I’ve been a PC gamer for some 22 years, a veteran some might say. I’ve always felt I can turn my RSI-crippled hand to anything that comes before me. However this week I have been humbled, mocked and ridiculed by my fellow gamer. ‘Noob’, ‘mega-noob’, ‘tard’ and ‘spaz’: all thrown my way. Yes, I’ve been thrown flailing into the deep end with Heroes of Newerth from S2 Games. Will I sink or swim? To be honest you can probably guess. *glug glug*
Before my self-esteem takes too much of a knock, let’s look into the rich history of the game: HoN is a legitimate re-envisaging of Defence of the Ancients, a mod for Warcraft III that changed the RTS control of an army into a single playable character. While played in an isometric 3rd person view the player had to utilise RPG-style elements of character progression, item use and teamwork to overcome the enemy. It could be said that DotA was very much ahead of its time, merging two of the largest PC genres of the time. However, the cruel father time has slowly aged poor DotA, it’s then futuristic online systems seeming all but antiquated in today’s ever demanding online world. Step forward S2 Games with Heroes of Newerth, all the old fun and competition of DotA, but underpinned by modern technology including intelligent matchmaking, dedicated servers and all the sophisticated online trimmings needed to cement this game on any e-sports calendar. One quick look at the website will let you know that this game means serious business, but let me tell you, one quick minute playing the game will enforce it more…
The game concept is simple, two teams of up to five players battle on a symetrical map seperated into several lanes. The main objective is to kill your enemy, slowly forcing them backwards to their base. The winning team is the first to destroy their enemies base. Along these lanes run your automated creeps, waves of small units that automatically advance, attacking all enemy units in their way. With players aiding their own creeps, more ground is made by each successive wave, moving your front-line ever forward. Fortifying the lanes are defence towers that easily dispatch creeps and players alike, only through co-operation can these towers be demolished. With the enemy team also conspiring to destroy your towers, there is an ebb and flow to the battles, players moving to unoccupied lanes for less resistance.
As a player, you have a whopping choice of 62 heroes to choose from. Each hero falls into one of three classes: agility, intelligence or strength. This is only an indication of their abilities as each hero has 4 different skills at their disposal, each fully upgradable. Another factor is your hero’s progression, some may be very powerful in the beginning, reaping early rewards and scalps, but others are comparatively weak to begin but grow immensely powerful in the late game. A fine strategy is to seek out these characters early to stunt their growth making them more manageable. The theory is that there’s a character to suit everyone’s play-style, it’s just finding it is the tricky part. With this game being multiplayer only, and the stakes always so high, one feels the necessity to pick a character you feel familiar with just to hold your end up. In addition to the numerous heroes, another large part of customisation comes with equipable weapons, armour and other items bought in your friendly local shop! Money is earned by either landing the killing blow on an enemy creep or by killing another player. If you are the unlucky recipient of a beating, apart from having to wait till you respawn you will also lose money, further reducing your potency. With such a huge amount of customisation, it is conceivable it would take months to finally settle on your favourite character and setup.
The main difference between HoN and it’s 7 year old counterpart are the visuals. The higher resolution means a smaller UI and more space for the action. Each hero has a distinct look and each skill has enough flourish but not enough to get in the way of gameplay. Another point worth mentioning is the quality of animation, characters transition between each movement fluidly. The sound design is minimalistic, while all the basics are covered the SFX are heavily used to relay more information about other players status.
As I’ve already alluded to earlier in the review, HoN is an online only game. It is very refreshing to see everything working well on day one. A nice feature is clamping down on rage-quitters, within your detailed stats includes the number of times you’ve left a match early. Players starting a private game can specify whether they want to include players with a poor game played/quit ratio. Another fantastic feature is dedicated servers, in all my time playing HoN I’ve yet to experience any lag or connection issues whatsoever. One small problem I’ve encountered is the time taken for matchmaking to work. When all 10 players are found for a match you are essentially bound in, if you should quit before the game starts, it will count towards your rage-quit count.
I’ve no doubt HoN will find a dedicated following, especially as there was enough demand for the title to make this game in the first place! However HoN isn’t targeting newcomers and makes no concessions at all, which in its own way is encouragable for people who take their competitive game seriously, but ultimately damaging to the image of the “elitist” e-sports movement. If you’ve taken my heed and really feel you’ll find a home in HoN, I really do wish you all the best. If you do put significant time in, I’m sure the rewards will come in buckets. For some this is the pinnacle of gaming, pitting wits against a similarly cunning foe where the pressure is high and split seconds count. For me though, maybe I’m getting old or too liberal, but I feel a game so unforgiving or willing to show any compromise to new players seems a wee bit narrow-minded.
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: PC Release Date: 12/05/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Heroes of Newerth for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on a gaming PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.