What makes HotS different?
HotS is centered on 4 aspects. Map objectives, shared experience, hero talents, and teamwork.
Shared Experience: Teams in HotS share the same pool of XP and level as a team. XP can be earned through killing minions, slaying enemy players, and destroying structures.
Talents: Heroes gain access to talents that augment their skills or offer new abilities at level 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 20. Heroes do not start with access to all of their talents. As you play a hero they will level up and gain full access to all of their talents at level 4. Map Objectives: There are 5 maps available to play at the time of this post (and 3 in development). The map is chosen randomly when a game is started (unless you play the Custom Game Mode). Blackheart’s Bay, Cursed Hollow, Dragon Shrine, Garden of Terror, and Haunted Mines. Sky Temple expected to be the 6th map introduced. Each map has a unique objective. The overall goal of each map is to destroy enemy structures and finally their core. The maps have added objectives that aid in the overall goal. It is important to remember that in HotS neutral camps, called Mercenaries, will fight for you after you defeat them.
Blackheart’s Bay: The unique objective of this map is to gather coins and turn them in to have the ghost ship bombard the enemy structures. Coins can be gained from chests that spawn (there will be an audio announcement when they appear as well as a mini-map icon), mercenary camps, and neutral mob camps (noted by a purple flag on the mini-map). The first time coins spawn on the map it will take 10 coins to activate the ghost ship. Subsequent turn ins requires 2 additional coins each time (10, 12, 14,…)
Players can be interrupted while attempting to turn in coins, and if a player dies while carrying coins they will drop allowing friendly or enemy players to retrieve them (by walking over them). This is the only map that requires players to turn in the items they gather. On the other maps once you collect an objective item it will not be lost on death.
Curse Hollow: The goal of this map is to disable enemy structures and weakening enemy minions. The map will spawn “tributes”. A team needs capture 3 tributes to curse the enemy team. You do this by clicking on a tribute and channeling it item to receive it. Cursed teams will lose functionality of their turrets and their minions will be reduced to 1hp. It is important to remember that when the announcer indicates a tribute is spawning you have a short window to travel to the location and ready for a team fight. There is not enough notice to recall to base to heal before the tribute will spawn.
Dragon Shrine: This map has two shrines. One located above the center of top lane and the other located below the center of bottom lane. Standing in the indicated area around the shrine allows a team to capture the shrine. When a team successfully controls both shrines one member of that team can use the Dragon Shire located in the center of middle lane. The Dragon has two abilities. The first will allow you to breathe fire leaving behind a DoT AoE that burns enemies that stand in it. The second ability allows you to punt an enemy player away from you. The primary purpose of the Dragon is to damage enemy structures and push lanes. Your team should back you up when you control the Dragon to allow the controller to focus on punting enemies away and damaging structures.
Garden of Terror: When night falls on this map you will want to group up with your team and head to the Terrors. These neutral minions only spawn at night and drop flower bulbs. Collecting 100 bulbs will allow you to grow a Terror. Once you have grown a Terror you must go back to base and briefly channel the creature to take control of it. It is important to note that a grown Terror will not stay in your base indefinitely. After one minute the Terror will wilt and die so make sure someone is recalling to base to control it. Terrors have three abilities. The first places a plant that will cause AoE damage and disable enemy structures. The second will polymorph enemy players in to small plants that can only run away. The third ability will increase your movement speed for 3 seconds.
Haunted Mines: This two lane map has a second tier to it. When the mines open there will be icons that indicate where players enter the mines. Get your team together and enter the mines to kill neutral minions and gather skulls. There are 100 skulls total and when all 100 are collected each team will spawn a Golem. The power of your Golem is dependent on how many skulls you collect. If you manage to collect more than the enemy team your Golem will be more difficult to kill. Remember there are only 100 skulls and you’ll be competing against other the enemy to gather them.
Sky Temple (in development): This map consists of three lanes. Each lane has a temple. When temples become active they can be claimed by a team after the team defeats the temple guardian(s). Once a team controls a temple it will continuously damage enemy structures in that lane for a period of time.
What HotS does not include: HotS has opted to forgo some mechanics seen in other MOBAs. The most noticeable things not included in HotS are gold (currency), itemization, individual XP, and snowballing (carrying).
