Heroes of the Storm is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) title that brings together heroes from the various Blizzard franchises such as Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo. It is Blizzard's take on the genre inspired by the Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients, in which opposing teams of five player-controlled heroes try to destroy each other's base with help from waves of AI-controlled minions. The game was initially revealed at BlizzCon 2011 under the name Blizzard DOTA, but due to legal wrangling with Valve, who claimed ownership of the DOTA name and were at the time working on DOTA 2, the name was subsequently changed to the working title Blizzard All-Stars before receiving its final title, Heroes of the Storm.
Heroes of the Storm is a free to play game. It went into a Technical Alpha on March 13th 2014 and, later, into Beta on January 13th 2015.
Heroes of the Storms battlegrounds, in addition to having the same basic elements of the original DotA, 2-3 lanes with friendly and enemy towns, have elements and objectives that are distinctive and change the way the game is played. For instance in Blackheart's Bay heroes collect doubloons by attacking chests and killing players with doubloons to pay off a pirate to bombard the enemy's fortifications. Another example is Haunted Mines where there are mines the heroes can enter in which they must kill undead and collect their skulls. When all of the 100 skulls are collected two golems are summoned, their strengths relative to the skulls collected by each team. These objectives mix up the way the game is played and provide ample opportunity for team fights throughout the course of the game.
Heroes of the Storm has towns which dot the lanes similar to how other MOBAs have towers. Heroes' towers differ slightly on a base level though with the addition of expendable ammo on each fortification that enables more aggressive play. Additionally there are other structures in each town. Typically a town consists of one wall (two turrets, two walls and a gate), another tower, a healing fountain and a castle. All lanes in all current maps lead to the core, a huge building that never runs out of ammo. Heroes try to destroy the core to win. There are also capturable watchtowers that offer vision, defeatable Mercenary Camps which push a lane once captured and brush/smokey areas that block sight heroes can hide in. Informally the furthest out castles in each lane are called Forts and those closest to the core are called Keeps.
Heroes of the Storm streamlines a lot of traditional MOBA mechanics. Teams level up and gain experience as a group so that players don't "fall behind" if they do a lot of cross lane business like map objectives. There's also no store, no gold, no items, and no last hit.
Replacing items are talents. Talents are perks that heroes get to choose one of at levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16 and 20. What talents are available at each tier depend on the hero. Talents can be shared between various heroes (such as Demolitionist, which causes auto attacks to drain ammo from fortifications, or Giant Killer, which gives heroes extra attack against enemy heroes) or individual to a single hero due to modifying a specific ability (like Engine Gunk which gives Gazlowes Turrets a slow), modifying a mechanic specific to a hero (like Metabolic Boost gives Zagara extra move speed on Creep) or just a talent that fits the hero uniquely. (Like Abathur's Locust Nest, which allows him to make a nest that spawns locusts regularly.) At 10 each player is given a choice of two Heroic abilities which can have a huge impact on the game.
Blizzard's main reason behind this drastic change is the fast-paced nature of the MOBA games being at odds with the extensive pre-planning required for ideal character builds under the existing model. Heroes presents fewer but more meaningful options in order to make things more accessible while still having a lot of flexibility in how one builds their hero over a game or in general.
The game catagorizes heroes into 4 rough categories. Assassins are squishy damage dealers, your DPS if you will. Warriors can soak up a lot of damage and typically deal a decent amount of melee damage out. Supports heal, shield, buff their teammates. Specialists are oddballs who tend to be weird in one way or another. Many specialists currently specialize in pushing lanes and dealing with minions, fortresses or mercenaries.
Most heroes have 3 abilities on Q, W and E and 1 trait which, if not passive, is activated with D. Some heroes have less. Some Traits give heroes additional abilities which are mapped to number keys. Each hero gets one of their two ultimates at level 10 which, if not passive, are activated through R. Typically ultimates are big flashy moves with long cooldowns however there are 3 or 4 exceptions to this.
Heroes of the Storm does not have boots for heroes to buy. Instead heroes mount up onto horses, lizard beasts, wolves, etc. and travel quickly in fashion. Once combat begins (if they attack, are attacked or use an ability) heroes are made to dismount. Z is the hotkey for mounting and the hotkey for movement based abilities for the few heroes with different mobility options.
There are currently, as of February, 34 Heroes in the Heroes of the Storm roster. They're being released every month give or take so this number is increasing pretty regularly. The latest hero to be added at time of writing is the bizarre 3-in-1 specialist The Lost Vikings.
Falstad is a mobile lightning wielding Dwarf who's always mounted on his griffin. Instead of mounting up Falstad can fly long distances regularly.
Illidan is a blind melee murderer. He has no mana so the only limits on his very aggressive kit is their cooldowns and every attack he does reduces those and heal him.
