Heroes of Newerth is a new take on an old classic, the Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos custom map called DoTA (Defense of the Ancients). DoTA’s has a long history, and it’s current incarnation on Warcraft III is DoTA Allstars. Two teams of up to five people go head to head to compete. Every player selects one hero at the beginning of each game, and each of these heroes has four spell lines and a total of six equipment slots. As your character progresses in levels, you can spend skill points and raise these skills in whatever order that you like. Hero attributes are strength, agility, and intelligence and automatically increase according to a predefined per-level attribute bonus. As the battle rages across the map, you will gain experience and gold from killing AI controlled fodder or by killing enemy heroes. Gold is used to purchase equipment and there is a long list of ‘item recipes’ to combine various items into better equipment, or upgrade existing items into new, more powerful equipment.
The Heroes of Newerth system uses a client/server architecture to host games, and the game engine itself is superior to the aging Warcraft III game engine. If you have played DoTA and Warcraft 3 games before, then you have some idea of the limitations of that game engine. S2 Games‘s isometric player versus player (PVP) game engine has gorgeous graphics and has excellent tactile response, the latter being very important for any competitive game engine. Lag is minimized, and hacking is reduced by way of the intermediary servers. Warcraft III and BattleNet were based on a peer to peer gaming architecture, and hacking is a serious problem.
(editor’s note: most of the images in this guide are scaled down to fit a certain width. Just click on an image to view it’s full quality)
Welcome to Heroes of Newerth beta:
Of special note on the Welcome screen are the disabled ‘Local Game’ and ‘View Replay’ features. I’m assuming those will be available before the game is released from beta. The ability to play local LAN games and to save game play videos would be cool indeed.
The Game List:
The game list screen has all the usual features and advanced filtering. At any given moment, there are hundreds of games to join and thousands of players online, even during beta.
Game Play Modes:
Normal Mode – You can pick from the heroes available from your side’s hero pool of Legion or Hellbourne heroes, but not both.
Random Draft – Limits hero selection to 20 heroes and then alternates picking between players.
Single Draft – Each player is shown three random heroes: one strength based, one agility based, and one intelligence based hero. You select one of the three.
Deathmatch – Normal mode but each time you die you are forced to pick any new hero from your civilization’s hero pool. Each time a hero is seleted, it is permanently removed from the hero pool. The game ends when one team is runs out of available heroes.
Host Advanced Game Options:
Joining a Game:
Once you have found and joined the game type that you like, you are able to click on any team slot to select that team and color. Colors are less important in HoN as they were in DoTA, because on the minimap your positional highlight ‘dot’ (or radar blip) is surrounded by an outline with a green or red circle (red for enemies). These green and red circles remove any color advantage that they had in DoTA. Choosing a muted color in DoTA allowed your minimap ‘radar position’ to be less noticeable at a glance.
Several features are present on the team selection screen. Starting with the top of the screen and going down, you have calculated win ratios per team. These ratios are based on each player’s PSR rating. The team with higher scores is considered to have a more favorable win ratio. Next to each player name is their PSR score and the potential PSR score gain/loss in points, depending on the outcome of the game. Referee spaces can be made available, as a host create game option. A large "plus" symbol is next to each player’s name, to allow single click friend adding. Further down the screen, we have the chat window and the host game information. The host game information lists the server name, map name, and various other game properties that were selected by the host when he/she created the game.
So you want to be a hero?
Once you enter the game, you will get to choose your hero. Below shows the ‘all-pick’ (APEM) game settings, where every player can choose one hero exclusively from either side. It’s first click first serve when picking your favorite hero, except in the draft games type.
Other game modes will present a different layout. For instance, in one game type the computer will randomly select three heroes for you to choose from., and you may only pick one of those three heroes. The interface also supports trading heroes within your team under certain hero selection rules. Repicking your hero is as easy and clicking the small dot above your avatar pic. Your starting gold, and a ready button are also displayed above your avatar picture. Everyone is limited to a few minutes to browse and select a hero, or else one will be randomly chosen for you. A five second audible countdown is played right before the game launches.
