Heroes of Newerth: Sure To Get Your Adrenaline Pumping!
By Nick Chua (Raiyne), OnRPG Moderator and Journalist
Hot on the heels of the popular Warcraft III custom map, Defense of the Ancients (DotA), is Heroes of Newerth. S2 Games has taken on the addictive DotA formula of a fast paced, action packed team death match with a light hint of RPG. With the green light from DotA creator, Icefrog, Heroes of Newerth has proven itself to be an intense gaming experience.
Great, now how do we get down to smashing faces?
First off, you enter a Battle.net styled screen with a chatroom and a list of games. Searchng for games is hassle free and players can join games within a minute of starting the client.
Due to the different options and modes of gameplay available, filters can also be set to find the game type you want to play. There are 3 tiers of games at the moment, which basically acts as a filter for different classes of players. These tiers are Noobs Only, Noobs Allowed and Pros Only. The labelling is a little bit blunt, in my opinion.
When you join a game, you get to choose which side you join, either Legion or Hellbourne. The faction you choose will limit your choice of hero (the character you will control), as they are divided between the two factions, however, most games play out in the ‘All Hero’ mode, where every hero is up for grabs for players of both teams.
The game lobby screen can be rather confusing for a fresh face, with plenty of numbers all over the place. This is mainly due to the implemented PSR (Pub Skill Rating), but we shall get to that later.
The Hero Selection Screen
Once the game is started by the host, everyone goes to the character selection screen. There are currently only 49 heroes in total, paling in comparison to the 93 hero selection in DotA. However, this number is definitely growing and the Heroes of Newerth team intends on slowly adding more heroes (a planned roster of 60 at release), as a measure of balance. A few custom heroes not found in DotA have also been added. They are neatly categorised by faction and their primary statistic. Every hero is plays differently and has a unique set of skills, althoug players commonly classify them into different roles. Ultimately, it is up to the strategy of the team and each member’s skills that will lead the team to victory.
Get ready to fight!
The gameplay in Heroes of Newerth is fast, hectic and stays true to the nature of DotA. For those of us unfamiliar with DotA, everyone starts out in their base at level 1. There are three lanes where the cannon fodder units (more commonly referred to as creeps) of both teams will spawn and advance towards the enemy’s base. Killing these creeps garners gold and experience, which is used to buy items and improve your hero’s skills, respectively. The map is evenly divided and towers of the respective team guard each lane. The goal is to destroy the enemy’s key structure.
Attacking an Enemy Tower
Controlling your character is simple with just the use of the mouse and a couple of hotkeys and all this can be picked up within minutes, although there are more slightly challenging techniques to learn. The default key bindings are easily accessible and most players will be comfortable with them. For more demanding players, there is also an option to customise your controls.
The user interface is intuitive and gets the job done. Everything you need to know is just a quick glance away and there is no need to fumble with menus. However, for a new player, buying items might be rather overwhelming as there are many items and combinations to learn.
As with all online games, latency is important. With Heroes of Newerth’s infrastructure, the game runs on a server to client basis. With this, the player’s latency is reduced compared to the Battle.net or other peer to peer networking. Hence there is no need for the host to have extremely good bandwidth to host a lagless game. Other nifty features include the ability to rejoin a game when you have disconnected and should the need arise, voting to kick certain players or concede. I did not experience any lag in Heroes of Newerth, with around 100ms latency to their servers located in Japan. Even when playing with the occasional 200ms latency to a further server, the delay I had was very playable.
How does everything look?
The graphics of Heroes of Newerth are a good step up from the dated textures and models of Warcraft III. With everything on the highest settings, with 8x Anti-Aliasing and 16x Anisotropic Filtering, the game looks shiny, sharp and very colourful. The effects are also wonderful, from the blood splatter of a trivial creep, to the dazzling magical spells of a hero, they are all very well rendered and certainly a treat to the eye. Everything is very well animated and runs as smooth as silk.
Of course, with better graphics comes higher requirements. The minimum requirements are not high at all and is easily met by the today’s average computer, however, much older machines, although capable of running Warcraft III, will definitely struggle with Heroes of Newerth.
Music to my ears?
Heroes of Newerth has a small but adequate soundtrack with appropriate sound effects. The sound of each unit striking its target in the battlefield coupled with other sounds of spells and skills being activated, it can create quite a chaotic aural experience. Also, in the tradition of old deathmatch styled games, an announcer boldly proclaims kills streaks and other significant events throughout the game, adding insult to injury, or boosting morale. It certainly feels good to hear some sort of acknowledgement say, if you get the killing blow on 3 people and I feel it adds more fun factor to the game, well if you are winning at least.
The Sinister Base of Hellbourne
How badly will I get owned in this game?
Heroes of Newerth is a relatively skilled based game, which requires lots of communication and teamwork. A player must be aware of the game and keep up with the pace. Timing is also essential, for example, you have to deal the killing blow to a creep or else you will not earn money from its death, and this is the most basic technique which is applied throughout the game. One must also be adaptable to the various situations as there are many hero line-ups one might come across and no two games are the same experience.
As it is now, Heroes of Newerth is not a very newbie friendly game. There is no tutorial, although there is a practice mode where the map becomes a sandbox. Newer players might struggle with the learning curve of this game and fellow players will not make it much easier. As with a competitive game such as this, tensions will run high and most players are not very forgiving towards newbies. This happens in “Noob Only” games as well, as not all players new to Heroes of Newerth are new to the gameplay style of DotA.
It is a valiant effort by S2 to try and balance public games with its PSR and tier system, but it is just too flawed at the moment. PSR is a system meant to measure the skill of a player through statistics. It sounds good, but in effect, it really just causes a whole lot of prejudice and unneeded misunderstanding. You might often find games with PSR limits, where the host would kick you if you didn’t have a high enough rating. Sometimes a game might also take really long to start because there is a group of friends in one team and their high rating scares off other players. This is exacerbated by percentages above each team, showing their chance of winning. It is not an entertaining experience for your perceived skill to drop, if your team is just uncooperative and loses as a result. In such a teamwork heavy game, where there are so many factors, a player’s skill alone simply cannot be measured by such statistics.
Yay or Nay?
All in all, as a DotA player myself, I find Heroes of Newerth to be a satisfying, well polished game, staying true to its origins. As it is built from scratch, it clearly shows up the potential in DotA and what can be expanded from this popular map. If you’re new and willing to brave the learning curve and potential flaming from team mates, or if you’re just looking for an alternative to DotA, Heroes of Newerth is a solid competitive game for you.
– Sharp and vibrant graphics
– Adrenaline pumping gameplay true to the mechanics of DotA
– Well built engine and networking
– Dynamic gameplay gives a fresh new experience every game.
– Steep learning curve
– Not newbie friendly
– Harsh community
– Lacklustre soundtrack
– Flawed PSR system.