newerth-2 14 May

By Christoph Vand

One of the most competitive games in the world isn’t a game, it’s a map. You might have heard of it before—it’s called DotA, which is short for “Defense of the Ancients.” It was based on the map called Aeon of Strife for StarCraft before eventually making its way to Warcraft III. For the last five years especially, DotA has been growing in popularity rather dramatically with millions of players worldwide.

So what on Earth does DotA have to do with HoN (Heroes of Newerth) from S2 Games? HoN is quite literally the spiritual successor to DotA all the way from the main map to the heroes and items—and almost everything in-between. Granted that the people making HoN have no affiliation with DotA but if you’ve played DotA before, then you’ve played HoN to a great extent.

HoN comes into a market that has been largely untapped by game companies with only Demigod, League of Legends and the yet to be released Bloodline Champions as direct competition outside of the longstanding DotA. The question though is does HoN have what it takes to receive your hard earned dollars at the current $30 asking price? Well, that’s what we at Elder-Geek are here to help you with!

Now, if you have no idea what DotA is, it’s essentially a click to move and key bind based hero arena game. MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) seems to be the growing term for such a game. This concept carries over directly to HoN. The basic gist is you select from one of the sixty-four heroes currently available in the game (many of which are DotA ports/copies) for a match that is almost always 5v5 combat. Everyone starts out at level 1 and through killing NPC’s you gain experience. You also gain extensive experience through killing heroes on the opposing team.

As you gain experience you level up, with level 25 being the max level. Each hero has four unique abilities to which you can add one point to every time you level up. However, each of the abilities can only be upgraded four times each. That means that after you upgrade those abilities fully, you put the rest of your points into something called stats which increases your intelligence, agility, and strength.

Intelligence increases your ‘mana’ (used for your abilities) and damage if you’re an INT-based hero while agility increases your physical armor and damage if you’re an AGL-based hero, and strength increases your health and your damage if you’re a STR-based hero.

I think you can already tell that HoN is a pretty deep game, but the depth doesn’t end yet. Not even close. Through killing NPC’s and heroes alike you gain gold that, in turn, you use to buy items. Every hero has a total of six inventory slots into which you can put an item. There is a wide array of items that all have their uses, and what may be good for one hero could be fairly trivial for another. Some have static stat gains while others have mana or health regeneration, effects on use, and so forth. Thus, who you face and the items that everyone gets make each game quite unique. It also means you need to be well versed in what every hero and item can do.

Currently, this all takes place on a map which is modeled completely after the one in DotA. However, there is another 5v5 map as well as a 3v3 map available for people to use and add some variety to their game experience. The maps are all arranged into lanes, which is where the NPC’s from both sides of the team clash. Each of these lanes has a series of towers that must be destroyed to reach your enemy’s main base. Think of this as a game of tug-o-war, only in reverse. Push-o-war perhaps? You win the game by pushing all the way into the opposition’s base and destroying their monument.

Graphically this game isn’t bad by any means. In fact, I’d put it up there on par with most of this current generation of RTS games out there right now. I’ve already played some of the StarCraft 2 beta and HoN comes close to that high level of detail. There are tons of neat particle effects, shading, quality lighting, distortion, and so forth.

Overall, the engine seems to be well made too. As someone who played DotA I’ve noticed how much more has been allowed within HoN due to a more modern engine. There are abilities that some original HoN heroes (ones ports from DotA) have that you simply couldn’t replicate in DotA.

Some nice features really help the overall game out as well. For instance, you can now reconnect to a game if you lose your internet connection. There is in-game VOIP (Voice Over IP) that you can use to communicate with whoever is in your lane or your entire team all at once. Also, lag is not shared among players due to the client-server netcode.

There is also wide usage of statistics within HoN, all the way from ladder rankings to stat tracking. HoN even has a matchmaking system that you can use if you don’t want to find games manually. This matchmaking system goes by a completely different rating system from public (self-chosen) games as well, since you effectively can’t collude and team up in it.