Gold (currency): Each map has a unique currency to fuel the objectives of each map. These currencies were discussed previously. The only other currency is XP that is shared by team members. Gaining a level advantage can make or break team fights.
Itemization: In HotS characters are customized through talents acquired at levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 20. This design choice simplifies character balancing and removes multi-tier punishments found in other games.
Snowballing: Blizzard chose to focus on encouraging team fights. Good play calls, communication, and teamwork are the best ways to shine in HotS. Without the ability to solo-carry a team players are rewarded for working together and abandoning the traditional solo-que mentality.
Multi-tier Punishment: In other MOBAs teams can fall behind in several ways. Map objectives, currency, items, level, snowballing, vision, and more. Streamlining how many levels a team can be dominated on means that even when you are ahead you must maintain good game play. HotS offers multiple chances for teams to continue maintaining their earned advantage, but over confidence can lead to a great power shift between teams. Players can find a losing game turn around with a few good pushes or well-timed objective skirmishes.
What HotS accentuates: Players often wonder what sets HotS apart from other MOBAs. The design choices of Blizzard have led to a game that encourages teamwork, coordination, timing, and persistence. With opportunity to recover from poor fights and improve over the course of individual games players can turn bad games into victories. The talent system allows players to customize their Hero to aid their team or counter enemy players. Map designs offers variety of game play and shifting meta.
Expected changes: HotS is still in Alpha. Closed Beta will begin January 13th, 2015. No further account wipes are planned. Any cash shop purchases will remain on your account. If an unplanned wipe is deemed necessary Blizzard has refunded previous purchases in the past, this would occur again, but no future wipes are anticipated.
MMR (Matchmaking Rating): Currently this system is lacking due to the small player pool and absence of Ranked play. We should see improved team matching with Closed Beta.
Talents: Blizzard is striving to provide a balanced experience for players. Talents are meant to offer unique upgrades that are meaningful and fun. As the game evolves players can expect to see changes to existing talents or the introduction of new talents.
Maps: 3 additional maps are in development. In-game and Post-game stats: Currently the summary of stats for player damage, healing, xp gain, and other actions is limited. Blizzard has announced their intention to implement improved visualizations for these stats.
Reconnect System: Currently the reconnect system is subpar. Blizzard is aware of the issues with reconnecting and the long time it takes to rejoin a game after a client crash or prolonged disconnect. Blizzard has stated they are working on a new reconnect system, but no ETA has been announced.
Leaver Queue: Closed Beta should bring the addition of the Leaver Queue. Players that frequently quit games will be placed in a separate queue with other players that frequently leave games. Players can earn their way out of this queue by playing games until they are finished. There are no details on how many games are required to escape the Leaver Queue, but once it is released we can expect more details.
Future Heroes: Sylvanas (WoW), Thrall (WoW), and The Lost Vikings (a SNES title) are the three champions announced for release. The next champion is expected to be released with Close Beta, but no confirmation has been given.
HotS Level System: Players level their account and Hero levels in and out of game.
Account level: This is akin to the League of Legends Summoner level. Unlike LoL, in HotS your account level grants rewards. Gold for buying access to heroes, additional F2P heroes, and access to daily quests (which grant bonus gold for purchasing heroes). When Closed Beta launches players will be able to access Draft Mode at level 30 and Ranked-Draft Mode at level 40. Blizzard has stated they would like to add additional rewards for account leveling, but no new details have been made available. The max level is 40.
Hero Level (out of game): Heroes gain XP based on the XP earned in-game. All heroes start at level 1 and can be raised to level 10. Level milestones provide access to different things.
- Level 1: Starting point
- Level 2: Heroic Ability (can be used in game)
- Level 3: Expert Talents (can be used in game)
- Level 4: Advanced Talents (can be used in game)
- Level 5: 500 gold (used to unlock Heroes, mounts, or master skins)
- Level 6: Hero Portrait & Mount Variation (recolor) if hero uses a mount.
- Level 7: Skin Variation (recolor)
- Level 8: Skin Variation (recolor)
- Level 9: Master Portrait & Mount Variation (recolor) if hero uses a mount.
- Level 10: Ability to purchase the heroes Master skin for 10k gold.
For more information check out the /r FAQ Post: http://www.reddit.com/r/heroesofthestorm/wiki/faq