Heroes of Newerth

August 26th, 2009 by , under Reviews.

Intro

Heroes of Newerth (HoN) is a new game in development by S2 Games. HoN is a stand-alone game based on the popular Warcraft III campaign, Defense of the Ancients. The game is currently in a semi-open beta, and is available for pre-order for $30.

The main goals of HoN was to address many shortcomings of DOTA, specifically limitations imposed by the aging Warcraft III engine. The game has an improved graphics engine, in-game voice, ladder and rating systems, improved online lobby, clan system, and other features.

Story

Part of the storyline and artistic theme appears to be based off S2 Games’ previous efforts, Savage and Savage 2. The two sides to the conflict in HoN are the Legion and the Hellbourne. The Legion have a very elvish theme, with buildings and units that have a nature motif. For example, their melee troops are treants, and their ranged troops appears as elven archers. Their main base is a “Tree of Life.” The Hellbourne have a demonic motif, with an alter as their main base and troops that include a zombie melee troop and warlock ranged troops.

Gameplay

The game play in HoN is taken almost directly from DOTA. The beta currently contains three maps, all of them with a forest terrain type, often with a river running through the center of the map. There are two 5v5 maps and one special 3v3 map.

Each map contains a number of “lanes”, running between the Legion base and the Hellbourne base. Along each lane are a number of defensive towers for each team, that have a large amount of health and deal heavy damage to enemy units in range. At the beginning of each lane, “creeps” are spawned for each team. Creeps are AI controlled troops that attempt to move along the lane and destroy both the defensive towers and the enemy creeps. It normally spawns as four melee troops, one ranged troop, and occasionally a catapult. The creeps progressively gain strength as the game goes on.

The role of the player is to control a Hero, very much like the Heroes in Warcraft III. Each hero has up to 3 normal abilities and one Ultimate. All heroes begin at level 1, and start the game with an “Ability point” to be applied towards their skills. There is also a “stat level-up” skill that puts a +2 bonus to each statistic. The Hero’s Ultimate cannot be accessed till level 6.

Heroes have both health and mana, and up to 6 items that can be purchased from stores. The items convey a range of statistic bonuses, and are highly important to improving the hero’s survivability and damage.

Heroes spend their time attempting to eliminate enemy creeps, allowing them to gain gold and experience, and fighting off the other heroes. A hero is rewarded gold for getting killing blows on enemy creeps and heroes. Experienced is earned whenever the hero is near an enemy that dies. Destroying an enemy tower also rewards gold, which is split amongst the team.

The ultimate goal is to help your creeps eliminate all defensive towers within a lane, or multiple lanes, so that they can begin attacking the enemy’s main base structure. When the main base is destroyed, the game is over.

UI

The UI is very similar to Warcraft III. There is a mini-map in the lower left corner, followed by a information pane for your hero or another selected target. Next is a kind of mini-action bar showing your three skills and ultimate, followed by 6 item slots. The last pane is a kind of targeting frame, showing information on selected enemy units.

The view of the map world is top down, as in Warcraft III. Currently, unlike in WC III, the view is locked, with no zoom options nor the ability to change the viewing angle. This decision seems to be to force all players to have the same sight range around their character, regardless of higher resolutions.

Online Lobby

HoN is an entirely online game with no single player component. The online lobby contains many of the usual features, such as chat channels, “Find Game”, “Create Game”, and so forth. It also has a friend and clan system, allowing groups to display a clan tag. The clan system includes a private chat channel.

Creating and Joining Games

Creating a game is fairly simple but there are a lot of game options, such as whether or not all heroes are available, or if they are limited to the faction they belong. There are game options such as “Single Draft”, where players are presented with 3 heroes to choose, rather than being allowed to choose from the entire list. There are options to restrict a game to “Noobs Only”, which requires a player to be under a certain number of games played, as well as to exclude players who have too many “Leaves”, i.e. leaving a game before it completes.

Games do not have passwords, but can be marked as Private. In this case, the game creator must invite the other players for them to join.

Joining a game is fairly simple. You can search for games with a number of filters, such as “Single Draft” or “No Leavers”, “Noob Only”, etc.  You can also right click the name of a friend or clan member that is online, and choose to join the game they are currently in.

Closing

HoN is currently available for pre-order for $30. I’m somewhat on the fence still, the beta is a lot of fun, but I’m not sure I’d rate the game $30, maybe $20. The graphics and art are nice, but not what I would describe as cutting edge. The game is somewhat of a one trick pony… It does one thing, and does it well, but that’s all it does. There is no single player, and besides a “Deathmatch” mode, no alternative play modes.

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