Hot Right Now is a regular series on Fandom that explores trends in gaming. We explain what the phenomena is and why it is so popular lately, and provide a list of recent and upcoming games you can play to see if you want to jump on the bandwagon or let the trend pass you by.
It seems every time you turn around these days, there is another online multiplayer shooter popping up, demanding your time and hard-earned money. It shouldn’t be too surprising that they are so prominent, given the popularity of the genre. However, recently many of these games have started to look an awful lot alike. Recent shooters feature unique, larger-than-life characters with over-the-top personalities and cool powers that can turn the tide of a match at any given moment. This week alone saw the release of Battleborn, and betas for Overwatch and Paragon.
Calling these games class-based shooters doesn’t seem to do them justice. The term “class” is just so generic, and while different classes may have a unique power or weapon loadout, for the most part, the actual gameplay and shooting are very similar. Not so with this new generation of shooters, which feature characters with their own names and backstories, and a variety of powers so that no two play alike. These are more than classes, more than characters, they are heroes.
Now that we know what to call them, let’s examine this new phenomenon and why Hero-Shooters are so Hot Right Now.
What Are Hero-Shooters?
While a hero-shooter doesn’t necessarily need to meet all of these criteria, here are some common characteristics of the genre:
- As mentioned above, these shooters feature a large roster of unique characters that all play very differently from one another. These characters tend to have one or more unique powers or abilities, different movement speeds or ways of getting around a map, and weapons and gear that complements their powers and playstyle.
- Many of these games are multiplayer only, with no dedicated single-player campaign to speak of. When there is a campaign, usually it is a series of missions woven into multiplayer matches, without the huge set pieces and scripted moments of shooters such as the Call of Duty series.
- These games are team-based, and the different characters tend to fall under certain role archetypes that are meant to complement each other to create balanced teams.
- Matches tend to be objective-based, rather than straight up kill-’em-all deathmatches.
- Some of these games contain MOBA-like elements such as low-level NPC enemies to kill during matches, usually related to an objective.
- Another MOBA staple these games can utilize is the ability to level up during matches, picking powers and abilities on the fly. This enables you to switch up your tactics during a match and pick the best power or ability to fit any given scenario.
Why Are Hero-Shooters So Popular Right Now?
The Influence of MOBAs
Though character and class-based games like Team Fortress 2 have been around for quite some time, the recent popularity of hero-shooters can no doubt directly be traced back to the recent success of MOBAs on PC. Publishers saw that these games had a dedicated fan base that stuck with their favorite MOBAs and kept playing for years on end, all the while occasionally feeding money into the games they loved by purchasing new heroes or cosmetic items like skins. These were more than just games to fans. They were pastimes. Gearbox Software President Randy Pitchford coined an appropriate phrase when describing Battleborn:
Battleborn is: FPS; hobby-grade coop campaign; genre-blended, multi-mode competitive e-sports; meta-growth, choice + epic Battleborn Heroes!
— Randy Pitchford (@DuvalMagic) July 8, 2014
Publishers wanted “hobby-grade” games like these MOBAs that inspired such dedicated followings, and held onto players for years, without the need to invest in a new iteration in a series each and every year, as with games like the Call of Duty series. Or the need to create massive amounts of new content for expansion packs, as is the case with MMOs like World of Warcraft. It is much cheaper to create the occasional new map, character, or skin.
Another offshoot of the MOBA scene that publishers wanted a piece of was their close ties to esports. Esports is a huge phenomenon bringing in new fans and viewers every day, and MOBAs played a big part in the growth of the competitive scene. Shooters have also been a constant in the esports world, so creating games that blend elements from each seems — at least to publishers — like a match made in heaven and a recipe for instant success with esports.
To be fair, they may not be that far off. While no game is guaranteed an esports audience just by checking the boxes on a certain set of features, the hero-shooters matches I have watched are entertaining. While it may sometimes be difficult for the uninitiated to keep up with a MOBA match, everyone knows what a frag looks like in an FPS. Add in some flashy special moves and powers that turn the tide of a match, and you now have something extremely compelling to watch. They could be on to something, and it will be fun to watch and see which — if any — of the recent hero-based shooters is able to carve out a niche for itself and gain a following in the esports community.
What Are Some Hero-Shooters I Should Play?
There is certainly no shortage of hero-shooters to choose from this year. The current wave of games offers a little something for everyone, and if none of these get your competitive juices flowing, even more games — like Gigantic and Paladin — are on the way.
Featuring a similar design aesthetic and sense of humor as developer Gearbox Software’s other big shooter franchise, Borderlands, Battleborn is a hero-shooter that is a hybrid between more traditional class-based shooters and a MOBA. Players in Battleborn choose from a roster of 25 heroes and partake in either the single-player and co-op story mode or three multiplayer competitive modes. Like MOBAs, the maps contain AI-controlled minions that you can farm for XP to upgrade your character during matches using the Helix system. For more information on Battleborn, check out our Super Walkthrough guide.
Overwatch is Blizzard’s first foray into the FPS genre, and since they have already proven themselves to be masters of the RTS, MMORPG, MOBA, and CCG genres, there is no reason to believe that Overwatch won’t live up to their remarkably high quality standards. Buzz out of the betas has been positive, so it looks like they have another winner on their hands. Overwatch features squad-based combat pitting two teams of six against each other in four different games modes. The game contains 21 unique heroes that adhere to one of four different class roles: Offense, Defense, Tank, and Support. Players can also switch between characters after dying, to allow teams to adjust their composition of roles as matches ebb and flow. Overwatch currently has an open beta running through May 9, so go check it out now for free.
Paragon may be the most MOBA-like hero-shooter on this list. It features 5v5 matches that take place on maps consisting of three lanes, with minions, towers and cores. The goal for players is to destroy the opposing team’s core using their heroes and the minions that spawn from each side. There are currently 15 heroes that fit one of six different roles: tank, fighter, support, assassin, ranger, or caster. As with other MOBAs, players can level their character abilities during matches. The game also features a unique card system that lets players use cards to further enhance and customize their characters during matches.
Rainbow Six: Siege
If Paragon is the most MOBA-like game shown here, then Rainbow Six: Siege may be the most traditional shooter of the bunch. The game features intense, close-quarters combat with teams of up to five players competing in three different multiplayer modes. There is also a PVE Terrorist Hunt mode. The game currently contains 22 different Operators to choose from that are classified as either Attacker or Defender units. Each operator has their own unique gadgets and abilities tailored to their specific role on the team. Perhaps the coolest element of Siege is how the gadgets are meant to work with the game’s destructible environments to open up new tactical possibilities. Check out our Super Walkthrough for a full rundown of the game.