S2 Games, developers of the free-to-play Action RTS (or MOBA) have recently revealed the Heroes of Newerth 3.0. Heroes of Newerth, a PC game launched in 2010 by developer and publisher S2 Games, has seen a multitude of changes, originally coming out with a retail price and unlimited access. HoN was one of the first games to truly stand out as a standalone ARTS/MOBA game after the early game mod DoTA became popular on Warcraft 3.
HoN almost conceded defeat to its main competition League of Legends before the business model was overhauled with Heroes of Newerth 2.0
HoN 2.0 (a patch, not a sequel) marked a complete re-design to heroes, maps, UI and mainly it became free-to-play. Since then the game has seen various versions of the free-to-play system finally settling on offering various game modes. One mode allows any user unlimited access to any hero, bar the exclusive heroes which require gold or silver to purchase early. Nearly all avatars are available with in-game money, with just a few purely available by buying actual gold coins. The other mode is “core pool”, a pool of 40 heroes to help newcomers into the game by reducing the burden of knowledge required to play.
HoN 3.0, again a patch and not a sequel, has aimed to help newcomers into the most challenging and competitive genres. HoN 3.0 offers AI-controlled bots, a new tutorial system called the “learnatorium” and new game modes of co-op vs AI to help your friends into the game. To top all this off a new refer-a-friend program has been introduced to encourage veterans to take on the burden of teaching friends. And yes, it is a burden.
In addition to the new and improved system to help newcomers, is an overhaul in graphics. We see a re-texturing the game world, and redesigning HD textures for a large selection of original heroes. HoN 3.0 has without a doubt given Newerth a new coat of paint. Check out the preview video below to see the new graphics:
The graphics offer a change from the “gritty” world and have provided a new, vibrant and colourful Newerth. Whilst borderline “League of Legends” style graphics, HoN has yet again developed their own style and the base towers differ from those on the front lines.
The new HD textures on the 30 heroes are subtle and impressive, removing any real fear that the loved and trusted familiarity has been stripped away. The bots are a coin toss. On one side the bots are coded in lua, the code is completely open and has already given rise to the potential of “bot vs bot” games where members of the community code and design their bots to challenge one another, a little bit like Pokemon or Robot Wars.
The other side of the coin is that currently, the standard AI that came shipped with HoN 3.0 is shockingly bad. Now I don’t mean bad as in they don’t do anything. I mean bad as in these play like a new player with theory.
In lane you can harass them with no risk, kill them over and over and even push a lane down by yourself as the rest of the AI team wander about in lanes with a set goal “farm”. Playing with and against bots you certainly see the direction, potential and how they may develop, but bots of course offer no challenge to the experienced ARTS player. Furthering the impression that HoN 3.0 is all about bringing new players into the game the bots will easily provide a platform for new players.
For the veterans of HoN, HoN 3.0 was nothing more than a letdown. With graphics that the majority of the crowd responded to with “Yeah it’s nice”, I got the impression that no-one really minded or cared.
HoN 3.0 also introduced a rehash of the UI, offering intuitive links and improvements like quick and easy report buttons, a new friends list, and a new chat whilst in game. Out of everything the team matchmaking looked messy and offered out of place artwork which caused a bit of a stir in the community. So much so that Maliken, CEO of S2Games announced an upcoming replacement in future patches. The in-game chat however was a marked improvement. Allowing me to tab between the tauntings of the enemy team and only see constructive feedback of my own team helped me focus and improve state of mind. That is... when my own team was not flaming me.
For veterans to HoN: use 3.0 as an excuse to introduce your friends into the game HoN players know is the best game in the ARTS scene. For newbies: get into HoN now. The tutorial, learnatorium and the walkthrough are major improvements. The walkthrough provides a step by step introduction using Pyromancer in how to play, what the objectives are and the challenges you may face.
After that will be the largest challenge in all ARTS/MOBA’s: the slow, likely painful but ultimately rewarding experience will be learning the heroes and items. Once you complete that... welcome to Heroes of Newerth. You will likely never leave.