This is a trimmed down version of the Warcraft III incarnation of DOTA, which utilizes a simplified shop system--combining items has been replaced by upgrading items--and a StarCraft-influenced cast of characters. Raynor, Zeratul, and the Queen of Blades are heroes, along with other characters like Grunty, the Murloc Marine, and Patches, a version of Pudge.
Now, this is clearly a version intended to appeal to a mass audience rather then the droves of rabid DOTA fanboys. You won't be able to deny creeps by killing them before your opponent and it felt a bit slow. This could be due to the game being set to "Normal" and not "Faster", but we were not able to customize the game at all.
Heroes will have 5 skills versus DOTA's four. The first three can be leveled up at each level (up to level 4). The fourth is taken at 5, 10, 15, and 20, while the ultimate is available at 10 and 20. Sadly, the 15 minute time limit meant that we weren't able to finish a game, but my team did manage to round up 27 kills. It's definitely a fun map, but don't expect the depth of DOTA, Heroes of Newerth, or League of Legends.
This was probably my favorite custom map of the group. Basically, players will play a game of Bejeweled (match-3) earning energy for successful matches. With this energy, players can summon units that will mindlessly push a single lane toward the enemy base or use some useful spells.
This is a 2 versus 2 game and rewards teamwork. Unit counters are extremely important and spells can easily turn the tide of battle. The spell-kit includes a lengthy stun, a area-of-effect slow, a heal, and Psi-Storm. You may also clear your board and reset the gems, but this does take time.
It may sound silly, but this game is actually really intense and it will probably help you train your multitasking ability. On the right side of the screen, you've got to keep matching gems for more energy, but on the left the battle rages on as marines and summoned units clash into each other. You've got to be mindful of what units your enemies are spawning or cast the right spell for the moment.
Unfortunately, the actual gem matching is a bit laggy. The game board definitely cannot keep up with your clicks, but it affects everyone equally.
This map is a parody of Iron Chef and finds players running around a map collecting specific quantities of different ingredients to earn points and character upgrades. You cannot directly injure your opponents, but you can do some things to stall or confuse them.
It's a bit confusing at first, but there is some strategy here. You'll definitely want to complete the recipe that gives the Blink upgrade for more mobility, while other recipes might only yield points. Repeat a recipe too often and it'll start giving you less points.
The game has three rounds and the main ingredient and recipes change with each phase. It's humorous--hello, double rainbow reference--and cute, but will likely be one of the more casual custom maps from Blizzard.
This custom is a play on the "Outbreak" mission from the game's campaign, which puts the player up against infested swarms during the night and has them out on the hunt, destroying infested buildings in the day.
In this multiplayer version, Blizzard is paying homage to Valve's Left 4 Dead games and players will face off against Zerg incarnations of the Hunter, Boomer, Smoker, and Spitter.
Killing these special infected and infected buildings will yield research points, which can be used to unlock more powerful units and technologies. It features multiple difficulty settings, but I was not able to complete it on normal in the allotted 15 minutes.
I had a lot of fun, but it isn't as fresh as the three other maps because it is based on a mission we've already played in the main campaign. The Left 4 Dead references are fun, especially for fans of Valve's work and it's worth playing, but it probably won't be played as often as the competitive customs.
These four maps definitely show off what is possible through the game's editor. Aiur Chef features modified models for a comical look along with new voiceover, Starjeweled merges two games together. Left 2 Die is a cool co-op map with custom enemies, and DOTA is a streamlined version of the popular custom. These four will be released by Blizzard for free through Battle.net over the coming months. We'll be sure to let you know when they become available.
Thanks for the info and impressions, Brian. Strangely the one map that I'm most interested is the one you think will be the least interesting. I have zero interest in the competitive-based custom maps, just the Left 4 Dead one - the Outbreak mission was one of my favorites during the campaign. :)
The DOTA one sounds cool, especially since it's less like DOTA and will probably (hopefully) scare away the "rabid fanboys" of the series that you mention in this preview.