Heroes Of Newerth
Reviewed by SteelStallion
I'm a big fan of Heroes of Newerth, and I've made no attempt to hide it. I've been parading around the forums with my top tier support hero the Demented Shaman as my avatar for as long as I've been registered on the site. For good reason, too, for HoN is a great game... for those willing to put enough hours in to learn it, that is. And that's speaking to the DotA veterans, if you're entirely new to the genre, be prepared to suffer through the infinite hells of ridicule and "N00B F***" mocking, but fear not, for green pastures lie ahead.
Heroes Of Newerth belongs to a newly rising genre dubbed "AoS", named after the mod on the original Starcraft that first brought this type of game to light, "Aeon Of Strife". It was a hit, and it wasn't long before the idea was expanded upon by other mods on Blizzard's battle.net games, namely Warcraft 3. It wasn't until "Defense of the Ancients"'s claim to fame, how ever, that the game was truly introduced to the world. DotA was a smash hit, quickly becoming more popular than any other custom map on Battle.net, even more popular than the original Warcraft 3 at points. It made a large impact on the competitive gaming scene, with tournaments offering teams thousands of dollars in cash prizes as they compete in the 5v5 battle royale. Developers, inspired by the popularity and addictive nature of the game, began creating games in a similar vain, Demigod and League Of Legends being the most notable examples. S2 games, being large DotA fans and with the permission of the DotA creator "IceFrog", have taken the popular Warcraft 3 mod and transfigured it into a fully fledged retail game. The result? That's complicated, so read on.
"Gotcha!" - Pudge makes his return as the Devourer.
Heroes Of Newerth plays out like the other games in the "AoS" genre. Each side starts with a base at the bottom left and top right corners of the map. These bases periodically send out waves of minions belonging to either side on one of the 3 lanes leading to the other base, where they clash and kill each other. Of course, these minions are equal in strengths, so without outside interference they'd just be meeting at the center of their lanes and fighting forever, that's where the players come in. In a standard game, 5 players are placed on each side and choose from a large pool of heroes, each with their own skillset and roles on the battlefield, to help push the minions on with the ultimate goal of killing the other base's main structure. A small blend of RPG elements helps the heroes grow in strength as they fight each other and the minions. What follows is an assortment of strategies, hero synergies and tactical placement in order to kill the opposing side. A single game will generally last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or even more.
If the concept doesn't seem overwhelming at first, you'll realize how difficult it is to get accustomed to it, especially if you're new to the genre, during your first game. Generally, the early game is considered the "early laning phase", where heroes are far too weak to be pushing through minions and towards the enemy base, and so instead focus on building their heroes strength while hindering their enemy's heroes. This is accomplished by of course, killing the hero, which results in a loss of gold (and a gain for the killer), as well as lost experience gaining time. The game goes on, and as heroes grow in power each side begins to push further and further into the opposing side's base while defending their own. There are a wide range of tactics involved which I won't detail here, but there are some interesting strategies available with lots of room open for experimentation.
Predator is a great chaser, and he's quite durable.
With over 60 heroes available, each with their own specialty, there is no lack of variety here. The large hero pool can, to say the least, be overwhelming at first. You will die and you will die often, you will be scorned and ridiculed (more on that later) so don't be discouraged if you're the worst player on your team during your first few games. It's difficult to avoid death when you're not sure what the opposing hero does, this knowledge comes with time and eventually you'll quickly move out of the way whenever you see that Hammerstorm has sufficient mana to stun you again so that the Pyromancer can nuke you to death. Included as well are many items that range in their uses, some offer a boost in damage while others are consumable single use items that can teleport you back to your base. They can be combined into various powerful recipes, items that become an essential part of powering up your hero during the end game. S2 Games has thoughtfully included a "recommended items" tab for each hero, so that you know what items typically synergize well with your hero.
If you aren't overburdened by the information yet, then give yourself a pat on the back because you've just achieved more than what 80% of newcomers to the game can. Until you learn all of the combinations and tactics like the back of your hand, you will be decimated time and time again. And the community that should be helping you?