The sound design within HoN is really well done. Hearing a bunch of heroes use their abilities in a giant battle is enjoyable. The voice acting on the other hand is hit or miss. Some of the heroes have really annoying vocals. The music is ok, and I even talked to the guy who did it a few months back and he has some great talent that I felt was wasted. I wish that S2 Games took the music more seriously and encouraged the creation of unforgettable scores with a multitude of clearly defined melodies. Instead, we’re left with an unmemorable array of somber and ambient orchestral mixes. One of the songs had some snare drums and horns that helped to liven it up, but it wasn’t enough to save this shortfall.

Admittedly, Heroes of Newerth is an incredibly difficult game to learn, but if you put enough time into it you’re going to be rewarded with an immensely deep and exciting gameplay experience. It’s because of this time commitment that this game is simply not for everyone. You also must have thick skin because some people will likely call you out for poor play until you get better, which again takes time… and by call you out, I mean curse and degrade you. On the other hand, if you’re a DotA veteran you should be able to jump right in and learn everything pretty fast. With a one-time payment of $30 for infinite online play for the entire existence of this game, I’d say it’s a great deal.

There is, however, one permeating detail that would make me suggest waiting to purchase this game. This is largely for current DotA players thinking about making a switch. The main developer behind DotA (IceFrog) was recently hired and given a team over at Valve to create a game. I’ve been told by a few sources that it’s quite literally DotA 2, and will have the full backing of Valve (obviously), and thus Steam as well. Now this is by no means official, and I can’t guarantee its validity. However, I can assure you that IceFrog is in fact working on a game with Valve at this very moment. As such, if you’re a DotA veteran I’d wait on purchasing this game until E3 in June to see if an announcement is made. The logic behind this is simple. I’d expect the main developer behind the very game HoN is based on to create a better game, especially given the fact that he has Valve behind him. That is just the opinion of this writer though.

If that doesn’t matter to you and you’re merely skeptical because you can’t try it before you buy it, S2 Games has made it clear that there will be times for people to test out the game in the future. So, if you want to wait until that happens to make sure you’re spending your money wisely I’d do just that.

Regardless, I wish there was a trial option right now because, while I think this is a fun game from my end, I wouldn’t advocate spending $30 unless you know what you’re going to get. If you have WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne, I’d suggest trying out DotA for free (it’s a custom map), and if you enjoy that you’ll likely have fun in HoN as well.

This is a game that is well done in terms of fun provided but it’s also not for everyone so I wouldn’t recommend flat out buying it. The only reason it was so easy for me to slip into is because I was quite experienced at DotA.

34 thoughts on “Heroes of Newerth Review”

  1. From my personal experience with Heroes of Newerth, I have to say it’s one of the most unforgiving communities I’ve ever tried to get involved with.

    On my first playthrough, I played on the “newb only” servers and I was STILL constantly yelled at for playing “improperly.” The word “competitive” doesn’t quite describe the frothy-mouthed players I encountered there.

    Even the newb-only servers were loaded with people who were getting their rocks off by steamrolling new players.

    Personally, I’d only recommend this game if you were an RTS / Warcraft 3 super-fan. If you’re only a casual gamer, I’d stay far far away.

    1. Randy, you should download League of Legends and play with me. I could give you some tips, and the community tends to be more forgiving (special areas where noobs are suppose to be noobs).

    2. I also started out with a horrible streak. 0 kills and 16 deaths was it? My brother and I got constant sh*t. We were called retards, feeders, and etc. etc. The community is very poor at times, and it was a horrible start for me. I read a few guides, but that seemingly did nothing for me.

      Eventually, on the second day I found myself making drastic improvements, and I enjoyed the game much more when I wasn’t feeding. Day after day, I would improve and improve, and I started to really enjoy the game. It’s true hell at the start, but after sticking it out for a while, it’s really fun.

