Blizzard Entertainment has recently kicked off this year’s BlizzCon gaming convention in style, releasing details of its forthcoming Starcraft/Diablo/Warcraft mashup, called Heroes of the Storm.
An unprecedented volume of detail has splurged forth from the programming masterminds of Blizzard, who, after gaming enthusiasts piled into the Los Angeles Anaheim Convention Center, shared cinematic trailers, gameplay clips and developer interviews on their latest, long-standing project.
Heroes of the Storm is an upcoming multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game and, as the name suggests, will combine the heroes of the three afore-mentioned blockbuster gaming franchises. The game, thus far, has been penned as a free-to-play, digitally distributable title.
Although many would choose to classify Heroes of the Swarm as a MOBA, Blizzard much prefers the term “hero brawler.” During an interview with GameSpot, Game Director Dustin Browder explained the reasoning behind adopting this brand new genre description:
“We fully feel like we’re making something a little bit different and a little bit new… [it’s] certainly based on a lot of the games we played in WarCraft 3 and even in Brood War that were made by our fans, but we’re trying to create something that’s very very quick, and can be played in about 20 minutes.”
The game was originally called Blizzard Dota and was then altered to Blizzard All-Stars, after a long and protracted legal battle with Valve Corporation, who had used and trademarked a name coined from Blizzard’s Warcraft III community – Dota 2. The eagerly anticipated Blizzard All-Stars game was then renamed to Heroes of the Storm in October of this year, after the development team’s expansion.
Blizzard Entertainment President Mike Morhaime started the proceedings with a keynote speech, before a testosterone-fuelled, cinematic trailer was showcased to the eagerly awaiting audience of gaming aficionados.
Blizzard’s website blurb reveals the basic premise of the game, which occurs after the heroes from various worlds converge, following the aftermath of a “transdimensional storm”:
“Powerful warriors from Azeroth, Sanctuary, the Koprulu sector, and beyond have been sucked into the Nexus, a transdimensional storm. Stranded in a strange limbo of clashing universes, these heroes have but one fate – endless battle for glory, survival, and just plain fun.”
Heroes of the Storm looks set to go head-to-head against Dota 2, featuring a number of characters from Blizzard’s past arsenal of gaming universes. Frankly, with more than two decades of high-profile gaming franchises to choose from, there are plenty of characters available for selection, including Kerrigan, Zeratul, Tyrael, Diablo, Artha and Raynor, to name a select few.
Each hero falls under a particular category, with various strengths and weaknesses. There are “assassins” (e.g. Kerrigan) who can inflict huge amounts of damage on opposing players, but remain vulnerable to return attacks. Enormous, brutish “warriors” (e.g. Diablo) can give and take large amounts of damage, whereas “support” units assist allies by offering healing abilities and buffs.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Heroes of the Storm revolves around the team’s focus upon changing up the level design. Almost akin to Battlefield 4’s “Levolution” idea, Blizzard will introduce a series of battlegrounds that are reshaped by “legendary events.” They claim this will provide a greater emphasis on strategy, shifting in unique ways throughout the duration of each match.
For example, one particular map will feature a haunted pirate ship. Presenting a bounty of gold doubloons to the ship’s captain will gain his allegiance, and he will begin firing on key enemy fortifications and positions.
Much of the areas are sprinkled with a mix of friendly and hostile towns, replete with healing and mana regeneration fountains and protective guard towers; these towers can be overrun and used to reveal critical regions of the map. Meanwhile, mercenary camps also litter the battlegrounds; different merc forces are available, each with their own unique abilities – from ranged and melee attacks to healing abilities – that can be utilized to push deeper into enemy territory.
It is anticipated that Blizzard will also announce the next expansion pack for World of Warcraft, based upon recently registered trademarks for The Dark Below and Warlords of Draenor. Hopefully, we’ll have some more news on this, shortly.
In the meantime, check out the following gameplay footage for the forthcoming Blizzard title. There’s also an interesting developer interview, which provides unique insight from Game Director Dustin Browder, Senior Art Director Samwise Didier and Senior Game Producer Kaeo Milker.
By James Fenner