Heroes of the Storm: Age of Ultra Lame Talents

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!

The last few updates to Heroes of the Storm have brought with them major talent changes to various heroes. A few heroes that have remained relatively unchanged since the beta, like Nova, have seen drastic changes in their talent options. Amidst these changes, I have observed a difference in the way talents are being designed. In some cases, potent gameplay options are being replaced with entirely inconsequential talents, and this design is becoming more widespread (albeit slowly). In today’s post, I will discuss the observations that are leading me to believe that Heroes of the Storm is moving into an age of ultron ultra lame talents.

Logo - Heroes of the Storm

The First Signs

I first noticed this emerging change in talent design with the release of Lunara. She had a slew of abilities that catered to my favorite playstyle (DoTs, DotS, and more DoTs). Her base kit was varied, focused on dealing damage, and keeping enemies close enough for more damage. Only one of her abilities felt out of place due to its lack of truly impactful utility. I am referring to Lunara’s Wisp ability.

As a base ability for a hero, you’d think the HotS developers would have come up with something more exciting to play with. The Wisp ability just reveals an area for 45 seconds. This isn’t functionally different than the Scouting Drone talent available to some heroes. The Wisp ability does have the added advantage of being relocated once over its duration, and being modified by talents. However, the talents for this ability don’t impact gameplay much (if at all).

The dumbest decision that I’ve seen in Lunara’s talent design is having an entire talent tier dedicated to the Wisp ability. Not a single talent in this tier offers Lunara any additional offensive options, control, movement, or impactful utility. Players are offered four different ways to modify the summoned wisp. It doesn’t matter which one is chosen because it won’t impact the core of the character’s gameplay. As it stands, there are maybe two talents in this tier that are worth keeping, but the others should just be folded into the base functionality of the Wisp ability so that more meaningful options can fill that space.

  • Dividing Wisp: The first time you relocate a Wisp it leaves a copy of itself in the previous location. Only one Dividing Wisp can be active at a time.
    Comment: This is an interesting talent because it gives Lunara a way to expand her vision even further. While it still has no impact on any other aspect of her role, she’ll at least be another step ahead of those hunting her down.
  • Skybound Wisp: Wisp can see over obstacles and reveals the area for 4 seconds after dying.
    Comment: The vision over obstacles should be baseline. This would make the Wisp ability more powerful than the Scouting Drone talent, and make it less of a wasted ability slot. The 4-second post-death area reveal can be discarded completely.
  • Timelost Wisp: Wisp costs no Mana, and its cooldown recharges 100% faster while no Wisp is active.
    Comment: I’m under the impression the Wisp shouldn’t cost any Mana at all because it has fairly situational usefulness. It has the potential to warn Lunara, or her friendlies, of incoming enemies, but it won’t help kill them, cancel damage, heal Lunara, or keep her enemies in range of her damage. Situational usefulness is a term that can be used for the cooldown aspect of this talent. Since the Wisp lasts 15 seconds longer than the ability takes to cooldown, there is no guarantee that a Lunara player will ever benefit from the increased cooldown speed.
  • Nimble Wisp: Increases Wisp Movement Speed by 100% and vision radius by 50%.
    Comment: The increased movement speed is useful for relocating the Wisp, but the increased vision radius likely wouldn’t be as useful without the vision over obstacles being baseline. However, I am imagining using the Wisp in the jungle rather than in lane, but that also brings me back to the term “situational usefulness.”

Overall, the Wisp ability isn’t gamebreaking nor is it the most useless ability. It does what it does, but what it does doesn’t deserve an entire tier of talents dedicated to it. I would prefer to have talents that affect Lunara’s more impactful abilities. I enjoy the concept behind her trait, and the synergy had with Crippling Spores. I would like to see an expansion of either of those concepts, and would like to see fewer talents that have little to no effect on the course of a match.

The Afflicted

Nova saw some massive changes to her talent options in a recent patch. During her talent rework, she became afflicted by the same failed talent design that Lunara was built with. She lost any compelling choices in her second tier of talents, and now has three talents dedicated to her Holo Decoy ability. Now, Holo Decoy isn’t quite as inconsequential as the Wisp ability because it can be used to scout or temporarily distract the enemy team. However, the talent options on offer are, well, “meh.”

