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Defense of the Ancients is a custom game made in Warcraft 3. Its level of popularity is staggering; people have been playing it non-stop for years, tournaments are held for DotA in all corners of the world, and if you were to log onto Warcraft 3 and look for games online, over half the games you find will be DotA. Best of all, if you have Warcraft 3 – it’s “free” (of course you paid for Warcraft 3, right?).

It was only a matter of time before game developers got the bright idea to turn the addictive gameplay of DotA into a commercial game and make some serious profit from it. Sure, we already have Demigod and League of Legends, which borrow from the formula of DotA, but Heroes of Newerth is the first such game to actually try mimicking DotA as closely as possible.

Those who have played DotA will already understand how Heroes of Newerth works. For the uninitiated, though, it works like this: there are two teams of five players, each placed on two sides of an expansive map. There are three lanes – roads that lead from one base to the other – on the map. Computer-controlled ”Creeps” spawn every so often on each lane from both teams, which march down the path and attack anything on the opposing team. Each player chooses a hero at the start of the game, each with its own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Heroes level up over time by killing enemy creeps and other heroes.

The object of the game is to press forward into the enemy’s base and destroy their Throne. Each team has defensive towers on their side of the map, making it difficult to simply waltz into the enemy base. To add to that, players aren’t allowed to destroy buildings out of order, so even if you somehow made it into their base early in the game, their Throne will be invincible because the outer defensive structures haven’t been destroyed. Each team therefore has to slowly build their strength, level up, and press through the defensive structures before finally making it into the enemy base to destroy their Throne.

Each hero has four different skills which they can make stronger as they level up. These skills help shape the role that a hero plays in battle. Heroes with direct damage spells tend to be very powerful and crucial early on in the game, but since skills can only be leveled up a few times, they lose their effectiveness later on. On the other hand, heroes who specialize in direct combat tend to be weaker in the earlier stages of the game, but their usefulness scales upwards exponentially as the game continues.

Heroes also have three stats which increase as they gain levels: Strength, Agility, and Intelligence. These stats affect a Hero’s Hit Points, the speed of their attacks, and their Mana Pool respectively. Each unit has a primary attribute, which tends to hint at their roles; Intelligence heroes are generally spellcasters, Agility heroes tend to specialize in dealing damage with their attacks, and Strength heroes are good at taking damage. The damage of a hero’s attack increases by raising their primary attribute.

Adding a big layer of complexity is the game’s item system. When a Hero kills a Creep or an enemy Hero, they receive gold (all players also earn one gold per second), allowing them to buy items which raise their stats, give them better armor, allow them to regenerate HP faster, and a variety of other effects. Also, powerful items can be crafted by combining lesser items contained in a “recipe”. The methods for creating these special items are all laid out for you to see at any point during the game.

These will combine the various items you’ve bought into more powerful items which augment their bonuses even more, or can even grant the Hero a new ability. Understanding which items to buy for each Hero is crucial.

Up to this point, it might feel like you’re reading an instruction manual, because I haven’t really given any opinions on the game. Here’s the thing: Heroes of Newerth receives continuous patch updates. So, after players buy the game, they are constantly given new content in the form of new Heroes and balance tweaks to existing characters and items. S2 Games says that they plan to update it consistently for the foreseeable future, so while the game is going to keep changing, the score I give the game will stay the same.

That just doesn’t seem right. I could tell you that some Heroes are way too powerful, while other Heroes stand no chance. I could tell you about the items that are so good that you’d have to be criminally insane not to get them every time. I could tell you about the variety of weird glitches, or how the tutorial is too basic. However, it seems downright irresponsible to make a judgment about the minutia of the game in its current state when a patch could come out tomorrow, making it the most balanced and awesome game of all time. It reflects poorly on me, and it’s not fair to the developers, either.

So, instead of critiquing those things, I’ll critique Heroes of Newerth based on the factors that will surely remain static and unchanged throughout its lifespan. HoN is an extremely difficult game to get into. There’s a steep learning curve, since players need to take the time to figure out what all the Heroes are capable of (sixty-five and counting, so get practicing).

The item system is cool, but it requires a lot of memorization and learning what items can be made into better special items. Even moreso, it’s not easy to figure out what the most important items are for each character. To make it even more confusing, the dynamic nature of HoN means that an item that might help you in one match could be completely useless in another. It takes time to figure all of this out. Lots of it.

If the steep learning curve wasn’t enough, you’ll probably be playing with a bunch of random jerks on the Internet. The Heroes of Newerth community consists of a bunch of really angry nerds who think they know everything, and won’t hesitate to call you every name in the book if you’re not playing to their standards – whether or not they are any good. Unless you can convince your friends to play with you (and you have four of them), you’re at the mercy of chance with at least a few of your teammates.

And yet, if you’re willing to take the time to learn how all of the Heroes work, get a grasp of the item system, and step your game up, Heroes of Newerth can be an extremely fun experience, unlike any other multiplayer outing there is (except DotA, naturally). There’s a lot of crap to wade through, but if you’re willing to work past all the initial barriers, Heroes of Newerth can easily make all of those hardships feel worth the effort.

Rating Category
8.0 Presentation
The visuals are really nice, and the interface is miles ahead of DotA in almost every respect. Enjoy the amazing netplay
How does our scoring system work?
8.0 Gameplay
The potential for absolute, unparalleled brilliance is right there. However, you'll have to rappel up the absurdly steep learning curve, so I hope you've got your climbing gear.
7.0 Sound
Nothing particularly standout, but the sound and music is fitting to the ambiance.
9.0 Longevity
As with most multiplayer games, Heroes of Newerth will be fun as long as you enjoy playing with other people. The general community might make that hard, though.
7.5 Overall
The gamer in me wants to tell you that this game is extremely fun - an absolute blast to play, because that's the truth. On the other hand, the critic in me wants to tell you that you'll have a hell of a time getting to the point where the game is fun, and that's also true. Think really hard about whether or not you're willing to put in the time to learn Heroes of Newerth, because you'll need plenty of it.

  1. Awesome review! I’m a League of Legends fan myself, but HoN is pretty good.

  2. avatar Chris Newman

    i feel the graphical update and steep learning curve is not worth the money when LoL is free

  3. avatar Ryan

    Its really for a stoned college student with a Dota/Hon mentor or old Dota players (the game Hon is entirely based off of). Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it. Except when your good, its easyyyy to pwn noobs!

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