By virtue of the RNG giving me a couple back-to-back games in Cursed Hollow this is where our map tour of Heroes of the Storm will start.
I did my best to grab shots that highlight different aspects of the map… when I remembered.
And don’t worry, I’m grabbing all these shots in AI practice games so no one else had to rage at me wandering all over hell’s half acre on my photography shoot.
Some of the map basics that I’ll cover today are common to all (or most) maps. I’ll try not to repeat them too much in the later posts, but this post will probably be the largest just to cover some of those features common in Heroes.
Without further delay, here is the first of the four map installments – Cursed Hollow.
First thing to point out, every loading screen for the maps gives you a very quick rundown on what the objectives are for the particular map.
In this case, the primary objective is to collect “tributes” (more on that later; spoiler – there is no volunteering involved).
When you collect three tributes, the Raven Lord will curse your opponents by effectively shutting down their defenses. Forts will not attack and have half health and minions are reduced to one hit point.
Coupled with a couple rampaging merc camps, a cursed team is pretty much guaranteed to lose at least one, if not two or more, layers of defense.
But first, let’s talk about the map.
The map is close to a traditional 3-lane map, just a little skewed.
As we can see from the shrinky-dink map at the start of the match, we have our opposing forces on opposite sides of the map. We have a more rounded top and bottom lane due to the starting points being at the edge of the map instead of tucked in the corners. This also reduces the overall map size since the top and bottom lanes do not contour to the rectangle.
Each side has a palace and two rows of defensive gates with forts, represented by the 8-bit rook-shaped icons.
By the time your forces have run out of the gate and hit the outermost towers, two new structures are available. I’m not sure of the name of these things, but I refer to them as scrying towers.
You can see the two yellow eye icons and a vision radius surrounding each one. There are no items to purchase in Heroes so that means no wards to place to keep an eye on remote reaches of the map. I’m not sure if these can detect invisible units or not, but they are helpful for keeping an eye on enemy movement in general.
The mechanic for capturing a tower should be familiar to anyone that leveled in Hellfire Peninsula on a PvP server (or Eastern Plagulands… or Zangarmarsh… or anywhere else Blizzard has employed a “capture by presence” objective).
The biggest differences between capturing objectives in Heroes versus WoW are speed and convenience.
Currently (remember, still in alpha and everything is subject to change), the capture bar fills fast. Ridiculously fast. From full red (owned by enemy) to full blue (controlled by your team) we’re talking 6-7 seconds. Maybe. It’s fast.
As for convenience, if the audience will please note the ridiculousness of the Lord of Terror on a pony straight from Eastvale Logging Camp. Yes, you can capture objectives while mounted.
Additionally, it seems to be a basic numbers game. If I have 2 team members in an objective and the enemy only has one, we will eventually win it. But if we don’t stay or successfully drive off the intruder, we will lose it almost instantly. (This is very important in the Dragon Shrine map and will be discussed in more depth there.)
Quick tangent because I ran across this screenshot next: How to tell if you are in cover.
As far as I can recall, every map has environmental spaces that can be used for concealment. On the Cursed Hollow map, concealment terrain is in the form of clumps of brown grass. This grass is pretty ubiquitous, you’ll phase in and out of concealment a lot just moving from point A to point B.
The image above demonstrates a sneaky Diablo. I know I’m sneaky because I have a whitish-blueish eyeball thing above my character’s head. Note that the blue outline surrounding the Lord of Terror’s tootsies is not, in fact, an indication of invisibility (like the character outline I recall from LoL), but rather just an indication of that portion of your anatomy being hidden graphically behind something else, like a cemetery gate in this instance, or that you are mousing over that unit.
OK, back to more map features – the mercenary camps.
I don’t know about DOTA (anyone feel free to add comments), but in LoL, the center of the map is often referred to as “the jungle.” It is populated by stationary camps of mobs that provide XP and buffs when killed. These camps become active on set timers and respawn regularly.
Here is a shot of a map taken very soon into a Heroes match. (I didn’t time it, but my team is about to hit level 2 and the opponents just clicked over to 2.)
We’ve now got some yellow skull-type shapes on the map. There are plain skulls and fancy skulls with crossbones.
Each of these spots represents a mercenary (or merc) camp.
And here is me touring a fancy merc camp…
The text on the banner is small, but reads “Level 14 Solo” and “Defeat this camp to gain Mercenaries.”
First, you can hover over the skull icon on the map to see what level the merc camp is before you trot all the way across the map. This is incredibly useful.
