Friday, June 12, 2015

Rican's Free 2 Play Friday: Hero of the Storm - Johanna

Welcome to Rican's Free 2 Play Friday, a weekly look into free-to-play gaming such as MOBAs, MMOs, Team Shooters, and more! This week we look at one of the playable heroes from Blizzard Entertainment's Heroes of the Storm.

Ask anyone that knows my Diablo 3 preferences and they'll tell you two things: 

"He likes Monks."

"He really really REALLY loves the Crusader class!"

  One of my favorite RPG archetypes is the paladin or the sword and shield wielding knight. The Diablo 3 Crusader is my current favorite version of said archetype in any RPG at the moment. So, much to my surprise and delight, the first official launch new hero of Heroes of the Storm just so happens to be Johanna, the female Crusader of Diablo 3 fame. A "melee warrior," Johanna is a tanky type with a very high emphasis on crowd control abilities. Basically, she's insanely difficult to kill (especially the more she levels) and can slow/stun/pull enemies to ensure teammate kills. As I'm not a "guide" for how to play Heroes (and there's plenty of those online from better produced streamers and players), I'd rather examine heroes in HotS and answer a simple question: are they fun?

  Well, that depends on a lot of elements. From a solo damage-dealing perspective and design, she's an absolutely worthless character. Can she kill other enemy players? Of course. Can she do it effectively? No. While there's talents to pursue a damage-dealing role, Johanna excels at a team fighting and peeling role. Her damage output, no matter how enhanced, will never reach levels that would help her out while alone, and would help your team out even less. What she lacks in damage she gains (hilariously so!) in spades in health and damage soaking abilities. Her passive "Iron Skin"  (technically an activation ability) gives her insane survive-ability and 4 full seconds of immunity to enemy crowd control, making her an invaluable asset in team fights or lane pushes against heroes with hard CC's. Her Q (Punish) ability is a damage-dealing cleave with a 2 second slow effect, which is nice for clearing waves, but even nicer for keeping kill targets under pressure. Her W (Condemn) ability is an AoE 360° delayed action vacuum pull with a small damage component. The range in it is good enough to pull enemies from behind turrets and or enemy walls, which can really mess up the enemies' tactics and put pressure on heroes that usually feel "safe" behind enemy elements. Finally, her E (Shield Glare) is a frontal cone AoE damage dealing ability with a blind effect, making affected enemies miss for 4 seconds with their first 2 basic attacks.

"I need an apprentice... Are you man enough to handle the Crusade?"

  Where Johanna shines is both in her talent choices and her two Heroic Abilities, or Ultimates, in regular MOBA parlance. The first Heroic is Fallen Sword, an instant cast ability that launches her in the air (with a fairly wide area of coverage) and allows her to aim an area in real time seconds before landing a fairly damaging AoE knock-up. Her second Heroic, Blessed Shield, is a Captain America-esque ability where Johanna aims her shield in a straight line and upon hitting a target, and stunning them for 2 seconds, bounces twice to two enemy players, doing relatively decent damage while stunning them for 1 second. Her talents can compliment her CC heavy gameplay by providing: extra health regen, extra slows, stronger shields and even active self heals. In essence, she can be impossible to kill unless a whole enemy team unleashes on her. And once she has you in her sights, pray there's no assassin or specialist assisting her, or your days are numbered. Getting out of her slows and stuns, while actively trying to fend off assassins, is an exercise in survival skills.

  In the week she's been out she's become my absolute favorite melee warrior, right next to a "Brew" oriented Chen Stormstout. Team battles are a blast with her but she really cannot, and I can't stress this enough, cannot really operate well by herself. She can soak experience in a lane decently but she's not really built for that sort of gameplay. The same applies to mercenary camps. If possible, ensure you have a laning partner or try and make sure you're participating in all team objectives to get the most out of her. Do not be a lone wolf and attempt to play something that she's not, otherwise you will just give the enemy team a win and steal your team from a valuable character role in a match.
  But again, is she fun? If you want to be a team player who cheats death and can provide an astounding amount of pressure to the enemy team and assist, viably, in every team battle and objectives, then yes. By the Gods, is she fun! But if you're looking for a hero that can take on enemies by herself and be self sufficient, you probably want something closer to her predecessor...

SHR Fun Rating:

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Look into Free 2 Play Columns: League of LegendsMarvel Heroes 2015, Heroes of the Storm.

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