Competitive gameplay in the extreme.
Once upon a time, many moons ago, a mod was developed for the hugely popular Warcraft III. The Defence of the Ancients was its name and it gathered followers from far and wide. The mod revolved around each player on a team taking control of a hero and fighting across a map to destroy the other teams “base”. That was it, basically.
But the followers kept on coming and the game evolved into an incredibly competitive tactical experience with a depth that didn’t seem possible within such a simple concept. Even today, some years later, the mod is still being played and still popular amongst the now hardened followers. The game has even launched its own genre, the MOBA or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.
Until recently, this genre was relatively empty. But a number of developers have slowly been releasing their own MOBA games in an attempt to compete with DotA. Demigod and League of Legends are both already available and have met with some success. Today, a new contender for the title of “spiritual Successor to DotA” has stepped into the ring. Heroes of Newerth from S2 Games, we welcome you!
Let’s get down with the basics first. Players choose a hero from the 64 currently available. The heroes come in three “flavours”: Agility – these heroes are the most agile and generally have a higher attack speed: Intelligence – Mana based heroes with a fondness for spell casting: Strength – These guys are blessed with massive numbers of hit points. Within these three categories, the heroes can differ quite dramatically from one to another and it may take a little time to find one that matches the players gaming style. The heroes each have different attacks and roles to fill on the battlefield.
The map across which the two teams of five (usually, although other configurations are available) will play is relatively straight forward. Split diagonally across, the map is divided between the two teams, with the “bases” in the opposite corners. There are three paths across this map, known as lanes, and each of these lanes contain defensive towers, friendly on the home side of the map and unfriendly on the opposing side.
The objective of the game is to capture the enemy base, or Throne, by first destroying the enemy towers to create a clear lane. Each team will have barracks that spawn Creeps. These NPCs will slowly make their way along the lanes and attack any enemy towers, creeps or heroes that they encounter.
The heroes on both teams begin at level one and can level up throughout the match to a maximum of level 25. Players can gain the experience not only by destroying the opposing towers, creeps or heroes, but simply by being in the vicinity when they are destroyed. This is where things start getting tactical and is not an area that I am going to get into here. Anyway, gaining experience and levelling up is not the only way to make the hero more powerful. Players will also receive gold that can be spent on items to improve many aspects of their hero.
As I am sure those of you who have never played DotA, or one of the other MOBA games that are currently available, can see, what at first sight appears to be a relatively simple game, is actually incredibly deep and complex. And herein lies its biggest flaw. The online community for this game, which is massive, are not particularly tolerant of newcomers. To the majority of the hardcore players, this game is a very serious part of their life. The game even emphasises this point, offering all manner of statistics and ladders by which a player can gauge their performance. For the new player however, this can all seem a little overwhelming and intimidating. There are plenty of resources online that can explain the technicalities of this game and players who seriously want to experience HoN without the abuse that will come from being a Noob will probably want to check some of this out first. People may well say that you must put in hours and hours of training and learning to reach a level where you can hold your own and not embarrass your teammates in HoN. But, given that most people will not play a game that they don’t enjoy for more than a couple of hours, many newcomers will never reach that level.
From a visual point of view, the game looks as good as most modern RTS games. Stunning is not a word I would use, but given that the emphasis is on the gameplay, itâ€™s no big deal. Likewise the sound is certainly adequate and does its job. But these things are just not that important. The menu system seems to be a lot clearer than LoL and much more user friendly, making it very simple to get into a game without too much “faffing about”.
Of the utmost importance is the gameplay and this is where HoN succeeds. The controls are very simple and will quickly become second nature to anyone who plays more than a couple of games. The unwelcoming community and the high level of complexity aside, this game is an immense adrenaline rush. The to and fro of a match will raise the blood pressure and get the heart pumping like no other game.
Never before has it been truer to describe a game as “easy to learn, difficult to master”. Players who have enjoyed DotA in the past are probably already playing HoN as they are the target market. But newcomers who are willing to put in the work and develop a thick skin will be rewarded with a most satisfying gaming experience. Not everyone will enjoy HoN though and, if you are not really sure at this point, it may be best to wait for the opportunity to try before you buy.
“Buy?â€ you say. Yep, unlike LoL which is funded by micro transactions, HoN will set you back $30 for an account. No big deal for the hardcore players as they will easily get their moneyâ€™s worth. But for a newcomer, that is quite an investment in something that they may not even enjoy. What you do get for your money though is access to a community that regularly offers big cash prize tournaments. A worthy investment for those willing to work, and play, hard.
Heroes of Newerth is an incredibly complex, frustrating game that offers an unparalleled gameplay experience. DotA veterans will leap straight in and get the most from this game. Newcomers should at least do some more research before making their mind up. Like anything worthwhile in life, HoN takes some considerable effort before the player can reap the rewards.