Jaina is a bursty frost mage. Every ability she has chills enemies and gives her crits on further ability hits. As a result she can get a lot of damage out chaining abilities together.
Kerrigan is the melee queen of blades. She leaps into battle, gaining shields as she deals damage, stunning foes with impaling blades or pulling them in with primal grasp.
Nova is a Ghost. She's permanently invisible when out of combat and can get a lot of damage out of her sniping focused kit. Be aware when she's in play, she could be anywhere.
Raynor is a space sheriff. He's got a skillshot that pushes enemies away from him and the ability to inspire friendly minions. One of his heroics, calling in the Hyperion, is quite noteworthy.
Thrall is a warchief armed with the melee weapon Doomhammer. He's great at wading in and doing damage. Every 5th ability hit he does heals him, and several of his abilities do multiple hits.
Tychus is a marine with a minigun. It takes a few shots to wind up to full speed but once its going it goes. He can slide into action and move in shoot with his abilities. Very dangerous.
Valla is the titular Demon Hunter. She gains attack power and movement speed as she attacks with her crossbows and can vault after heroes or back to safety she needs to
Zeratul is a Dark Templar. Like Nova he's permanently stealthed. He blinks around the battlegrounds and carves into fools with his blades. Again, beware when he's in play.
Anub'arak is an undead bug king. Every ability he does spawns a beetle. He burrows to get the jump on his foes, hardens his carapace to tank hits and can stun enemies with spikes from the ground.
Arthas is the lich king. Every forty seconds he can empower his sword, Frostmorne, to do double damage for one hit and restore some mana. He's very dangerous up close and can root enemies with ice.
Chen is a brewmaster. He can restore his brew (which he uses instead of mana) by drinking deeply of it during combat. While drinking he gains a shield. After drinking he's got a lot of options for fighting foes.
Diablo is the lord of terror. He collects skulls from minions so he can respawn instantly upon death. He also does wrestling moves to displace enemies.
E.T.C. is a Rock God. Every ability he does inspires nearby minions. He has a slide that stuns, a guitar solo that heals, a big blast that pushes stuff back. One of his heroics, Stage Dive, allows him to jump to anywhere on the map on a moment's notice.
Muradin is a hardy dwarf. When out of combat he regenerates health quickly. He can stun dudes, slow dudes, and make great big leaps. One of his heroics Avatar can give him even more survivability.
Sonya is the titular barbarian. She uses fury instead of mana and builds it up by attacking foes. She leaps, she does a spinning attack, she hookshots to people.
Stitches is a big dumb abomination with a hook. He can "Get Over Here" people which is very useful. He also has a slam which does AOE and an attack in which he takes a bite out of dudes to restore his own health. Additionally every time he takes damage he leaves a slime puddle.
Tyriel is an Archeangel with a sword that allows him to teleport into and out of frays. His trait, Archangel's Wrath, allows him to explode on enemies shortly after death.
Brightwing is a Faerie Dragon. Instead of a mount she can teleport instantly to any ally. Every 5 seconds she passively sends out a pulse of healing. She's a very solid support with a few choice abilities such as Polymorph, which turns an enemy into some sort of harmless animal for a few seconds.
Li Li is an adventurous panda who looks up to her uncle, Chen. When damaged she gets a speed boost to get away. Her Healing Brew automatically targets the ally with the lowest health within range. Additionally she can give any ally a dragon friend that does solid damage.
Malfurion is a powerful druid. In addition to a solid heal he can also give allies extra mana. He also has a mean rooting AOE that can spawn a Treant if he takes a certain talent.
Rehgar is a cool Shaman who, instead of mounting, becomes a wolf. He can do this instantly every 4 seconds and does extra damage coming out of wolf mode. He also has a chain heal, a totem which slows and an electric shield he can give allies. He's a cool dude.
Tassadar is a high templar. He's halfway between an Assassin and a Support informally speaking. He can shield himself, become invulnerable and give extra vision but he can also lay down sick psystorms which do AOE damage.
Tyrande is an archer with a heal. She can stun enemies, mark them for death with Hunters Mark, and send out a long range Owl which gives her vision and can hit dudes at huge ranges. Like Tassadar she's very assassiny.
Uther is a very durable paladin. He can be very very hard to kill due to having multiple heals and a stun. Plus once you kill him he comes back as a ghost and continue to heal, stun or hit dudes for a little while more.
Abathur spins sequences. Evolves swarm. Served Overmind, served Queen of Blades, now serves Kerrigan. He's one of the stranger Specialists. He's very weak in a fight. Instead he spawns additional minions and rides shotgun on any other hero anywhere on the map, giving them shields and attacking from them if needed. He jumps around from ally to ally doing what he can remotely while his physical form spawns dudes who push lanes. He's very strange.
Azmodan is the Lord of Sin. He's really good at pushing lanes with summoned demons and chipping away at static defenses with his super long range Globe of Annihilation. He also can channel an energy beam that's quite powerful if enemies stay in range.
