My double date with Alarak and Zarya
I played a lot of Heroes at Gamescom
However, I wouldn't really call it a true Heroes of the Storm experience. Instead, my time at Gamescom was spent playing an entirely new game. I call it, endearingly, "Heroes of the Trade Show."
In Heroes of the Trade Show, anything goes. Everyone wants to test out the new abilities and heroes, and a good 40 percent of your fellow players have never played a game of Heroes in their life. Heroes of the Trade show demands you forget everything you know about conventional Heroes-- stop pinging, stop soaking, just get out there and dive some towers like everyone else.
I've played Heroes of the Trade show before, but I still haven't learned my lesson. Something in me still yearns for victory. I still ping objectives, I still desperately soak lanes, I encourage rotations and sometimes even type in chat a game plan. That last one is a cardinal sin-- the mark of a true try hard.
I recorded several matches of gameplay but, unfortunately, everyone's footage from the first day was poisoned by a technical difficulty that made it virtually unusable. Thankfully, I realized this before I left the country, and managed to snag two more games in, this time at a recording station that was working properly.
I didn't want to upload both matches in their entirety because, as mentioned earlier, these aren't Heroes of the Storm matches. If you frequent this site, you are probably used to a much higher level of play, and I wouldn't want to bore you with 20 minutes of Zarya essentially killing the newest of new players. So instead, enjoy 11 or so minutes of me talking over some choice clips-- the most interesting moments from the games I did record.
I had one game with Alarak where I was completely destroying everybody. It was very fun and I left thinking that Alarak was an extremely strong hero. It was the same feeling I had when I played Chromie for the first time at a similar type of event and crushed everyone I was up against. I've learned from that mistake in judgement, and my thoughts on Alarak are similar to my thoughts on Chromie.
Against unskilled opponents, the hero is totally devastating. Against everyone else, not so much. Alarak suffers from very poor mobility and his strongest ability Discord Strike, a high damage silence in an arrow shape in front of him, is very hard to land thanks to it's start up time.
I've found most success with Alarak with Telekinesis based builds, especially the early talent that increases the push back range and another talent that decreases it's cool down. Telekinesis is an extremely potent ability and I suspect it will be his strongest asset to any team. Lightning Surge is just... there. You use it when it's on cool down and you hit enemy heroes with it. I honestly think this ability was made to be overly simple, as most of a players mental resources will be spent trying to land Telekinesis and Discord Strike. Lighting Surge based talents at least make mechanically novice players able to play Alarak to some level of success.
Zarya, however, is the real deal. Proving that the best two things of this patch are coming from Overwatch, I seriously think Zarya will see tons of competitive play. Personal Barrier and Shield Ally are simple abilities with practical effectiveness that make them useful in nearly all situations. Expulsion Zone is, in my opinion, the next Mighty Gust in terms of short cooldown heroic that makes team fights extremely difficult for the enemy team.
Expulsion Zone allows Zarya to peel for any allied hero. Just drop it anywhere and it's an immediate safe zone for anyone. You can use it to trap enemies against walls, block off enemy fort entrances, secure Mercenary camps that are being contested and so, so much more. And it does damage, AND it slows each enemy that is hit by the blast! All on a 45 second cool down.
I go over it in the video, but I just don't think that Graviton Surge is very good. It is on a whopping 120 second cooldown, and for what? It doesn't even stun enemies trapped in the blast. That means enemies can still fight back. They can still Mighty Gust your team away and they can still Santification in response to protect everyone trapped effortlessly.
To me, Zarya just seems obviously good with no potential to be bad, where as Alarak seems potentially good with a likelihood of becoming another Guldan / Chromie / Dehaka. Super cool hero with limited tournament viability.
The new battlegrounds are very fun, but they personally feel very snowball-ish. My opinion is biased of course, as I was playing Heroes of the Trade Show and not normal Heroes, but the power level of a maxed out Zerg wave is seriously oppressive. I can't imagine a team losing if they have 5 heroes pushing alongside the enormous wave of pain the Zerg units provide.