Heroes of the Storm at BlizzCon 2017

Heroes of the Storm may not be the most popular MOBA on the market, but that doesn’t mean that Blizzard isn’t paying attention to it. Of all the games showcased at Blizzcon 2017, HoTS probably had the most updates. New heroes, new gameplay features, new battlegrounds, new quality of life improvements, and thorough balance patches were just some of the announcements the Heroes team had to make. Let’s take a look.

New Features

First of all, Heroes of the Storm is reworking the way they release new features. Instead of lumping together new content, balance changes, hero reworks, battlegrounds, and general system tweaks all-together, they are looking to trickle out content throughout the year. The team hopes that this will be less disruptive to the meta and will help to keep the community engaged.

The first new feature to be implemented into HoTS is a target info panel. This will allow you to click on enemies, structures, allies, and other game elements, and gain more detailed statistics including damage, range, speed, health, mana, regen rates, cooldowns, and more.

U.I. indicators are going to be added for heroes that are hiding within vehicles or objects. These indicators will show a hero’s name or an icon over whatever is currently containing them. It will make it easier to tell where members of your team are and what abilities they have fallen prey to.

The in-game camera is going to be pulled out a bit, to allow for better usage of long-range and high mobility characters. It’s only a slight alteration, but it will hopefully prevent players from dying to off screen attacks too often.

The Stealth visual effect is going to be changed. While moving, stealthed characters will have a faint white outline around them, but while standing still they will completely disappear. These changes aren’t final, but the general goal is to make stealthed characters easier to play and more effective while making their viability less a function of whether or not players can spot their visual effect.

Blizzard Voice Chat is going to be integrated directly into the game client. For a game that relies so heavily on teamwork, it’s astounding that this hasn’t been done already. Two different voice channels will be added, one for your party, and one for your team. By default you have to opt-in to team chat. Whenever someone speaks, an indicator will show up in the upper left-hand portion of the screen, altering you to who you are hearing. Finally, all sound controls can be accessed from the tab menu, including volume controls and options for muting.

Performance-Based Matchmaking

In opening ceremonies, the Heroes team said that they would be integrating new performance-based matchmaking into the game. Instead of focusing on wins and losses, this new matchmaking system will examine the actions you took during a game, to see if you are actually aiding your team. The system can track things like damage dealt, kills obtained, healing done, crowd control, and more. While you will still only gain MMR on a win and lose it on a loss, a high performing player will gain more MMR on a win and lose less on a loss. An underperforming player will experience the opposite effect, gaining little MMR on a win and losing quite a bit on a loss.

Not only will this system help to match you up against players of a similar skill level, it has the side-effect of acting as a smurfing remedy. Skilled players who have started a new account will find themselves facing off against similarly skilled players in just a couple games. It will also help to stem griefing as the system will be able to detect when players are purposefully underperforming. This new matchmaking system will be rolled out with the beginning of the next ranked season.

Lane Updates

A number of updates are being made to make the lane phase of a HoTS match more interactive and important to the match outcome. Towers, for example, will no longer rely on ammunition. This will prevent teams from playing attrition games by allowing their own mobs to drain the tower’s shots before swooping in for an easy kill when its ammo runs low. Now teams will have to actively push against towers in order to do meaningful damage.

The team will also be removing “standalone” towers from maps. These are towers at the back of any fortification point, ones that rarely start firing until the fortifications are already mostly destroyed. Their removal will hopefully allow defenders to move around these points more easily. To keep the game balanced, the stats from these standalone towers will be rolled into other structures.

Forts and keeps will be given truesight, allowing them to reveal any stealthed enemies and heroes that get within their attack range. Certain characters used standalone towers as defensive tools, discouraging stealthed characters from attacking since the tower would attack back as soon as they broke stealth. Now, with the addition of truesight, stealth heroes are still discouraged without the need for a tower threat.

Regeneration globe timing is also going to be changed. While allied globes used to last for sixed seconds, now they last for four seconds in an allied state and four seconds in a neutral state, in which anyone can pick them up.

Timers are going to be standardized across battlegrounds. Map mechanics will spawn in at a minute and a half or three minutes on basically every map. Objectives that pull you out of lanes will be delayed. This small change will allow players to have more time to focus on the lane phase, and gain and advantage. 30 second warnings will be added across all battlegrounds to warn players when new map mechanics will spawn.

Mercenary Camps

Many mercenaries were used as tower fodder and with towers being given infinite ammunition, many mercenary abilities needed to be changed. The knight wizard now will emit a spell armor aura, while hellbats will now decrease armor with each attack. Siege giants will now telegraph their attacks to make it more obvious that they are dodgeable.