Gazlowe is a Goblin with a mech on his back. He lays down turrets and bombs and can charge up a laser for big damage. He's commonly seen as the closest thing to a Jungler Heroes has as he's particularly good at Merc camps.
The Lost Vikings are 3 Vikings who work in tandem. Each of the 3 of them have a slightly different role. Olaf has lots of health and can stun, Baleog does splash damage, and Erik moves fast and attacks at range. Using automatically set control groups the vikings can be microed individually, even split up to have a presence in multiple lanes. They are, however, very complex to play far as Heroes go.
Murky is a baby Murloc. He's a hero who's supposed to die a lot. Basically he can lay an egg and while that egg stands he can respawn quickly at it immediately getting back into the action. Murky is very annoying.
Nazeebo is the iconic Witch Doctor. Every attack he makes poisons. He also can summon frogs, throw out spiders and cause a ring of zombies to arise, hopefully entrapping foes in the process.
Sergeant Hammer pilots a siege tank into battle. She can siege up to get a whole hell of a lot of range and splash damage in exchange for mobility. She can lay down mines and do a shot that knocks back foes to try to prevent enemies from closing the distance as well. Instead of a mount she can make her tank go super fast for 5 seconds every 30 seconds.
Zagara is a broodmother of the Zerg Swarm. She creates fields of creep which gives her increased movement speed and health regen while she's on it. Each of her abilities spawns zerg units, from a line of banelings which roll out quickly to a Hydralisk that chases down a targeted enemy dealing significant damage to them while they're in its range. One of Zagara's ultimates allows her to make Nydus Worms which allow her to travel from one Worm to any other instantly.
Right now, as of release of the Beta, only one unreleased heroes has been fully confirmed, Sylvanas. Only the basics are known about her. She's an archer whose regular attacks stun minions, mercenaries and towers alike rendering them unable to attack or move while Sylvanas hits them. However at the launch of the beta Blizzard put out an banner on their website featuring 4 other unreleased heroes that are likely to be also very far along in development. They are Rexxar, The Butcher, Zul'jin and King Leoric. Models have been seen of these characters, however not much is known about how these characters are played or when they'll be formally revealed.
There are a number of other heroes that Blizzard has shown models of but has not revealed any gameplay details of beyond those 4.
Additionally there are a number of other rumored characters based on other evidence including Wizard, Monk, Arcturus Mengsk, Dehaka, Overmind, Prince valerian Mengsk, Ragnaros, Deathwing, Moira, Gul'Dan, Kil'Jaeden, Grommash Hellscream, Warden Maiev, Azshara, Shandris, Brann Bronzebeard, Horace Warfield, King Varian Wrynn, Garrosh Hellscream, Tosh, Fenix, Aggra, Artanis, Lady Vashj, Canarius. Some of these may be merely leftovers from development that didn't go anywhere so it's very possible none of these will be next following those who have models.
Currently, as of the start of beta, there are 5 modes in Heroes of the Storm, Practice, Coop, Quick Match, Hero League and Custom. Soon there'll be a 6th mode called Team League.
Practice is a super easy mode in which you and a team of computer players fight against a team of computer players. It's really hard to lose.
Coop is a full team of 5 humans facing off against a full team of 5 computer players. Coop is much less of a pushover as practice but it's still easy to win consistently. Good for getting time in with heroes you haven't leveled up yet.
Quick Match matches a random team of 5 dudes against another team of 5 dudes. It tries to find a team of similar make (e.g. if 3 players on one team are in a party it tries to find another team with 3 members in a party) however is not concerned with the same hero being on both teams.
Hero League is a ranked draft mode that unlocks for players when they hit player level 30 provided they own at least 10 heroes. In Hero League there is no bans and also no order swapping. Note that while ranking is per player Hero League allows parties of up to 5 to queue up and compete.
Team League will be added in a future update. It allows for set teams to test their might in a draft mode that'll work similarly to Hero League. Teams can contain up to 9 members (allowing for alternatives) and any player can be a part of 3 teams. Each team will have a rank and will compete for glory online.
Heroes follows the League of Legends school of Free to Play MOBAs. There's a rotation of 7 free heroes rotating on a weekly basis and every hero will be purchasable permanently for in game gold won through quests or leveling or cashy money. Some heroes will be obtained through other promotions such as Valla the Demon Hunter who will be included as part of Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls pre-orders. There will also be skins that you can spend more gold or more cashy money on. There are a number of bundles available, including a Founders Pack that includes access to the beta for those who don't have it, bundles of new heroes with their skins, a Starters pack for 5 dollars which contains 3 easy/cheap heroes, and a 40 dollar Nexus pack containing 8 heroes, a few mounts and a few skins. Blizzard also does a weekly cash discount on 1 hero and 2 skins/mounts.