many Diablo players will recognise as the Skeleton King. While we don’t know too much about him in comparison to Butcher, what we do know is very interesting. Firstly, his trait allows him to never leave the field of battle, where upon death he turns into a wraith (similar to Uther) and cast spells. Instead of doing damage, these will slow enemies, but the damage he would have done reduces his respawn time. When he respawns, he comes back at full health wherever he ends up. I don’t know if he continues to earn exp or walks through obstacles like Uther’s ghost, but I can certainly see some heavy diving happening and potentially heavy feeding.
His Q will slow enemies in an arc in front of him; his W is a skillshot that will tether him to an enemy, draining their life and regenerating his; while E is similar to Sylvanas’s Haunting Wave, where he sends out a wraith that Leoric can control and teleport to. The first of his ultimates is called Entomb, which creates a U shape of tombs around a target, creating temporary walls that on first indication is a big massive “kill this target” or a decent way to trap enemies inside for a wombo combo. Definitely something I’d see the pro’s use, as different ways to control enemy movement is king (no pun intended). At level 20 this upgrades to tombstones with spikes. Because that makes sense.
His second heroic on the other hand is March of the Black King, which Diablo III players will recognise as his three massive swings while moving forward that deals huge damage while healing himself – while being unstoppable at the same time. Useful if you have someone like an ETC already keeping the enemies in place, or in maps where there are plenty of choke points to fight people in like Tomb of the Spider Queen. At level 20, this will upgrade it to cast his W on anyone nearby once done, allowing for massive survivability and staying within the fight.
Overall, he seems like quite a unique hero who’s trait aids in separating Heroes from the MOBA genre again. Leoric wasn’t the only thing teased at the PC Gaming Show however, we also found out about the Monk, rounding out the D3 roster of Nephalem with the exception of the Wizard! Not only that, but we also see Diablo’s first support (and Heroes’ second non-WoW support!). We know even less about this hero than we do Leoric, but from the Eternal Conflict trailer we can assume he gets Seven-Sided Strike, but one thing that Blizzard has mentioned is that at level 1 we get to choose what trait he gets to go with for the rest of the fight – one more support, one more tanky and one more of a damage dealer role, similar to his mantras in D3. Amazing for Quick Match, but if it holds him back in competitive play we’ll have to see.
Regardless, it’s good for Blizzard to be branching out to make unique heroes that hopefully will continue to have different playstyles from each other, though we’ll see what happens when we get to rosters of 60+ heroes, let alone the 100 or more that League or Dota have. One thing that Blizzard mentioned that was pretty fun to hear was that at the start of each map during the Eternal Conflict event will have a Treasure Goblin at the start of each battle, and if you kill him before he escapes you’ll earn extra gold at the end of the match! I can only imagine the rage people will have if you fail to kill him… “GG NOT ENOUGH DPS TO KILL GOBLIN MAY AS WELL QUIT NOW!”
Overall, it looks like a fantastic event that will bring the roster of Diablo heroes to at least 10 by the end of it, some awesome skins with Archangel Diablo (and what appears to be an update to Demonic Tyrael?) as well as a bunch of cross-universe skins from Butcher and Leoric too! It was a badly represented universe, especially in comparison to the slew of Warcraft heroes we had received. I’d hope that it doesn’t mean that when it’s over, it’ll be half a year until we see more Diablo heroes again (if we go 12 weeks per event) as I’d really love to see the final Nephalem, as well as more angels like Imperius, Malthael and Auriel, and of course more of the Evils like Belial, Baal and Mephisto. For some reason, Diablo characters just seem far more suited for Heroes than other universes.