An example of the Random Draft hero selection:
An example of the Single Draft selection screen:
After everyone has selected their hero and ‘readied up’, or if the time to select a hero has expired, the game will start. Game loading times are typically only a few seconds, but it does show a cute ‘loading race’ screen showing how fast each player finishes loading.
Heroes of Newerth Gameplay:
The most commonly played map in HoN called Forest of Caldavar is taken directly from DoTA. It is a symmetrically organized map containing two opposing player bases, with three map ‘lanes’, and several towers guarding each lane along the way. NPCs or ‘creeps’ spawn periodically and patrol each lane toward the opposing team’s base. The player versus player (PVP) game play is based upon killing creeps and enemy players to earn money, and purchase upgradable weapons and armor. Wash, rinse, and repeat until your team is powerful enough to destroy the opposing base, or they concede the match. Naturally the opposing team will object to this notion, and they are also accumulating wealth and equipment. Equipment plays an important role in the game, since a significant portion of your hero’s killing power will come from hoarding equipment.
The Shops, Equipment, and Upgrades:
The shop panels allow you to buy and sell equipment. There are three different shops located around the map. The majority of items can be purchased from the shop in your team’s base, but a select number of items can only be purchased at the Secret Shop (it’s location is not-so-secret btw). Your hero has 6 available equipment slots and 6 locker slots, and items can be combined into more powerful items simply by having the correct combination in your inventory. The item statistics and upgrade path for each item is shown when any item is highlighted in the shop.
The different hero types (strength, agility, and intelligence based) will usually have different equipment ‘builds’ to be successful. Many times each hero can benefit from items that might not normally be associated with that hero class. Item abilities run the gamut of new capabilities like lifestealing, stun procs, and teleportation. A strength based hero that has a powerful ultimate on a long cooldown might take an item that instantly resets cooldowns, even though that item has mana regeneration and intelligence bonuses. The key is to find equipment builds that benefit your hero’s individual capabilities, but it is always a safe bet to acquire items that compliment your primary attribute.
Clan and Community Tools:
Heroes of Newerth supports building clans, and having your own friend list. You can press F6 at any time (including while inside a game) to bring up the Clan and Community Screen. On the screen is full featured chat window, clan list, and friend list. The Clan and Community panel gives you the ability to join chat channels, and see the status of your friends or clan members including what game they are in. The community screen also has a dedicated window for quickly looking up other players and their statistics (see the Fetch button on the Stats window below).
Friends can also invite you directly to games:
Hosting a Game:
Hosting your own game in Heroes of Newerth is as simple as clicking the Create Game button, and selecting your options. Game type, map, ladder tiers, team sizes, and various advanced game modes are at your disposable. You can even open slots for Referees and Spectators. You control the horizontal, and the vertical.
Game Engine Features:
Heroes of Newerth has several game engine features that are not present in the classic Warcraft 3 based DoTA counterpart. Game reconnection is the obvious number one and most important feature, followed closely by built-in voice chat (VOIP). Most of the supporting screens also have voice chat, including the team pick screen and the character selection screens. This provides players an easy way to discuss strategies while waiting for the game to start, and during character selection. HoN also has a reconnection system, which allows you to immediately rejoin a game if you get disconnected, in the event of a crash, or if you need to restart your computer for whatever reason.
The custom map editor will be available on release date, but it is not available to review at this time. Currently in beta there are only four maps, but with a map editor released i’m sure there will be many more to come. You will be able to create custom heroes as well, meaning anyone can create and release a map with completely new heroes as well as terrain.
Game Play Videos
I’ve recorded several videos of the game play on YouTube for your ocular enjoyment: http://www.youtube.com/user/MichaelUrvan
The graphics are great, and the sounds in Heroes of Newerth add a whole new level of immersion to the competitive play. The booming voice of the announcer sounds off at many important moments during each game, highlighting achievements and objectives reached both by an individual and their team. The overall quality of the game is amazing and the immersive environment makes it fell like you are playing live in a competitive cyber sport. Once you add to this the cross platform game engine, aforementioned features and functionality, the community tools, and a variety of game modes, then you can see why this is an incredible game engine that will help push this genre of game play into the 21st century as a mainstream cyber sport.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can find me at http://www.twitter.com/michaelurvan