Heroes of the Storm actively throws several MOBA conventions out the window, and this includes the genre’s slavish devotion to perfection. Other games carefully balance a single map, pruning its edges for balance and giving it a makeover when necessary. Heroes has ten maps, each with different ways to tackle the main objective of destroying an opponent’s Core structure. These maps, with their borrowed and patchwork aesthetics, tie into Heroes’ philosophy about fun over discipline; the game is a theme park, and its maps are the rides.
I had a much harder time ranking the maps in Hereos than I did its heroes; almost all of them have left me with memories of intense games where capturing an objective lead to a victory I shouldn’t have had. They all have this great way of making victory feel righteous, and their friendliness dulls the sense of defeat. These rankings are based on fun, not balance, and I think we’re all better off thinking about Heroes and MOBAs as a whole that way.
Suriel Vazquez is a freelance writer who knows he can handle loving two MOBAs at once. He has a lot of love to give. He’s written for Paste, Kill Screen, ZAM, GamesBeat, and many others. You can follow him on Twitter.
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10. Haunted Mines: If Heroes is a theme park, Haunted Mines is the broken down, decommissioned ride with the tarps draped over it. Blizzard removed it from public rotation a couple of months ago as it introduced the Towers of Doom map. If one map had to go, I'm glad it was this one; the multi-tiered map was a great idea with some rough execution. It required the most teamwork to really thrive, but didn't provide that sense of triumph that came from a hard-earned fight in the mines. Both teams got to play with the Bone Golems, which made the prize of fighting for them seem less flashy, even if having the stronger ones was important to winning. The multi-layered idea still has promise, but if it comes back, I'm hoping to they update parts of it to make it a better experience overall.
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9. Cursed Hollow: In Cursed Hollow, obtaining three Tributes strewn around the map curses the enemy team. This makes their creeps incredibly weak and prevents towers from pushing back the coming tide of heroes who will mostly likely use the curse as a time to strike. Fighting over the Tributes produces some great fights, since ignoring even one opponent can mean losing the Tribute. But with as quickly as matches go in Heroes, a losing team is often waiting for their enemy to finish them by the time the second curse has set in.
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8. Infernal Shrines: The second map borrowing its look from Diablo III, Infernal Shrines implements the Rift areas from that game. When the titular shrines spawn, teams need to kill 40 creeps spawning from them before their enemy does. Victory here is swift and final; losing the creep-killing fight 39 to 40 is no different than losing 0 to 40. That's fair, but it feels punishing in a way that no other map is; losing on every other Heroes map is incremental, a result of a collection of bad decisions. Even after some tweaks, a team can take a single shrine victory and use it to roll their opponent in minutes.
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7. Garden of Terror: Garden of Terror's day/night cycle borrows one of the most interesting parts of Dota 2, and twists it in a fun way. At night, it's harder to see ambushes coming, but the added layer of having to go out at night to find magical seeds creates a sort of inverse zombie movie situation, where teams have to come out at night. Garden of Terror rewards good teamwork with more seeds, which let you summon a giant plant monster you pilot like a Gundam. It's a good center to base fights around, though it can be frustrating when your team backseat drives you when playing as the plant monster.
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6. Dragon Shrine: Dragon Shrine has the same "become an unstoppable monster" aspect of Garden of Terror but improves on it in two ways: it makes acquiring the monster more of a fight, and replaces plant monsters with dragons, which are objectively cooler. To summon the Dragon Knight, you need to control two shrines at once and get a team member to the center of the map to activate the Knight before the enemy team reclaims either shrine. It can take minutes of grueling back-and-forths to even summon a single Knight, but that the map makes you earn its big theme park setpiece makes winning those fights worth it.
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5. Tomb of the Spider Queen: Almost every other Heroes map requires teams to work together to capture their objectives, but Tomb of the Spider Queen lets each team member contribute their own little victory. As players kill the bejeweled spiders that spawn with the armies of creeps, they drop gems. Players can then deposit those gems at the spider bank to earn a wave of magical spider women to attack the enemy base. There's no big incentive to group up and fight, but the change of pace this map provides makes it a welcome addition when you're playing your fifth match of the night.
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4. Sky Temple: The kinds of fights Sky Temple produces around its temples are gloriously insane; teams must stand on platforms for a certain period of time for the shrines' lasers to start decimating the enemy base, and hold their position there if they want to harness every single laser shot. This makes it easy for the other team to march in and take the shrine back, since they know where the enemy team is as soon as the shrine starts lighting up. Better yet, because multiple shrines spawn at once, both teams can have their own laser. And the more lasers, the better.
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3. Towers of Doom: You can win many matches in Heroes by attrition, pecking away at your enemies' base over a half hour if you have to. Not so with Towers of Doom. Towers don't get destroyed but are rather captured and eventually replaced, and the only way to win is to consistently take fights near the shrines and capture them, which send cannon fire directly at the enemy core. As long as you can take a single fight, you haven't lost. In Towers of Doom, you can hold onto hope for as long as your core's health bar isn't at zero. It's a nice restructuring of the traditional MOBA mindset, and the suicide-bombing pumpkin mercenaries throwing themselves at towers are a nice touch.
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2. Battlefield of Eternity: The original Diablo-based map, Battlefield of Eternity makes for some of the quickest and most intense matches you'll see. Want objectives that force you to manage capturing them and fighting the enemy? The map's claustrophobic fight between two immortals guarantees you'll see the enemy time and again as you try to kill their immortal before they kill yours. How well you do in these fights determines how much bonus health the winning immortal has when they attack the enemy base, and you can carry the momentum of a victory to take a tower or two. But the immortals don't last long, and then it's back to just beating up your enemy and claiming mercenary camps to help your team win. It's a strong loop with a powerful sense of momentum, making it one of the funnest maps in the game.
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1. Blackheart's Bay: Blackheart's Bay perfectly balances everything Heroes wants to do. It literally bends the established truths of the MOBA genre: its lanes are bent diagonals instead of L-shapes; gathering gold from chests and giving them to a ghost pirate is the most theme park-like thing in the game; the payoff for said gold-depositing is watching your enemy's base collapse under a barrage of cannon fire. It's goofy but surprisingly nuanced, with lots of hiding spots to take enemies by surprise as they rush to deposit their enormous gold. Its swings are pronounced, bombastic, and happen more regularly than any other map; you can build a victory slowly over the course of a few minutes, but still lose on a dime. If Heroes of the Storm is a theme park, this should be the ride with longest line. It's worth it.