Second, the camps will level up as the game progresses. If you don’t keep up in levels with your opponents, it means they will have easier access to better camps and you will get pounded to paste.
Pounded by what? By the mercs. As opposed to LoL, where killing a camp gives the players present for the kill a buff (and I think it’s last hit only that gets it), when you defeat a merc camp, you are merely beating them into submission. You will get the same objective-claiming mechanic as for a scrying tower (which means it’s possible to defeat the mercs but lose them to the enemy if you aren’t careful). Once sworn to your side, they will beat a path to the nearest enemy gate and tear shit up until they are dispatched.
This particular camp is a level 14 corpse golem, a smaller version of the main mechanic in the Haunted Mine map. As I am a level 1 prime evil, it would be stupid for me to take on this camp, so I will wander off. On my pony.
A little later in the game, I came across a level 9 camp of ogres. At level 11, this was an easy solo fight and I quickly claimed them for our own. Ogres are incredibly powerful (already being called cheesy in the forums).
Left unchecked, these little buggers will absolutely destroy fortifications. They chuck boulders and their range is *just* outside the reach of a fort’s cannons. Meaning if your side has creeps running uninterrupted to the enemy gate to deal with their advancing creeps and these guys are pelting the walls with rocks, they can almost single-handedly take out a defensive line. Creeps will eventually overrun them, but a single hero keeping an eye on them can keep them alive for a long time if there is no outright counterattack made.
Something else to point out about this particular picture. It looks like Diablo is laying a green, glowing egg. That is, in fact, a regen globe spawned when the merc camp was defeated.
Regen globes are dropped whenever a merc camp is defeated and when particular units in creep waves are killed. The only one I know for certain is in the first type of wave, you have a group of melee knights, a few archers, and one spellcaster guy. That guy. With the book and the pointy hat. If you need healing, focus him down.
Regen globes appear to only be visible/usable to the team that earned them. I’ve seen enemy units run over my globe without it doing anything. Running over a globe will regen both life and mana (95% positive on the mana part) and will zip out, Diablo-style, to nearby party members as well. They only last a short while, so be sure to pick them up before they fade out.
Not shown in this picture, is the respawn counter. Once a merc camp is commandeered into your service, the mercs pick up and run off to battle. From that point, a timer is visible on the camp and counts down to when new mercs will show up.
And besides the golem and ogres, there is at least one more merc type – a group of knights. The caster in that group is a PITA and should be taken first.
The level given is a suggestion for those attempting to take a group on solo. I’ve noticed with some characters, I can take it out a little sooner (assassins and warriors) while others I might have a little trouble even at the appropriate level (support and specialists). The AI in the practice games is pretty good about noticing if you’re on a camp and will break off from farming a lane to come help. As expected, with help you can take out camps much higher than the recommended solo level.
Mercs are great and all, but they’re a pretty standard staple in Heroes. What about these tribute things specific to the Cursed Hollow map?
When you get this message on your screen, accompanied by the Raven Lord blabbing on about earning his favor, you pretty much need to hightail it to where the tribute is expected to spawn.
And where is that?
In this case, the lower rightish side. If you sqint, you can see some sort of dark blueish shape in the middle of the yellow circle.
The spawn locations are random, but your map will briefly light up to show you where to get to. This map has several locations marked by crumbling walls, raven statues, and a circle of stones. Any of those locations is fair game for a tribute spawn.
And here I am, camping a tribute that’s about to spawn. (I feel like I’m going over vacation slides.)
A couple things to note about this picture besides the purple swirly thing: The 2 character icons at the top middle and the player listed on the far right.
When a player dies, their death is announced (generic, “An enemy has fallen” or “An ally has fallen” sort of thing) and their name briefly appears on the edge of the screen. Enemies will be on the right and team members on the left.
After that, their icon will appear on the bar at the top and begin sliding towards the middle. Once the icon reaches the middle of the screen, the character is revived at their starting fountain. This allows you to track the respawns for everyone on the map.
Respawn timers get longer and longer – it appears to be a combination of number of times you’ve died and how late it is in the game. I had a game where I didn’t die at all until the very end and my respawn was absurdly long. Don’t die. It gets really boring really fast.
When the tribute has actually appeared, a similar message and commentary will signal it’s time to get it on.
Here we have an action shot of me helping to grab a tribute with the D3 demon hunter and SC2’s Tychus standing guard. (Note the sneaky grass on the right side, there are lots of ambush opportunities at tribute locations.)
