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Heroes of Newerth - hands-on

First there was Demigod, and now we’ve got two more DotA-alikes (Defense of the Ancients) running neck-and-neck for the attention of DotA players everywhere. We recently looked at League of Legends: Clash of Fates, and if the name DotA doesn’t ring a bell, take minute to understand what the hell we’re talking about in the LoL: CoF previewhere, which lays out the gist of the most popular user-created mod in RTS history.

Also, we don’t feel like explaining the whole DotA thing again. However, we will be talking about it in comparison to Heroes of Newerth, which we also recently got to click around in until our fingers cried for relief. If the name Newerth sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because devs S2 Games created the hugely original genre mashups Savage and Savage 2: A Tortured Soul, which took place in the distant future where technology had fallen by the wayside and prehistoric life had retaken Earth, hence Newerth (get it?).

Still, while HoN continues the RTS-like aspirations of the Savage games, it is not considered an entry in the Savage series. It also differentiates itself in fewer ways from the original DotA than League of Legends. Whereas LoL introduces a metagame where players develop and customize their accounts outside of actual matches, HoN stays much closer to the DotA formula. Depending on how much of a DotA fan one is, this familiarity may prove quite appealing.

HoN aims to take the DotA experience, refine it, polish it, and gussy it up with some seriously delicious graphics. One aspect of League of Legends that disappointed us was the look: it has a very cartoonish, pastel-hued art style that wasn’t too appealing to us (although some gamers will undoubtedly prefer it). With Heroes of Newerth, we get bright, crisp visuals that have a much more “grown-up” look to them. It’s not to say that the game doesn’t have style or exaggerated features, but that the razzle-dazzle of glittering water effects, sparkling spells, and more realistically proportioned heroes definitely hit the pleasure receptors in our optic nerves in ways that LoL didn’t. It’s also a HUGE improvement over the original DotA’s graphics, what with the Warcraft III engine being over six years old now (although it still looks good in our eyes).

If you’re real familiar with DotA’s heroes and items, then you won’t have to learn a lot of new stuff to get a handle on HoN. Most of HoN’s heroes are direct analogs of DotA heroes, with a few new characters to add spice to the mix. Many of the items are also either the same, or similar with small tweaks. The overall roster aims to bring 40 heroes to the table at launch.

The real draw here is the professional polish added to a beloved template, and this polish doesn’t skimp. The game claims to have a client/server architecture that totally stomps down on any cheaters, like maphackers (a hack that removes the Fog of War, allowing the cheater to see the whole map). Another really big feature is the in-game voice-chat, which means teammates will be able to communicate easily even if they don’t know each other, and don’t have time to set up third-party voice programs. This will really help micromanagement since players won’t have to be typing commands to each other. Of course, this also means that all those hateful 12-year old DotA freaks will be able to scream at you in full vocal cord-cracking glory.

HoN will also support an automatic matchmaking system and ranked ladder, accompanied by comprehensive stat-tracking. A brilliant component of this system is the Leaver status. See, one of the big problems in DotA is that many people will leave a game early, before a clear victor has been decided. This leaves teammates and opponents frustrated with having their time wasted, and so HoN tracks how many games you leave early. There is some leeway, since we all have to answer to the late-night pizza gods, but if you breach a certain number of early leaves (based on how many total games you play), you are stamped with the dreaded Leaver status. When players host games, they can check a box that won’t allow Leavers to join. So be prepared to stick with it for the long haul!

Heroes of Newerth is set to come out in “Early Fall” on Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux, and will be going head-to-head with rival League of Legends for the crown of DotA Successor. It’s hard to tell which will come out on top, as both games have their unique strengths, but HoN definitely proved to be a serious contender during the time we got to play with the some 200,000 other people in the massive closed beta. Expect the DotA Wars to be resolved once and for all soon.

Sep 2, 2009

Heroes of Newerth closed beta key giveaway
Start creeping and pwning in the closed beta before the rest of the plebes