      I’m no pro, and you don’t need to be an ultra pro to have fun with this game. You have to keep improving your game by reading guides on your hero, and you need to practice. The game is completely fine for casual players, as long as you don’t completely suck.

      The start is terrible, the learning curve is harsh, but you’ll enjoy it a lot eventually.

  2. The game is fun, but nowhere near as fun as the already established League of Legends. Plus, HoN will cost money in the end, which I don’t have a lot of.
    LoL is free!

    1. LoL is terrible. I’d rather pay 30 dollars for HoN then pay for 10 bucks for heroes. Also hows LoL competitive scene. HoN is about to have a tournament and the grand prize being 40,000 dollars. So I most definitely think HoN is much better than LoL.

      1. Lol has tournaments, but I’m not sure if there are cash prizes. There is a definite tournament scene though.

        I prefer LoL because it is easy to pick up (for the genre), and hard to master, not to mention the constant updates to the roster and the stats of characters (HoN had problems with this in the beta I was in).

        And why are lvl 1 ganks bad… they are a viable option… but they are semi rare if someone is careful.

        In the end, HoN is a more hardcore and faithful version of DotA, but LoL is more approachable… and it is free!

  3. LoL doesnt really compare to HoN in the end.. any game where ganks are initiated at lvl 1.. and they work.. that just shouldn’t happen

    the community is rough at first, but you just have to learn the ropes.. they have tutorials you can watch to help you out also!

    and there is a reason LoL is free and HoN costs money.. HoN tournaments for thousands of dollars are taking place weekly, and the best dota players are coming over for the $40k tourny.. so yeah LoL doesnt compete

  4. HoN is for the discerning gamer, the intelligent gamer, the mature gamer.

    If you enjoy games like league of legends, pocket monsters, or maplestory, Heroes of Newerth is simply not for you.

    LoL is not free, it uses a pay for perks system. Any game that is advertised as “free” usually is not. Thats the way the world works!

    If you are looking for a challenge, a real challenge that will test both your mind and gaming acumen, Heroes of Newerth is the game for you.

  5. LoL is noob friendly and is in a way kiddish, leave HoN for us elites and people who can take internet criticism. :]

  6. HoN is, as the author of this review definitively states, not for everyone. I’ll go beyond that, however. If you learn concepts slowly, find yourself panicking under pressure, or can’t handle people honestly critiquing your play or even admitting that you might be wrong, Heroes of Newerth will be hell for you for at least 50-100 games. If you don’t like thinking while playing, make that 200+ games.

    However, if you’re a player who enjoys mental and strategic challenges equally as much as a click-fest or first person shooter, be it chess or so-du-ku, WoW Arena or StarCraft, HoN combines the aspects of all. It is set up purely to be the next e-sport, built on tactical teamwork. There are many, many improvements over DotA but I agree with the author that S2Games could do better in some areas where DotA 2 might. But you simply can’t argue with a $40,000 tournament one month after the game is released: HoN has potential.

    As for having a free trial: I’ve been playing the beta for free with 2 million plus other unique players since last summer. I had no DotA experience myself, but when it came time to buy I’d seen more than enough and honestly played more than enough to fork over the $30. You missed your chance.

    With that said, I’m ranked among the top 5% of players now. If you’re intelligent and willing to admit how bad you’ll be at the start, you’ll learn fast enough to compete with 5-year DotA veterans quickly. Don’t let the learning curve fool you, good gamers will cheat it.

  7. The paragraph regarding Icefrog making a game with Valve is disgraceful.

    How are you reviewing a game if you’re basically saying “Something that has absolutely no confirmation could be better at some point possibly in the future.” You hurt indie games developers like S2 by doing such things and the paragraph really ahs no place in a “Review of Heroes of Newerth.”

    Amateur at best.

    1. … and you’re saying S2 basically “borrowing” almost every item, the main map, and most of HoN’s heroes from DotA and then profiting from it is not? There wouldn’t be a need for a comparison if HoN didn’t take almost everything that made it what it is from DotA.