The tribute itself is rather hard to see under our name plates, but it is a blueish-purplish glowy raven thing. Capturing involves a channeled cast, which can be interrupted by damage. Tyrande has a particularly good ability for fucking over someone’s tribute collecting day – she can cast a little owl that flies the length of the map. Properly talented, this little owl will fly through everything and can interrupt a channel regardless of where she is.
I am not sure if having multiple players helps speed up the channel, but I am sure that if a skill shot hits only one of us, the second still has a chance to finish the channel.
Regardless of who actually completes the channel, the message “Ally Gathered Tribute” will appear.
This confused me at first, when I was the only character on a tribute, but then I realized that no messages ever indicate who is responsible. This will hopefully reinforce the “team” feel of the game.
Thanks to my leet screen shot timing, we’ve got a bright beam of light coming up right underneath the tribute counter, but you should still be able to make out the 1 for our side.
You’ll notice that my whole team leveled up together, a trait unique to Heroes I believe. Objectives are worth a good chunk of XP and would be tempting for that even if they weren’t so powerful in terms of game control.
Now it’s time to screw around on the map some more, killing creeps and beating mercs. After a period of time, the Raven Lord will announce the next spawn.
Rinse and repeat until one team collects 3 tributes. The Raven Lord makes a speech about earning his blessing and the other team gets ready to bend over.
Note: Tributes are NOT reset at the time of a cursing. It is possible to run 2v2 and then have two curses in a row on opposite sides. Therefore, it is almost always worth trying to get the tribute so your team can be that much closer or to keep the enemy from being closer. You won’t lose them.
Oh look, I found a better tribute picture:
It even TELLS you to right-click to gather. Heroes goes a long way to take out the “I didn’t know what to do” excuse. You might not know when to do something or why you should be doing it, but things you can interact with are pretty well labeled.
OK, so you get 3 tributes, what next?
You go tear shit up. If possible, you pick up a merc camp or two right before snagging the third tribute as an extra insult to injury.
The Cursed Hollow map is not what I would describe as being sunny and cheerful, but when the curse drops, the cursed side of the map makes the other half look like a picnic day. The environment gets darker and I think it always rains.
As you can see in the image above, the counter for number of tributes is replaced by a timer. I can’t recall the exact amount of time a curse lasts, but it is over a minute. I believe it is a static amount of time, it does not get shorter the more often you use it.
In this image we can also see the mayhem I’ve caused by myself in a bot game. I’ve got three of my creeps following me in past the defensive line of a gate and two forts I already destroyed. There are also walls that can be destroyed, but I don’t really know why. Below the enemy demon hunter is the ruined remains of the healing well I took out.
Above the building I’m focusing on, you can see the mark of the Raven Lord, indicating the building is cursed. Its health was reduced by half and it cannot fire at me. (The pesky demon hunter can and I had to dispatch her to continue my Godzilla-like rampage.)
Below the health bar, you might be able to make out a couple rows of circles, most of which are empty. Forts and other buildings have a limited amount of ammo that can run out and slowly replenish over time. (There are also hero talents that can be taken to heal buildings and resupply ammo.) It’s moot in this instance because the building is cursed, but otherwise, it’s helpful to know when the gun is dry.
We missed it in this picture, but I had just wiped out a stream of enemy creeps with one AoE stomp – with only 1 hit point under the curse, they are easily removed.
In an AI bot practice game, if you show up to help once in a while, your side is pretty much guaranteed to get all the tributes and the game is over pretty fast, with maybe 2 curses.
In a VS match, the fighting around a tribute can be pretty intense. If you can’t take on the opposing team by yourself (and you most likely can’t) you should not run off to tackle it by yourself. This map really reinforces the concept of being a team brawler – bring a friend or 4 to help.
I’ve seen a post or two in the forums about people dodging this map, but I don’t really see why. If you get cursed twice in a row, it’s pretty much over. But that just means you need to fight that much harder to either gather three in a row yourself or at least take one or two to delay it.
Snowballing is a concern in the game, since a whole team levels at the same time. Blizzard is looking at ways to minimize that, comebacks from a well-organized team should always be a possibility, but without any matchmaking at the moment it’s very likely that a pre-made 5-man will roflstomp a group of solo queues in short order. However, that is true of all the maps. In my opinion, this one doesn’t feel any easier to lose on than the other three.
It takes a couple games to get enough screen shots for one of these reviews so it might be a day or two before the next post is up. Feel free to leave any questions or comments about HoS in the comments and I’ll try to get answers!