Heroes of the Storm enters closed beta, adds ranked queue

The next big multiplayer online battle arena just moved one step closer to launch

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

The next big multiplayer online battle arena just moved one step closer to launch.

Blizzard’s entry into the competitive genre, Heroes of the Storm, entered closed beta today, shedding the technical alpha tag it’s carried since March 13 2014.

The new closed beta patch introduces a host of changes to the game, including the new map introduced at BlizzCon, Sky Temple, and one of WarCraft’s most iconic champions, Thrall.

The biggest new change, though, is the inclusion of “Hero League,” Blizzard’s take on a ranked queue. Hero League includes Heroes’ first pre-game draft, similar to League of Legends and Dota 2.

Players at level 30 or higher and who own 10 or more heroes will be able to queue for the Hero League, where they’ll be matched up against other evenly skilled players and ranked based off skill level. Unlike League of Legends and its infamous solo queue, Heroes players can queue for ranked with any number of teammates, but they’ll be matched against groups of equal size.

That’s a controversial change for many who want a pure solo queue experience, where individual player skill is more of a factor than teamwork.

Blizzard has also implemented a stiff penalty for leaving a ranked match—leavers must play an unranked game before they can queue for ranked. Whether that serves as a valuable deterrent remains to be seen; critics believe it may encourage players to AFK in ranked games when they would usually instead leave.

Also coming is the ability to host custom games, something the competitive community has sorely missed through the alpha.

The combination of custom games and ranked play provide the framework the small but robust esports community centered around Heroes of the Storm to continue its growth.

In addition to new content, a number of existing heroes received balance changes and even some major reworks. Abathur, Falstad, and Lili were each overhauled, receiving new ultimate abilities, updated talents, and fundamental gameplay changes.

Abathur, for example, finally has two ultimate abilities. His new ultimate, Evolve Monstrosity, turns a minion into a monster that gains health and damage for every nearby minion killed, and can be controlled by his Symbiote ability.

Lili received major changes to her kit and buffs to the scaling output of her ultimate abilities. Falstad’s W, which passively damaged nearby enemies, is now changed to an active ability, mitigating some of the frustrating randomness of the ability.

It’s a massive set of changes for the budding new MOBA, but the one thing many fans were hoping would change with the move to beta—the fact it’s closed—still remains. Still, with the game in beta, it’s likely many more invites will soon hit battle.net accounts the world around. So make sure to check your email for an invite. Heroes of the Storm is steadily shaping up to be a top tier MOBA title.