      It wouldn’t be very tasteful to write a review and advocate the DotA community spend their money on a game when another game that’s a better fit could be on the horizon. Besides it said to wait till E3 to see if there was an announcement. That just a month away.

      HoN is a fun game, but if you’re on a budget or time constraints and you only have time/money for one game like this it’s best to make the right decision for you.

    2. Couldn’t agree more. These people act like icefrog is some genius with exclusive rights to a game like this. These games are driven and inspired by the unforgiving community that plays them. To give credit to one person for making a map when they weren’t even the one that made the map to begin with is a bit silly. I get annoyed that people think icefrog is some kind of business tycoon…

      Do you think DoTA got to where it is now because of one person? What makes you think that even one of the creators of the original game could create another great game, let alone one that could trump what S2 has done. S2 has proven to be committed to the community on levels that parallel Blizzard Entertainment. This company is remarkable and very well equipped to produce a better “DoTA 2” than the DoTA creators themselves.

      The best part about HoN is their reliance on ports (especially at first). If Icefrog’s game comes with a bunch of new heroes and no ports what makes you think any of the community will jump ship? The pressure is now on Valve to produce a better game which seems very unlikely to me at this point. If anything, the plans are unannounced/unofficial because they are waiting to determine HoN’s success. DoTA -> HoN would be a much more logical transition than even DoTA -> DoTA 2 if DoTA 2 was all new heroes.

      I just think its silly to tell DoTA people they should wait for something that a) might not happen and b) is likely to be worse rather than better

      1. Unbelievable how naive you are. Do you not realize that the near five years of development that Icefrog put into Dota is technically 5 years of development he put in for HoN? The lineage of this game is a passing of the torch from one dev to the next. Icefrog didn’t pass the torch to HoN they are straight up trying to rip it out of his hands.

        The reverence and appreciation he receives from the Dota community is well deserved, and I’d argue more deserved than the praise you offer S2. The entire time he has developed the game for us with feedback from us he endlessly refuses donations. He didn’t do this for the money, he didn’t TAKE the map from Guinsoo he stepped up and filled the void to keep the community he loved alive (and grew it exponentially). If it wasn’t for Icefrog there wouldn’t even be a HoN.

        So when you play your game of HoN that essentially has Icefrog and Guinsoo’s proverbial signatures smeared on it from top to bottom continue telling yourself that they didn’t copy 90% of a game someone else is still developing and add some new interface features with better graphics. Continue telling yourself that the 40k tournament isn’t a launch advertisement to the Dota community in an attempt to sell their copy by stealing the community that Icefrog is the most responsible person for creating in the first place.

        If you can’t see the lapse in ethics from S2 in their attempt to hijack and profit off of Dota then you are hopeless anyway. I don’t blame them, they saw 10 million+ players and figured they could make a buck.

  8. Yeah, who cares if Icefrog is working on a dota2 game which might come out in a year or three. HoN is definitely worth 30$ to play NOW if you are a dota fan. In a couple years when Icefrogs new game comes out you can buy it too if its good.

  9. Hon is a really good game but it wont seem very good at first if you havnt played dota before, you really need to read up on the basics and watch some guides

    when i first started hon i just died all the time and that gives the enemy heroes more gold and xp making the enemy team get higher lvls and better items which will make your team mates rage because its basically ruining it for them but get passed all the moaning and learn to play a bit and you will find no one will be raging even if you lose.

  10. The HoN community in beta was horrible, but after release the community is now peaceful. There is always help available in the training ground/strategy forums.

    Good game is good :3

    To all of u who compare HoN to LoL:
    It’s a different kind of game, and it’s not really free. I don’t want my game affected by being only able to play 10 different champions every week (or whenever they switch).

    1. You earn points after every match that you can use to buy Champions permanently. They do the free champion rotation to promote people trying out different champions. I really like the idea.

