Video Game Review: Heroes of the Storm

Details: Released in 2015. For PC only. Requires an internet connection. Don’t know how many hours I’ve played since Blizzard doesn’t show that information. My player profile is level sixteen.

I’ve played games in the genre of Heroes of the Storm for a long time. I first started over a decade ago with the first Dota game which was just a used map settings map in Warcraft III. The next game I tried out was League of Legends. I went into this game hoping for something new, some new twist on the mechanics established in Dota. What I found was an inferior clone of Dota. While League of Legends was still better than Heroes of Newerth (which was almost an exact clone of Dota), League of Legends introduced some new ideas, relabeled some existing ideas, and took out a lot of the mechanics established in Dota. In League of Legends, I did not find a new experience nor did I find progress. I found a money-grubbing Dota clone with less strategy, less complexity, and what was overall a lesser game.

Now, years later, I’ve replayed League of Legends and, though there’s some progress, League of Legends still strikes me as an inferior game to what is now known as Dota 2. Furthermore, it fails to push the genre into new territory and offer an improvement or at least a distinction from what Dota is. However, where League of Legends fails, Heroes of the Storm succeeds. Heroes of the Storm is a sufficiently different experience so as to fill a need in this genre of video games that is not filled by any other game.

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Video Game Review: Hearthstone

Details: Released on the PC and mobile devices. Originally released in 2014, but paid expansions are released periodically. Not really sure how many hours I’ve played since Blizzard doesn’t show that information in their client.

Hearthstone is a free to play online trading card game. Two players play against each other, summoning monsters and casting spells. When one player is out of life points, the other player wins. It’s very reminiscent of Magic: The Gathering, but so are pretty much all other card games in the genre.

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Video Game Review: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (2014)

Details: Played on the PC for at least a hundred hours.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls is an expansion to the action role-playing game Diablo 3 which was released years ago. Diablo 3 had much controversy and in the time since Reaper of Souls was released, the general consensus on the internet is that Reaper of Souls fixes everything wrong with Diablo 3.

I’ve played a substantial amount of time on the game and my conclusion is this: it’s not worth more than $20. Currently prices are from $25 to $40, which means I don’t think it’s worth purchasing or playing.

If you need an explanation why then read on.

The expansion doesn’t add all that many changes. There’s a higher level cap for heroes. There’s a new Act for the story campaign. There’s a new hero, the Crusader (my personal favorite).

The biggest change is the inclusion of bounties and Nephalem Rifts, which fundamentally changes the endgame. I will try to explain why…

Diablo 2, the predecessor of Diablo 3, was a much beloved game that fans spent hours playing. The main attraction of the game was the constant grind of redoing quests from the story campaign in hopes of finding better equipment and items in hopes of becoming more powerful. Like in most role playing video games, when you kill an enemy, they drop items (swords, armor, etc.) which can be equipped by the player. Thus, players were encouraged to kill as many enemies as possible in hopes they would drop powerful items. It’s a mentality similar to the elderly who are addicted to slot machines. Keep doing this repetitive task and maybe you’ll get a reward. Like slot machines, I think most fans will agree they loved Diablo 2. Collecting all these powerful weapons and armors also gave players a sense of earned progression.

Diablo 3’s biggest problem was that the method used to determine whether or not loot would drop was made much more stringent. They lowered the chance powerful items would drop so that most players were stuck with crappy items, if that. It was like playing a slot machine that never won, not even small prizes. Furthermore, the developers of the game exacerbated the situation by creating the auction house; a place where players could sell their items to other players for real money. This made Diablo 3 feel more like a game of Candy Crush versus a game that rewards time and effort. Why would anyone whose not rich purchase and waste time on this game if all you needed to do was spend money to be powerful? The answer was, you wouldn’t. You’d either focus on making more money in real life or play another game.

And that’s what a lot of people did. Since most people didn’t have money/time to burn, most people hated this. Accordingly, the developers of the game have spent all their waking moments trying to fix a game that is arguably broken.

Reaper of Souls is another attempt at that. They’ve removed the auction house and bound the most powerful items to the player that finds and equips that item, thus forcing players to earn their progression as they used to and removing the possibility of “pay[ing] to win.” They’ve increased the drop rates of powerful items so that your playing of the game is positively reinforced more often.

They’ve also created bounty quests and Nephalem rift quests. After you finish the story campaign, you can switch over to Adventure Mode. Here, you do random quests (“kill x and y”) and collect items which let you open rifts. Rifts are higher level areas where you need to clear (“kill x and y again”) and get an item where you can open greater rifts. Greater rifts are a higher level that scales with how powerful your character is. Each higher level yields a higher chance of more powerful items. You can also increase the difficulty in the options menu. The longevity of the game depends on how many times you can endure grinding out dungeons before you tire of the gameplay.

As you can tell, it’s a repetitive, uninspired system. However, it’s what fans want. At least it’s what fans wanted before they left the game in droves. At the present time, barely anyone plays Diablo 3 now.

Score: 4/10 A boring game that mainly appeals to those with addictive personalities. Reaper of Souls doesn’t last long and isn’t worth it’s purchase price. Avoid this game.

On a side note, in order to play this game, a constant internet connection is required. This wasn’t the case with prior games in the franchise and, in my opinion, is a depressing step down. Clearly, Blizzard Entertainment is worried about piracy and this is one way to stop it. However, Valve’s Steam platform has already introduced a way to protect intellectual property without requiring a mandatory, constant internet connection. That Blizzard has not adopted a similar method shows how primitive and slow the company is. With the money grubbing nature of the auction house and the necessity of a constant internet connection (and this is not even going into the micro-transaction laced Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm), it’s not hard to realize that the upper management of Blizzard Entertainment care more about making money than making a satisfactory product. It’s sad to see what was once a great company with a collection of beloved, unique franchises degenerate into something like Electronic Arts. This isn’t to say that Electronic Arts is a bad company, it’s to say that Blizzard Entertainment used to be better. Now, based on their decisions for new projects and game designs, I see little difference between the two. All that likely matters to them is the bottom line (i.e. money, $$$).