Expect to see this very often, likely with more cursing and less correct spelling.
This is by far Heroes Of Newerth's most fatal flaw; the savagely aggressive, hateful and elitist community, complemented by one of the steepest learning curves I've ever experienced in a video game. Bought the wrong items during the start? You'll be lucky if you get off with a few curse words and hateful comments about your sexuality, that's if they don't decide to vote kick you out of the team entirely. You will be scorned time and time again, for missing the slightest chance to throw a stun, for walking away from fights at the wrong moments, for dying. In a game where team work and communication is not only important, but vital to your success, this stands out as an enormous let down that mars this otherwise great game. The amount of racism, trolls, griefers, and plain bullies you will encounter on Heroes of Newerth is enough to drive many new players away. Be weary, this game is not for the faint of heart.
On the technical side, Heroes of Newerth isn't the prettiest game around, but it shines pretty well through and through. It lacks the charming visuals of its closest counterpart, League of Legends, and exchanges that for clearer and more defined visuals. The heroes have a variety of looks however, and they're quite interesting to look through. Ranging from a fat disgusting demonic creature, to a fluffy panda monk that I'd like a plushie of, to what seems to be a chipmunk operating a robot, there's a lot of creativity in the hero design here, and the spells and their shiny effects are always fun to look at, if you're not busy furiously clicking away to avoid death.
The game can look quite pretty at times, especially in motion.
If you thought you'd escape the perils of multiplayer and learn through a singleplayer portion first, however, you're out of luck. Heroes of Newerth requires an internet connection (No LAN either), and is purely multiplayer. There is a brief tutorial, but this does nothing but introduce you to the core mechanics of the game (How to move, how to use spells, how to purchase items...), which really bothers me. In a game like this, some more advanced to tutorials that explain in depth some of the many crucial tactics and combinations you will need to know would have been helpful. Heck, I would've settled for some sort of "noob island" kind of server too.
In terms of balance, however, Heroes of Newerth is a clear winner as it's structured around competitive gameplay at its core. While I can't say that each and every hero is perfectly balanced, for such a large hero pool it's very well thought out. Much of it consists of remakes of DotA originals, with custom additions from S2 Games added in to the mix to balance the metagame.
Heroes of Newerth is a niche game, which is understandable. It isn't designed to be welcoming to everyone new to the genre, it's made to please experienced players of the Warcraft 3 mod and other similar games. Underneath the hateful and unwelcoming community is a well thought out realization of a hugely popular mod. Different game modes, a varied but well balanced hero pool, and the experienced portion of the community in higher level games are much more welcoming.
It's a tough road, but if you manage through it, you'll have a blast.
-Fairly balanced heroes, clear graphics. Well polished, there don't seem to be many glaring bugs. Servers are client side, so host advantage and many connection issues are absent. Menu navigation can be a bit of a pain though, and reconnecting can be buggy at times.
-It's basically DotA, but with minor tweaks to the core gameplay. A large variety of heroes offer lots of different strategies and lots of room for experimentation. This is the fastest paced strategy game you will ever play.
-There's some random bits of lore in the hero descriptions and on the website, but there really isn't much story here.
-This game will either hold you and keep you occupied for a long time, or drive you away after a few hours. Regardless, S2 is constantly adding new updates and heroes, so it should last you a while if you get into it.
-To say that the community is terrible would be an understatement.
-Hero dialogue and voice acting is generally great, but there are some poor examples.
-The music gets very repetitive and dull after a while, I found myself disabling it.
Final score: 7.5
Reviewer's notes: I would suggest trying out "League of Legends" first. As a seasoned HoN player, I find it far too casual and unbalanced, but it has a much more friendly and welcoming environment, as well as a smaller variety of heroes and items, which works in its favor in terms of a smaller learning curve, it's also free. If you're new to the genre and you're not sure whether you'd like to take the next step and really get your competitive edge on, LoL is a great place to start.