Hello readers, let me tell you a story. Once upon a time Blizzard released a game called Warcraft 3. It became very popular with online strategy gamers thanks to healthy support for user-made maps. These could completely change the way the game was played, ranging from Mario Kart-esque racing to tower defence challenges.
One map in particular though became more popular than all the others combined. Defence of the Ancients was a 5v5 hero war where players control just one unit. In fact, DotA, as the map became known, soon developed a following that eclipsed that of its parent game in much the same way that Counter-Strike became more popular than Half-Life. DotA was played at the World Cyber Games and even made an appearance at BlizzCon.
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As DotA became increasingly popular (Basshunter even made a song about it, assault your ears here) it was only a matter of time before publishers came knocking and the original creators signed up with the likes of GOA, Valve and S2 to produce their own DotA spinoffs. We’ve already looked at GOA’s offering with the free play (or not) League of Legends and now the wraps have finally been taken off it's main competitor, Heroes of Newerth, following an extended beta test.
For those unfamiliar with the hero wars style of RTS it's pretty simple - at least on paper. Each of the two teams, here called the Legion and the Hellbourne, start in bases at diagonally opposite ends of the map. Connecting the two bases are three interconnected lanes and each team’s base will automatically churn out AI controlled units known as creeps which travel down these lanes and do battle with the opposition. The player’s role in this is to control a single hero unit in a team of five, killing enemy creeps and heroes, earning gold and experience to level up. When you're strong enough you can then push into the enemy base and destroy it. As we said, on paper it sounds painfully simple but in practice, it’s anything but.
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Before we get into the gritty stuff though it’s worth asking just what can HoN bring to a genre that’s already dominated by DotA, a free to play mod (as long as you own Warcraft 3). The problems lie in the fact that DotA is shoehorned into what is now an eight year old game, with few of the features that players now expect.
This is where HoN comes in; adding much needed features and professional polish without interfering too much with the core DotA mechanics - consistent stat tracking is a particularly vital addition. The netcode has also been optimised to allow players whose PC crashes or internet connection goes down to rejoin the game once they’re up and running again; a genuinely fantastic addition. To top it all off, all this takes place in an entirely new 3D engine that makes Warcraft 3’s look its eight year age. There are a lot of long requested back end features tweaks too.