'Hearthstone' Vs 'Heroes Of The Storm': Rewarding Effort, Not Victory, In Blizzard's Latest F2P Games

By Steve Buja , Updated Mar 19, 2015 01:56 PM EDT
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Blizzard games have been perhaps the single biggest companions in my decades of video game playing. They're fun, they're addictive and they are utter, utter timesinks. There was once a time when I would not blink at spend all day questing through Azeroth, leveling, grinding, raiding. I always felt like I was making progress towards something. These were the best of times.

Yesterday, I was playing Hearthstone and was facing down yet another Northshire Cleric Priest deck - the one that doubles its health, then gets Inner Fire cast on it and then eats your face for about 18 damage - this was the third one of the day, the second in a row I had fought and, naturally, I lost. My current streak was 0 and 'I lost track' for the past...two weeks. All I need is one more win with a Warrior or Shaman and I can buy another pack. It's not that I'm against spending money on games - far from it - I simply have little extra money to spend.

Clearly, I am not good at Hearthstone. But more than that, I do not have the time nor desire any longer to sink into a video game to get better. Gone are the days of all night raids. There's school, there's work - and you would think writing about video games would make me play more, the opposite actually - and a hundred other deadlines and commitments to uphold. Two weeks of casual play and I had no progress to show for it besides a slight uptick in my level for this or that hero.

So like many gamers before me, I /ragequit.

More than money, time is the most valuable currency I possess and, like money, I have little of it. I love Hearthstone, I'm a CCG junkie, but I have no patience for it. Yes, I can abandon quests and hope for something new, but there is another factor at work:

I don't want to deal with you.

I'm sorry, I just don't. I don't want to square off against another Cleric netdeck and not gain anything for even putting up a fight. I'm sick of Hunters and have been since World of Warcraft. At times, Hearthstone feels like that fight in the movie Hero where Jet Li and Donnie Yen battle one another in their minds. Losing is fine, but at least let me get a little something for the effort.

Then there's Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard's MOBA, or what could be called a 'SOBA' - Single-player On/Offline Battle Arena. The beauty of Heroes is that it rewards playing, not winning. As an added bonus, for me is that it also rewards you for playing by yourself. Because sometimes you just want to wail on some bots, free from the pressures of team-play and criticism. Am I good? Oh, god no, but I can still earn that sense of accomplishment. Each day there's a new quest, and I earn gold towards unlocking new characters or skins. Every day, I come back for more. It's a perfect experience for my lifestyle.

Matches don't take long, less than twenty minutes - a far cry from the grindfest that other MOBAs, like League of Legends, can be - and there's also a co-operative play mode that pits a team of like-minded casuals against AI opponents. Winning against players nets you 30 gold, losses 20 and co-op wins earn you 10. Small change that adds up and also doesn't force you to be the best; just enjoy.

The road towards advancement in Heroes is slow, for sure, but it is ever moving forward. I will gladly walk it, day in and day out. Whether you're with some friends, a PUG or just in practice mode by yourself trying out one of the week's heroes, you always know that you'll get something at the end - progress in a quest, gold or both.

Perhaps I am just old and tired. Whatever competitive edge or desire I once possessed has been stripped away by time, worn down like rocks against waves. Games have become less about winning and more about enjoying the experience - with (and especially) without other people. Maybe I'll see you out there in Nexus one day. Until then, I'll be hanging back, and win or lose, I know that I'll be having fun.

I might also start getting decent at it, too.

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