Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm is doing loot chests better than Overwatch with its new 2.0 update


RNG protection, buy new stuff outright

This week Blizzard unveiled its new Heroes of the Storm 2.0 update, which is arriving in beta form later today. In short, it heralds a completely revamped progression system, loot chests, a new currency (gems are replacing cash, though coins remain), a collection interface, and cosmetics like sprays, banners, voice lines/taunts, announcer packs, and perhaps its biggest surprise, adorable emojis.

It’s probably the biggest shakeup since the game’s launch, and most of it is good news — even if I am a bit weary of injecting even more free-to-play elements in.

In the pastHeroes worked just like League of Legends. You could earn gold (IP) through regular gameplay and buy heroes with that basic currency. If you want skins, you’ll have to pay a premium in the form of cash (Riot Points). It was easy to understand, but a lot of people didn’t dig the idea of just rehashing the Riot way of doing things, which makes sense in a DOTA 2world.

Now, loot boxes are entering the fray. Instead of just earning gold, you’ll now earn both gems (the premium replacing cash) and loot through progression, which has been uncapped (for the most part, as Blizzard notes that they don’t expect anything to reach the new 6,000 cap implemented for technical reasons). Your player level is tied to the sum of all your hero levels, and periodically, just like Overwatch, you’ll earn new loot boxes.

They can contain anything from all of the new cosmetic items to legendary ($10) skins, as well as shards, the crafting currency, and even heroes. To adjust for this, it will be easier to earn individual hero levels —Travis McGeathy, lead designer for Heroes, confirmed to me that 2.0’s level 15 is roughly equal to level 10 in the old system. As part of the increased effort to add more gold sinks to the game, you can re-roll loot boxes if you aren’t happy with the results.

Crafting is kind of a stretch as it’s mostly for buying piecemeal items, but you get the picture — it’s mainly a way to break down duplicate items, just like Overwatch. But speaking of Overwatch, the way it’s being handled in Heroesis slightly more interesting. First off, there’s an inherent level of RNG (random number generator, or, simply, randomness) protection (similar to Hearthstone) where if you aren’t getting rare drops for a while, the system will kick in and increase your chances. Also, you can buy stuff with money if you so choose and not have to deal with the new system — right now this seems to be relegated to “featured items,” (previously, new mounts, skins, and new heroes) but given that most new content is featured, you can pay outright for it for a limited time. At the moment most of the fluff like emojis and banners seem locked to shards.

Blizzard says the whole 2.0 idea is to keep rewarding people for constant play. Previously after a player reached the easy enough level cap they’d merely earn rewards through quests and hero level ranks — something that the devs learned was leading to players logging in, finishing their “dailies” as it were, and logging off. Now you can earn bigger rewards for ranking up, including the new Prime Evil Diablo skin.

There is one downside though, and this isn’t something that mostly just bugs me personally. Master Skins (which were a sort of hardcore reward for ranking up to level 10 with a character) are now gone as we know them. Instead those skins are being reverted to normal drops/skins, but there’s a catch — all skins are now broken up into individual pieces for their tints. Whereas in the past each skin, premium or otherwise, would come with three color options, they’re all now their own individual skin.

That will excite a lot of you out there though as you don’t need to reach a certain high level to get those master variants.McGeathy confirmed to me that they were working on a replacement — possibly “epic taunts” that have some sort of special animation so people know you put a lot of time into that character.

It’s not a huge deal for those of you who just like picking one hue (and for everyone who already owns any existing skins as they transfer over), but to me it’s an excuse to jam more randomized items into loot box RNG. All of the collection upgrades seek to balance it out though, and having three custom loadouts per hero (including matching skins and mount colors) is rad. While it seems a little drastic in theory, it’s not much different than Overwatch‘s system — and that game has a premium price attached to it while Heroesis remaining free-to-play.

You’ll be able to try all of this out for yourself today. The open beta will last roughly a month until 2.0 hits live servers at the end of April.