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- Heroes of the Storm
On May 28th I was invited to visit Blizzard Entertainment’s headquarters in Irvine, California. The invitation was for a Heroes of the Storm press event, one that I was excited to attend given my deep interest in the game. The event wasn’t detailed before my arrival, so I only assumed that I would see post-launch content. I was right.
I’ve been playing Heroes of the Storm every day since late Alpha. I’m level 40 with more than 250 games under my belt, and hundreds more to come. So, I write this with a solid background in the game. I hope this insight of what I saw serves you well.
There’s a lot to look forward to for those of us who love Heroes of the Storm. Blizzard is on trajectory to introduce a new hero on an average of every three weeks, and the next addition begins on June 30th with the game’s first major post-launch content drop.
At this point you’re likely wondering what June 30th will bring. Here’s everything broken down as simply as possible:
- Starting June 30th the Eternal Conflict campaign will begin, a multi-month theme based around the Diablo franchise.
- The first Eternal Conflict content drop (June 30th) will include a new battleground and hero.
- The new battleground is called Battlefield of Eternity and is based on Diablo 3‘s Act 4.
- The new playable hero is The Butcher, an intimidating boss featured in all three Diablo games.
Heroes of the Storm‘s hero list is currently dominated by Warcraft heroes thanks to the rich lore of the IP. Eternal Conflict is going to highlight the Diablo franchise and give it a bigger presence in the game. Now is a great time for its arrival given the growing popularity of Diablo 3 following several remarkable patches and the arrival of its first expansion, Reaper of Souls. Something similar for StarCraft is very likely to come as Legacy of the Void nears release. For now, let’s focus on Eternal Conflict.
First off, the event area was setup to have two five-versus-five matches occurring at any given time. Some press preferred to watch the games, others chatted for the full duration. I spent most of my time playing the early build, finishing four epic matches before the day came to an end with a record of 3-1. A few of the people I played with and against weren’t too familiar with the game, while a minority were skilled veterans. I was fortunate enough to become acquainted with a couple of good players early on, one of which was an expert Brightwing player. Our team composition and communication proved too powerful for the likes of Bagheera and Towelie.
At the time of the event, Johanna the Crusader hadn’t yet been introduced to the game, so for the first couple matches myself and others had to acclimate to working together on a new map populated with two new heroes. As we’ve come to find out during these past few days, Johanna is an outstanding character that offers a new and exciting way to enjoy the game. She’s now in the game, so let’s talk about what you most want to hear: the unreleased content.
The Butcher is a scary fellow. What might surprise you is that he’s not a Warrior. So no, we aren’t receiving two Warrior heroes back-to-back. Instead, he’s a melee Assassin, one that has moderate sustain and extraordinary damage output. Let’s go over his abilities and my thoughts on each.
(Q) – Hamstring
Slams your axe down into the ground, dealing 40 damage and slowing units by 50%. This slow fades away over 2 seconds.
Hamstring has a skill shot area of effect. It’s used to slow enemies so that The Butcher can wail on them. Without it it’s very easy for him to get kited. Careful use is critical to him keeping characters within range.
(W) – Butcher’s Brand
Deal 32 damage to an enemy and cause your basic attacks against them to heal you for 75% of the damage done for 5 seconds. Healing doubled versus heroes.
This is the ability that defines The Butcher. From my experience it makes him potentially the single most dangerous solo hero in the game. His white damage naturally hits hard, and this will heal him for 150% against heroes (see the video below for a demonstration). If you see Butcher’s Brand popped on you, you absolutely can’t ignore it. You’ll learn to be afraid of the noise it makes when it goes off.
(E) – Ruthless Onslaught
Charge at an enemy, becoming unstoppable and gaining movement speed. If you reach the target, they are stunned for 1 second and take 110 damage.
The Butcher might not have an escape, but he has a gap closer. What makes this different than other gap closers such as Tyrael’s Judgment is the ramp up time. He moves slowly at first before building up speed. It’s moderately potent, allowing him to get in close and begin dishing damage. The short stun can interrupt casts, too.
(R1) – Lamb to the Slaughter
Throw a hitching post that attaches to the nearest enemy hero after a 1 second delay. This deals 75 damage and causes the enemy to be chained to the post for 4 seconds.
This ability can be used in a few different ways, best of which is to catch a hero and make sure he or she doesn’t get away. It completely halts the hero’s movement outside of a small radius. This can make The Butcher extremely strong as someone who seeks solo battles in the jungle to take out players, or to punish bad positioning similar to Stitches. It’s important to note that this ability will counter abilities that move players out of range, such as Zeratul’s “Blink”, or the talent “Bolt of the Storm”. I would also like to mention that although there’s a screenshot on page 2 which shows this ability grappling three heroes, I have no reason to believe that it will catch more than one in the final build.
(R2) – Furnace Blast
After a 3 second delay, fire explodes around you dealing 685 damage to enemies. Can be cast while using Ruthless Onslaught.
Due to its lengthy delay and relatively short range, this ability is difficult to land on multiple enemies. However, if you can manage to find yourself in a good spot it deals catastrophic AoE damage. Using it before Ruthless Onslaught during the initiation of team fights is a smart idea.
