I play a lot of Overwatch. The popular FPS got its hooks into me nearly a year ago, and it's been my go-to game ever since. So when Blizzard announced the second iteration of its cross-game Nexus Challenge, where you could play Heroes of the Storm games with friends in order to unlock rewards in Overwatch, including a totally awesome police officer skin for D.Va, I was less than thrilled. I don't even play D.Va, but I needed that skin, and playing a bunch of HotS games did not sound like a fun time.
I first played Heroes of the Storm during the game's technical alpha. The version I played then is not markedly different from the game today—there are a lot more characters and maps, and many abilities have been tweaked and changed, but the core game is the same. At the time, HotS was my first MOBA, and the genre just didn't do anything for me. I played a handful of games, got bored, and never gave it a shot again.
Fast forward to Heroes of the Storm 2.0, the game's triumphant 'relaunch.' The core game is still the same, but much has been overhauled with the game's character progression and cosmetics system. Now, instead of cosmetics being almost entirely locked behind a paywall, they're doled out via loot boxes that are rewarded, quite frankly, all the time. The update also added emojis, banners, sprays, and few other types of cosmetics to vastly increase how players can express themselves mid-match.
But most important was the aforementioned Nexus Challenge I needed to complete for that sweet sweet D.Va skin. You see, to unlock each tier of rewards in Overwatch (the D.Va skin unlocks at tier two, while tier four gets you 10 Overwatch loot boxes), you have to play five games in Heroes of the Storm while in a party with someone on your friends list. It's a brilliant move on Blizzard's part, because it doesn't just get more people trying out one of the company's less-popular games, it forces them to experience that game at its most fun—being played with friends.
My first few matches upon returning to HotS did not go well. I joked with my co-workers that getting that coveted D.Va skin was going to be a slog, as I was very bad at the game and not enjoying it much. But then I went to actually complete the quest. A few friends were long-time HotS players (and kind enough to oblige my utter lack of MOBA ability), so we hopped into a party and queued up for battle.
As it turns out, HotS is kind of great. Playing with friends made getting slaughtered every teamfight much more enjoyable, and they were able to impart some much needed wisdom my way. I found a hero that clicked for me (Nova), started learning how to properly lane (not easy as Nova), and most importantly, figured out that I should definitely not attack those three enemy heroes by myself. It was all falling into place.
The Nexus Challenge ends tomorrow, locking away the Oni Genji and Officer D.Va skins until, presumably, Blizzard decides to do another Nexus Challenge. (Oni Genji was previously available only through the first Nexus Challenge, but the skin was made available again this time around.) I've long since completed the quests and unlocked that awesome D.Va skin, but I'm still enjoying Heroes, and if my friends list is any indication, I'm not the only one. I'm still terrible, to be sure, but I'm getting better and still playing. In fact, I haven't even opened those 10 Nexus Challenge Overwatch loot box rewards yet. Damn it Blizzard, you got me.