  • Remote Delivery: Increases Holo Decoy cast range by 100%, and its sight range by 50%.
    Comment: This talent makes Holo Decoy a decent scouting ability. However, the cast range increase should be baseline because Holo Decoy’s range is pretty crap by default. And the sight range? Meh.
  • Rapid Projection: Reduces Holo Decoy’s cooldown and Mana cost by 40%.
    Comment: Currently, this is the only meaningful choice available from this tier of talents because Holo Decoy can be used more often for less Mana.
  • Holo Stability: Increases the duration of Holo Decoy by 120%.
    Comment: I have no idea how an 11 second Holo Decoy could be useful unless you also take the Lethal Decoy talent. Though, by going this route you would be giving up a more powerful talent choice in Crippling Shot. Soooooo, meh.

While these three choices only comprise one tier of Nova’s available talents, not a single one of them has an impact on the pacing of a match or how she will play throughout. They are all just there filling space. This is a trend that needs to end sooner rather than later. The developers need to create meaningful options that actually have an impact on how a player uses their chosen hero. Having a talent tier comprised entirely of meaningless options is a stupid way to design a character customization feature.

The Immune

While this method of designing talents is a growing trend, there are heroes that have managed to yield useful options. Kharazim is a character whose entire first tier of talents determine his trait, but each one is a welcome option for the right situation. Xul, one of the newest additions to HotS, is a character whose first tier of talents affect a single ability, yet each choice is powerful and makes the ability better in a different way. It’s interesting to see the differences between the four heroes I have discussed, but I wonder why Nova and Lunara ended up with the least beneficial options. It would be nice if there was some consistency in the design of these one-ability affecting talent tiers… or the developers could just stop creating so many pointless options (that would be better).

The Lesson

In general, having an entire tier of talents affecting a single ability doesn’t provide players with meaningful build options. Players have better options if there is a variety of talents to choose from that affect a couple abilities rather than three to four mildly different talents affecting one ability. In some cases, as exemplified by Lunara and Nova, those three to four choices are worth nothing because they have little impact on a match or the way a player uses their hero. In other cases, as exemplified by Kharazim and Xul, the options can be powerful, interesting, and varied, even if they are all affecting a single ability. The problem that remains is a lack of consistency, and the occasional lack of imagination, on the part of the developers.

When I created the talents for the WoW Warlock in my Build a Hero post, there were a couple rules I laid out for myself. First, the number of talents that affects a single ability in a given tier is limited to 2 because anymore than that becomes superfluous. Next, each talent has to impact gameplay in some fashion, it can empower an ability, create synergies between abilities, develop a specific playstyle, fill a void left from the base kit, or be something fun to use (usually this is coupled with one or more of the other items on this list). These are ideas I got from observing the design of talents in Heroes of the Storm, yet these aren’t even constant ideas used by the developers. If they were, I’m sure Nova and Lunara wouldn’t have an entire tier of garbage talents, and I wouldn’t feel the need to write this post.

Now, it may not seem like a big deal to anyone else because it is only a few crappy passives in a single tier of talents on a couple of characters. However, these talents had to go through testing before they were put into the live game. It is pretty obvious no one said anything to anyone on the development team about how lackluster or boring these talent choices are. I bring this up because I am not looking forward to seeing this terrible method of talent design becoming the norm. There are a lot more well designed talents in the game than there are talents like the craptacular ones I have discussed here, but I would like the developers to keep a sharper eye on how they design talents as the game moves forward.

What do you think of my observations? What trends have you observed in the changes, updates or additions made to Heroes of the Storm? What changes do you like? What changes do you dislike? When do you think HotS will release enough Murloc characters to fill an entire team? Join the discussion below.


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Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you’ll be back for the next one.

War Fist out.

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About The War Fist

I am an aspiring writer and gamer designer who enjoys the act of creating something from nothing. Typically, my creations are stories, characters, and concepts for game mechanics and/or features. I've been developing my own philosophies of storytelling, game design, and , to an extent, filmmaking, and would eventually like the opportunity to put them into practice.

Posted on March 25, 2016, in Game Design and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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