(Passive) – Fresh Meat
Nearby minions drop 1 and heroes drop 3 fresh meat when they die, which you can pick up to gain 1% bonus attack damage. Can hold up to 25 meat. All meat is lost on dying.
This is an interesting trait that urges The Butcher players to be careful about their aggressiveness. Basically, a drop of blood will show up next to dead heroes (3 drop) and minions (1 drop) and only The Butcher can pick them up for a 1% damage increase. Stacking up to 25% can make him an absolute wrecking ball over the course of a game.
Playing against The Butcher for four rounds I learned that he has a huge presence on the battlefield. He doesn’t bring much utility outside of a mild amount of control (it’s better with “Lamb to the Slaughter”), and can only take a few hits without the self-heal from “Butcher’s Brand”. However, his damage throughput is frightening. Any time I saw him in a small skirmish comprised of five or fewer players he would absolutely wreck the opponents as long as he was able to remain in melee range. In team fights he was still dangerous, but less so since the control of characters such as Johanna could keep him from doing what he’s best at.
He reminds me a lot of Stitches in that he’s a character you have to monitor at all times, and can be countered by great positioning. Similar to how a Stitches can turn the battlefield on a moment’s notice with good timing, The Butcher can charge one of your squishy heroes and murder them on short notice.
I believe that The Butcher will be considered a difficult-to-play hero for several reasons. For one, he isn’t good at switching targets. Those playing him have to carefully select who to use Butcher’s Brand on, and better be able to hit that target a few times to properly utilize its effectiveness. Also, Fresh Meat makes players without strong map awareness prone to playing him without his full damage potential unlocked. Remaining alive is a critical component to The Butcher’s play style.
While the addition of The Butcher is a big deal, the new battleground is what I’m most excited about. Battlefield of Eternity continues Heroes of the Storms‘ success of having varied maps with differing objectives, increasing the battleground total from seven to eight.
Battlefield of Eternity is the perfect homage to Diablo 3. This map is designed to be a representation of Act 4 in Diablo 3, one of the franchise’s most memorable chapters. As you can see above, it’s set in a beautiful heaven that has been partially ravaged by the invasion of hell. This half and half design offers a ton of visual variety, with a sharp contrast carved right into the middle.
Below is an official description of the map:
What you might not be able to tell from above image is that Battlefield of Eternity is a two lane map with a massive jungle in the middle.The two side lanes are spread wide apart, meaning that if you want to transition between lanes you’re in for a long travel time. The most notable feature about the map layout is its surplus of non-destructible structures scattered throughout the jungle. These structures create tons of hiding spots, making it easy to get popped during transit if you aren’t careful. There are a lot of line of sight issues that provide ample opportunity for ganks.
The massive jungle holds two Immortals, one for each team. These are essentially bosses with high health pools. You and your team must decide if and when to attack the enemy Immortal, or defend yours. You can split team members between the two if you desire. What worked best for my teams is paying attention to Immortal health as well as how many members are alive on each team. When my team would have a numbers advantage, we would go all out on offense. If we found ourselves behind or short on comrades, we would go on defense and try to pick someone off.
Battlefield of Eternity is likely to be considered the most difficult map to play once it hits the live servers. The amount of tactics that can be crafted for its unorthodox style are seemingly endless. Ganks are plentiful, and positioning is a minute-to-minute challenge. Laning is much less of a concern on this map than the others due to the uptime of Immortals. Keeping a Specialist rotating between assisting on Immortals and laning, with quick rotations from others to collect lane experience is a difficult but critical task. Killing the other team’s Immortal is of huge benefit, not only because it pushes a lane hard, but allows your team to head to a lane and gain elusive experience.
Thematically speaking, Battlefield of Eternity is outstanding. All of its assets, including its minions, are unique. These assets perfectly captivate the spirit of the Diablo franchise. There are times where you’ll feel as if you’re playing Diablo 3 PvP due to how well it’s represented. The thought of how this can translate to future maps has me excited for the future of Heroes of the Storm.
A New Mount
While going through each of the press assets Blizzard provided I noticed one thing that caught my eye. As seen in the image below, there appears to be a previously never-before-seen mount that will be added to the game. See for yourself:
It looks like a Kodo from Warcraft with Diablo-themed armor. It’s very cool, and perfect for a big guy like The Butcher to get around on. I didn’t see it while at the event, and don’t believe that it’s exclusive to The Butcher. More details are sure to come, but for now we get a sneak peak at just one of the several skins coming later in the month—Prison Tychus is coming, too.
June 30th is going to be a big day for Heroes of the Storm fans. The arrival of the Eternal Conflict means that the Diablo universe is going to receive the attention it deserves through a multi-month campaign. Based on what I know, I would expect there to two to three more Diablo heroes added after The Butcher before everything is said and done. For now, we’re going to be getting a well-crafted and dangerous new Assassin as well as a battleground that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in an action RTS before. Heroes of the Storm had a remarkably smooth launch, and the future looks bright.