Nova

Nova is going to be altered as a result of the stealth update. She will have a new active ability that she can use to immediately go into stealth. She will also move fifteen percent faster while in stealth. Her overall snipe damage will be reduced, but she will be given the sniper master talent baseline.

Valeera

Valeera is also getting a few stealth tweaks. Her disabling abilities are going to be enhanced, making her a bigger threat. She will also be able to teleport behind her target if she can manage to stay in stealth for at least three seconds.

Samuro

Samuro can now swap places with his mirror images as his hero trait. His mirror images are no longer random. Now, the real blademaster will always be closest to where your mouse cursor is. The overall power of these illusions is going to be decreased, while Samuro’s power will increase. This increases pressure on the enemy to figure out which blademaster is real, once mirror image has been used, instead of simply attacking them all indiscriminately.

Zeratul

Vorpal Blade is now going to be given to all Zeratul players as a baseline. This will give Zeratul vastly increased mobility. His Shadow Soul will be replaced with a new heroic ability, Might of the Nerazim. Using it replicates whatever basic ability you used last. This lets Zeratul bypass his cooldowns, which is something few other heroes can do.

Alexstraza

The first new hero, Alexstraza, is a healing/support unit that focuses on percentage-based healing. Her trait allows her to assume her red dragon form for a short amount of time. While in this form, her attacks do increased damage and hit a cone shaped area. In addition, these basic attacks will heal any allied units that are inside the cone. Dragon form also alters and upgrades each of Alexstraza’s abilities.

Alexstraza’s first basic ability is Gift of Life. It allows her to spend a percentage of her remaining life to heal her allies. The strength of this heal increases with Alexstraza’s health, making it very effective at full health, and barely effective at reduced health. In dragon form this ability becomes Breath of Life which has a greatly reduced cooldown and no longer requires Alexstraza to spend her own life.

Her second basic ability is Abundance. This sets a magic circle on the ground that activates on a timer. At the end of the timer, anyone within the circle, including Alexstraza herself, will gain back a percentage of their health. In dragon form, this ability becomes Preservation, which has a much wider area, shorter timer, and a much higher healing output.

Her third basic ability is Flame Buffet, her ability with the shortest cooldown. This is a flame projectile that does a small amount of damage but sets enemies on fire causing damage over time. If it hits an already burning enemy, that enemy will take increased damage and will be slowed temporarily. The projectile pierces enemies letting you hit several at once. In dragon form this ability is replaced with Wing Buffet which does a large area of damage a pushes enemies away, slowing them. Unfortunately, Wing Buffet does not do damage over time.

Alexstraza’s first heroic ability is Life Binder. She targets an ally and, after a certain amount of time, equalizes her health and the opponent’s health. This too is percentage based. At the end of the abilities activation timer, whoever has the highest percentage health will heal the other character up to that same percentage. This makes it much more useful when used on heavy high health units.

Her second heroic ability is Cleansing Flame. This allows Alexstraza to fly into the air and rain down fireballs from above. These fireballs hit in an AOE, damaging enemy units and healing allies.  She can choose where she lands after the ability ends.

Hanzo

Overwatch’s iconic archer is heading to Heroes of the Storm as well. Hanzo has a very long range basic attack allowing him to kite enemy units easily. His attack speed is slower than average, however, requiring him to supplement his basic attacks with his abilities. His trait is Natural Agility which allows him to jump over impassable terrain. This lets him move across the map quickly and put obstacles between him and his opponent.

His first ability is Stormbow, which charges an arrow before firing it at an opponent. The longer Hanzo charges this ability, the farther the arrow can fly. Hanzo can move while charging this attack, allowing him to get out of range of other heroes and fire from a safe distance.

His second ability is Scatter Arrow. Hanzo fires a single arrow that splits into five when it hits a wall. These five arrows can then bounce multiple times as they head for their targets. Each arrow does individual damage, making this ability most effective when you can corner a hero in a tight space. You can see where the arrows will split while aiming the ability.

His final ability is Sonic Arrow. Sonic arrow grants vision in an area for 8 seconds and reveals enemies for one second. It can actually do damage in HoTS, acting as a 150 damage projectile that sticks in the opponent. This allows you to gain the opponent’s sight temporarily, and is certainly the most effective way to use the ability.

Hanzo’s first heroic ability is his iconic Dragonstrike. This AOE ability will decimate anything in its path, dealing damage over time and dealing more damage to enemies caught in the center of the two twining dragons. His other heroic ability is an extremely long distance arrow that travels across the map and explodes when contacting an enemy hero, stunning them. This projectile actually gets more powerful the longer it travels, so it’s best used from a safe and calculated distance.

Timeline

So when are we getting these new updates? Fairly soon. After BlizzCon, HoTS will host an extended three week PTR with all this new content. If player feedback is positive, then these changes will go live in December at the beginning of the next ranked season.