It’s been just over two weeks since the Cho’gall patch was released. In addition to a unique new Hero, this patch also brought with it some fairly substantial design and gameplay changes. The early portion of the game in particular is noticeably different now as a result of changes to scaling and respawn timers.
It is easy to see how the longer respawn timers have affected the game. Early deaths definitely feel more impactful. If you are the one waiting to respawn, those extra few seconds create an undeniable sense of helplessness. If you are on the team securing the kills, those extra few seconds provide a solid opportunity to gain an advantage. Regardless of which side you are on, early deaths now have more meaning, and that is good for the game. Gone are the days where players could convince themselves that early deaths didn’t matter since they could so quickly return to the fight. The longer deaths timers make it much more obvious that dying is a mistake, which should make it easier for players to learn from those mistakes and improve.
The scaling changes, while just as significant, are much harder to assess. For starters, the changes themselves are less transparent and more difficult to understand. Previously, gaining a level provided your Hero with a flat increase to health and damage. Since this stat increase was the same whether you were level 2 or level 20, it could end up being a 20% boost at level 2 as opposed to a 4% increase at level 20. This meant that gaining a level in the early game provided a much larger boost to the strength of your Hero than a late game level gain would. It also made an early level advantage difficult to overcome, and led to snowballing. Under the new system, base stats have been increased and the amount of health and damage your Hero gains with each level is now percentage based, roughly 4% per level. The result is that Heroes are now more powerful early, but gain less strength when they gain a new level. This leads to a more even power curve, and it puts the focus more on talent gains, as opposed to just level gains. It also makes it easier for teams to engage in team fights when they are behind in levels, provided they are on the same talent tier.
Here are the patch notes for the scaling changes:
- Health and damage scaling for all Heroes, Battleground Events, Minions, and Mercenaries has been changed from flat, additive values to values that are multiplicative by percentage.
- A large portion of Heroes’ total scaling amounts, which were previously gained over the course of a game, have been added to their base values.
It can be easy to underestimate the effect of these scaling changes since they include all Heroes, Battleground Events, Minions, and Mercenaries. If everything gets changed then how big of a change is it really?
That is a trick question, since in this case not everything was actually changed. There is a notable omission here, and that is Structure health and damage. Post patch, Heroes now start with base stats that are roughly the equivalent to what would have had at level 8 stats prior to the patch. While most other aspects of the game were similarly changed to account for this, Structures for some reason did not receive the same treatment. It is ironic that Heroes now come out of the gates stronger, but the gates themselves do not. Because of this, it has never been easier to push down Gates, Towers and Forts.
There is an opportunity here, and that is to push hard in the early game when you have the chance. Many players are still operating with the old mindset that Towers hit hard and should be avoided in the early game. The new reality is that Towers do much less damage relative to your new health pool, so you can withstand several more shots than you would have been able to previously. Since Heroes also start out doing more damage, being able to absorb those additional shots can often give you enough time to take down said structures. Keep this in mind when deciding when to push and when to fall back. You can accomplish much more now in a short period of time that you could have previously. Also, remember this holds true for the enemy as well, so be careful about leaving them unattended in a lane.
It is unclear if this mechanic was intended or is some type of over site. Dustin Browder, Game Director for Heroes of the Storm, was asked about this on Twitter, and said he will discuss it with the team. In the Developer Comments that were a part of the patch, it does mention scaling changes to Structures:
Developer Comments: Due to the way that our old level scaling system worked, early game level discrepancies created a larger difference in power level than we liked. This often led to situations where a team could be up two or more levels early in a game, and use this advantage to create a larger lead. We didn’t feel that games were fun for the winning or losing team in these types of scenarios.
As a result of these changes, all Heroes will have more power early, but gain less from each level. Battleground Events, Minions, Mercenaries, and Structures have all been adjusted to compensate for this and should feel close to what they did previously.
The aim of these adjustments to the scaling system is to make level differences have a similar impact on your Hero’s statistics at all points in a game. Now, each level offers about 4% Health and 4% damage, which mirrors what late game leads felt like in our previous version of the game. It is important to note, that while being down a few levels will be less punishing than it was previously, Talent tier advantages can and will still have a noticeable impact on enemy engagements.
Based on this, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is something that gets changed in the near future. Until then, be aggressive in the early game when you get the chance to push structures. Opponents will often underestimate the threat you pose, and you can accomplish a surprising amount of damage in just a few seconds. Don’t get careless though. While structures may not damage you like they once did, enemy Heroes still do. Once you start taking down their structures, you can rest assured that they will be coming for you. Being able to take down a Tower or two before the first Objective spawns is going to give your team a solid advantage when it comes time to contest it, but you won’t be able to capitalize on that advantage if you die and have to wait on the longer respawn timers.