  11. To begin, HoN is a great game. This article does nothing to give this game any justice. Yes, it is a steep learning curve;however, what competitive game isn’t? I would just like to point out how horribly biased your article was on throwing out DOTA and Valves names in there. You are suggesting to people that have never played this game to wait on Icefrog’s new game? That game will not be available for another two years(If you are using valve-time). This game has it’s own engine, and works beautifully with a vector targeting system for certain abilities, and an awesome map creator that will allow limitless creation. Either way, this was a very biased review.

    1. “As such, if you’re a DotA veteran I’d wait on purchasing this game until E3 in June to see if an announcement is made.”

      That’s one month away.

      Please read my comment to DeviousAlpha. In the context of what HoN is, it was perfectly fair to be included in the review.

      If you make a game and copy a ridiculous amount of stuff from a popular mod/map etc, you shouldn’t be exempt from comparisons.

  12. That paragraph about IceFrog and Valve has no place in this review. Put it in its own article where it belongs.

  13. This game review is about HoN and comparing it to DotA is fine, but telling people to wait because of an announcement of a game (which might not even be a DotA 2) has no place in a game review. It’s supposed to be about HoN… not about what other companies are doing – very unprofessional.

  14. “That is just the opinion of this writer though.” I rest my case.

    I can’t speak for other outlets, but we here at elder-geek like to take all possible factors into consideration when reviewing a game. There is NOTHING wrong with comparing other games to the game in question in a review, it is essential for us to give the best advice for the average user as possible.

    1. So you’re telling gamers out there to wait 2-3 years? Even if it was already announced to be released next year , you shouldn’t tell people to wait for another game when it it’s so far away. Write the review, point the goods and bads, how came it to me, etc but not compare it to upcoming games which don’t even exist, comparing to LoL, dota or demigod was fine but like people said already, the last paragraphs were out of place.

      1. Do you really think that’s what the reviewer was saying? Really? Do you really think the reviewer is telling people:

        “No don’t buy this game even if you really want to, instead wait for that other game that’s not out yet”

        Or are you perhaps taking things out of context and what he’s really trying to say is something like:

        “It is however also worth noting that the team behind the original Dota on WCIII is making a game with Valve that will release sometime in the future, so if you’re on the fence about this game it might be worth waiting it out”

        I didn’t play this game yet (I’m a Dota fan though so I’ll probably get it) but it sounds to me like the reviewer is being very careful not to sound definitive in any of his recommendations/suggestions. Did I miss the memo that said the reviewer wasn’t allowed to say what he thinks? Cause if you remove that, then at what point does it stop being a review and start being a summary of the games features?

      2. Did you read the article =/? It said if you wanted you could wait until E3 to see if an announcement was made if you were a DotA player on the fence about buying HoN.

        That’s in ONE month. It even says in June. No where does the article say to flat out skip HoN and wait for the potential DotA 2. Let alone wait 2-3 years for another game. I have no idea where people are getting these wacky ideas.

        For an article that gives quite a bit of praise to HoN, it’s amazing that the suggestion that current DotA players reading the article could wait one month for an possible announcement is receiving so much anger.

        It would be irresponsible to not make note of such a possibility and just say… yeah, buy the game if you’re a DotA fan because this is the next step for DotA gamers.

  15. I don’t know what game you all have been playing, but Newerth is a piece of crap. It started as a free game and it should have stayed as a free game.

    As far as someone saying it’s for “intelligent gamers,” I couldn’t disagree more. It’s a game for the super-hardcore only. Intelligence has nothing to do with it.

    I don’t think anyone should give it the time of day.

  16. Great Review — Sad to see hon fan boys crying so hard over a positive review for their game. What a joke — O anddd ya since Dota is better then hon(an over flashy game with horrible laning and fog mechanics) — I’m sure Dota 2 will completely destroy it.. Peace.

  17. Remember everyone (and all of you polygonal people :)…

    The reviews are not scores… but recommendations. The reviewer recommends that the people of Elder-Geek try it out. There is no need to flame him/her.

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