Retreat Isn’t Sexy: Starting Out in Heroes of the Storm

I am 6 days in on playing Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s first foray into the MOBA, the genre dominated by League of Legend and DOTA2, which spawned from a Blizzard game in the first place, Warcraft 3. It’s 5×5 team combat, with each player controlling a hero, leveling it up throughout the match, eventually trying to topple the opponent’s base, with the use of special abilities, strategy, and teamwork. I was always interested in MOBAs, finding the depth of strategy and mixing of characters really interesting, but getting into DOTA2 or League seemed very intimidating. Heroes, however, has me hooked.

After the tutorial, I started playing as Tychus, even though he’s rated a “hard” character. After dabbling with a few different melee characters among the launch week’s free characters, I feel much more comfortable as a ranged character. I’ve ranked him up to 8 at the moment, and bought him today after the free characters rotated. I’ve already ranked up Sylvana to 5, and I really enjoy playing with her as well. However, I’m having trouble keeping her alive, which is what I really want to talk about, what I kind of think is the essence of the game, namely, when to run away.

As a gamer, I’ve been trained not to run away, even going back to Mario. You keep going right, because there is no left, no retreat available. That through line has continued through most of video games. You either win, or you die, and start over. You don’t go back, you don’t run away. Running away doesn’t make any sense in most games. Retreat is seldom treated as a tactical option, and even when it is, it’s seldom worth it. Retreat isn’t sexy, isn’t fun, and so it’s not included in most game design. You die, and reload, or respawn. You don’t regret not retreating. You regret dying. However, death is an inevitability in Heroes, and playing with retreat in mind as changed my perspective on other games as well.

With the announcement of Fallout 4, I’ve been revisiting Fallout:New Vegas, a game I played, beat, and sold when it came out, enjoying it far less than Fallout 3. Revisiting it, I’m enjoying it more. With Heroes fresh in my mind however, it’s made me notice how it seldom let’s you escape combat. There are several areas close to where you start that are extremely dangerous for a low level character, and if spotted by one of the monsters there, you’re probably going to die. You’re too slow to run away. Your problem is that you got into combat in the first place. The shift in dynamics between the two has made me wish for a more viable option to retreat, to gather forces, to come back.

As a strategy, it’s also evident in RTSs to an extent, although you’re not nearly as focused on one character as you are in Heroes. It also explains why I was never very good at RTSs. However, I’m finding my footing in Heroes, leveling up and playing different characters. I’ve done well so far, and am really enjoying playing with my friends. I’ll end with what ends many encounters…RUN AWAY!



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