I think the mechanic of earning and “feeding” ascension items, etc. to level up heroes is good.
As an enhancement, I think it would be fun to have a mechanic that allows for the earning of “ascension points” or similar based on actual hero use that could be used to pay for ascension items. It could help level out the “random drop” aspect of ascension items in some players minds by giving them a way to “earn” one… giving players a bit more control in leveling heroes they like and actually use.
So, for example, if I want to level Natalya I could use her (actually learning to use the hero productively) in different activities… map, AW, raids, titan to earn a small number of points based on type of activity and result.
Accumulated hero points could be used to buy an ascension item of any type (with cost differences, of course…).
So in my example, from high to low, point spend tiers could look like:
hidden blade, compass, fine gloves
i would NOT have a pool of player points that could be used anywhere… would definitely keep them restricted to the earning hero, the basic idea being that experience makes a hero stronger.
IMO, earning should be a slow-ish process based on average time it takes to get a particular item… so if it takes “x” farming occurrences to get a pair of boots (again, on average), that could be correlated to a number of world energy points required. In addition, I’d have some factor that makes players “challenge” their heroes to earn points… so Natalya getting experience from 1:1 would be a tiny amount (if any), 10-1 would be higher, 20-1 would be higher… etc.
I haven’t done the math, so shooting from the hip here, but some multiple would make sense for getting the “sure thing”… maybe 3x-5x based on type of items.
A different (probably simpler) implementation of this idea could be to reduce the number of random ascension items and insert “experience points” as a new “required material”… so maybe five rings instead of six, and six total blades instead of eight. The difference, again being that it introduces an element that is player controlled… more points by playing more advanced levels or participating in more activities… maybe could be sped up by getting a “training token” or spending gems to “hire trainers” to add to experience up to some maximum percentage to still encourage use of the hero instead of outright buying the element (something to be said for “real world” experience).