Heroes of the Storm put out its new patch notes today, and boy is this a big one. In addition to adding the new StarCraft Medic support hero Lt. Morales and completely reworking a number of struggling warriors, they're finally making some changes to the game's maps. Most importantly: the ungodly "Infernal Shrines." Phew!
Infernal Shrines is the most recent map to make it into Heroes of the Storm, the second of the two Diablo-themed battlegrounds that Blizzard introduced during its seasonal and (I guess understandably) heavily #branded "Eternal Conflict" campaign. The conceit of the map is: each team must battle for control over three strategically positioned Diablo-style Shrines whenever one of them activates. Players do this by killing little skeleton monsters that pop up around the shrine when it's active. The first team to kill 30 of the skeletons is rewarded with a powerful juggernaut known as a "Punisher" who pops out of the shrine like so:
The Punisher then proceeds to push down one of the map's three lanes and into the enemy base's defences.
There are a lot of objectives in Heroes of the Storm maps that operate around a similar core principle of "fight over thing, thing then summons powerful monster to help you." What makes Infernal Shrines particularly hellish is that the Punishers actually target players, whereas all the other NPC boss characters in HOTS only attack structures. And man, do the Punishers pack a punch. I can't tell you the number of times I've had a Punisher leap at my HOTS hero and punch them into oblivion while the rest of my team is getting massacred by the same punisher's area-of-effect spells like, say, giant freezing balls of ice, or laser beams that move in little circles and damage everything in their immediate vicinity. Given how much damage these guys can deal, it makes it exceedingly difficult to recover in a match if you start out on the losing end of the first few shrines.
Players' reaction to Infernal Shrines has been almost universal, with people imploring Blizzard to nerf the map's objectives and make the snowballing effect for the winning team less intense. In today's patch notes, the developer has finally taken heed:
The Punishers base health and the amount it increases with each passing shrine has been decreased, meaning they're easier to kill. And since they leap to the nearest enemy hero rather than picking a random one, you'll actually be able to counter them in a discernible...or, at least, try and survive by keeping your distance.
The changes to the skeleton defenders are just as important. Adding an extra ten skeletons to the amount required to summon a punisher is nice, but the real effect will likely come from the fact that heroes' special minion-killing abilities won't work the same way on them. Right now, it's very easy for any hero with any strong minion wave-killing ability (wave-clear, in MOBA parlance) to dominate a shrine once it pops up and win their team the objective in a matter of seconds.
I just hope all this stuff is enough to make Infernal Shrines a bit more balanced, because that map has been seriously rough at times.
Most of the other big changes in todays patch notes affect the game's melee warriors, or "tanks" in the current meta. The Warcraft-inspired zombie monster Stitches, who's long been one of the weakest picks in the game, looks like he's been all but rebuilt. From the patch notes:
Chen, the other super-weak warrior in HOTS right now, has also been reworked. Though I'm not sure if his changes really amount to a net buff:
Diablo and E.T.C. also got a handful of changes. While less extreme, they should help these two mid-level tank fighters recover some of their former glory from where they were before the ultra-powerful Diablo warriors Johanna and King Leoric both showed up:
Oh and speaking of those two, Blizzard nerfed both of them:
Thank god Johanna got nerfed. Going against her has been like trying to fight back against a brick wall.