Blizzard revealed a bunch of exciting new stuff coming to its MOBA Heroes of the Storm today at Gamescom. In addition to the previously teased Monk hero from Diablo III, they're also adding a hero from Warcraft, and another one from StarCraft. AND another Diablo-themed map. Woo content!!!!
The monk, who's officially named Kharazim, was previously revealed during the E3 PC gaming show, but Blizzard gave a bit more detail about how the guy's going to work at Gamescom. They described him as a support character — the first Diablo support — who can be customised in battle by choosing one of three different traits. Normally, heroes only have one trait, so this will make the guy an interesting addition:
Kharazim, Monk of Ivgorod, the first support character from the Diablo universe, will bring inner peace to his allies — and pain to his enemies. He's a mobile melee Hero who can specialize in different paths by choosing one of three traits via his talents. Kharazim can select Iron Fists to gain bonus attack damage, Transcendence to heal himself through melee combat, or Insight to restore mana and find a balance between both offensive and defensive roles.
This sounds like it will help Kharazim players adapt their in-game strategy and play style depending on who their four allies (and five enemies) are. Remember that you can also build characters in Heroes in multiple ways by selecting different talents as they level up over the course of a match. So if the three different traits end up having a big impact on how he works in-game, that will make him one of the most customisable heroes in the game so far. I imagine it will take a lot of experimenting to figure out what combinations work best, and in what scenarios.
While Kharazim's abilities aren't set in stone until he comes out (well, actually, they're not even really set in stone then either), the popular HOTS site HeroesNexus did some digging on the guy and came up with a short preview of his abilities. It looks like he has a lot of ways to blink around the map at lightning speed:
The coolest one by far is the barrage of punches he can unleash on a whole group of foes by zapping between them:
I like that they're making a more aggressive type of support player. Right now, the support role is almost entirely dominated by healing-centric heroes, so he should help shake things up.
Next up is Rexxar, a hero from Warcraft lore. He's a ranged fighter with a big nasty-looking pet bear named Misha who helps him fuck bad guys up.
"He's a unique ranged warrior, who calls on his ferocious companion to follow him around the battlefield and attack his foes," Blizzard wrote on its Battle.net website. "Misha is integral to Rexxar's gameplay, harassing enemies, absorbing damage, and stunning enemy characters with a targeted charge ability."
So he can throw axes at you, send his bear out to get all up in his enemy's face, and shoot some sort of hawk at them too?!? Oh wait, HeroesNexus also found that he can summon a pack of boars to attack his enemies. So many animals!
This guy sounds like he's going to have one hell of a poke. Since his basic attacks are ranged, Misha gives him a great way to keep opponents at arm's length while the two of them continue to pick away at the enemy. Though I wonder what happens if Misha dies...
Thirdly and finally come Artanis, the leader of the exceedingly honourable Protoss race in StarCraft. Blizzard gave out the least amount of information about him, just noting that he's a melee warrior who will "be bringing some heavy hitting abilities with him." If nothing else, it's cool that he's the first StarCraft warrior coming into the game. That integral role on any HOTS team has been dominated by Warcraft and, more recently, Diablo characters.
The most surprising part of the announcements for me was the new Diablo-themed battleground, Infernal Shrines. Unlike the previous Diablo map Battlefield of Eternity, this one will have a full three lanes. The unique objectives centre around three shrines dotted across the centre of the map:
Players activate the shrines, which makes monsters pop out and try to defend it. Once they're out of the way, a large and freaky-looking "Punisher" monster pops out thusly:
The Punisher (not to be confused with the Marvel antihero) then helps push a lane by attacking enemy minions and defences:
I like the fact that there are three of these, as opposed to the single "Immortal" juggernaut who you fight over in Battlefield of Eternity. That will make map control far more challenging for both teams, as they will have to spread themselves very thin if they want to go for two or more shrines at the same time.
If I have one complaint about Infernal Shrines, it's that Blizzard's making the map look almost exactly the same as Battlefield of Eternity — using the same assets for structures and minions, and even using the same gimmick of dividing the map to be half heaven, half hell. There are so many different types of locales in the Diablo universe that I find it disappointing they'd just recycle one of them, particularly given the fact that there are only so many maps in HOTS.
Blizzard also said that it's going to be live-streaming a show for Heroes of the Storm that will preview some other "exclusive new content" at Gamescom this weekend. Michael Morhaime, the company's president and CEO, said yesterday during the Activision Blizzard quarterly earnings call that they plan to keep releasing new stuff for HOTS at a "rapid cadence" for the foreseeable future. I am totally OK with that.