published Monday, Jun 21st
The PC and the strategy game were made for each other. California-based developers S2 Games have demonstrated this eloquently with their third offering for PC, Heroes of Newerth (HoN).
HoN is a fast-paced multiplayer strategy romp in the fantasy Universe of Newerth. The ultimate goal is as familiar as it is simple; to destroy the opposition base. HoN demands a different mindset to the average PC strategy title however; game play is shifted away from the time consuming tedium of resource collection and base building, and focussed sharply on development of the Hero.
Game content draws heavily upon the success of Warcraft III’s “Defence of the Ancients” scenario. The player and up to four team mates gain experience and gold by defeating enemy players and attacking waves of ‘Creeps’; bots dispensed from the enemy base. Gold accrued through successful battles can then be exchanged for items from the shop panel, or more specialised items from the “Secret Shop” and the “Outpost” located somewhere on the field of play. Experience enables the player’s hero to level and gain increasingly powerful talents, which make crushing the enemy that little bit more enjoyable.
Game play is fast, furious and at first somewhat overwhelming, the comprehensive tutorial and ability to set up practice matches is a great help, allowing the player to familiarise them self with different Heroes, controls and objectives. HoN is a tricky little game; the temptation is to send the Hero steaming into battle, usually resulting in endless deaths, aggravated team mates and cries of ‘Absolute Noob’ ringing around the battlefield. Getting your Hero well equipped and to a high level, as quickly as possible, seems to be the key to success. This game requires dedication.
There’s a wide variety of Heroes available to play as – 70 at present – ranging from ‘Pandamonium’ (a Warrior-Monk Panda) to ‘Balphagor’ (a corpse hungry demon). Divided initially into two, the ‘Legion’, representing the powers of good and the ‘Hellbourne’, being the darker characters of Newerth, the Heroes are sub-divided into three main character sets. Agility – Speed and Armour abilities; Intelligence – Spell Casting and Mana Regeneration; Strength – Mele Damage and Health Regeneration. Each Hero offers unique combinations of abilities and powers which helps to keep game play fresh.
The user interface and in-game menu structure of HoN are well thought out. Menu progressions are logical and very clear making navigation smooth, even for a novice user. Importantly for a top down strategy game, everything is highly customisable. If swarms of health bars littering up the screen drives you to distraction then you can scrap them at the tick of a box. The presence of a comprehensive and customisable hot-key system drastically speeds up commands and allows the more advanced user to make the game their own.
The server system is great. User-defined matches allow game play to be tailored to the player’s specification (Game title, mode, map, team size and game rules can all be altered) to create the desired scenario. If you don’t want to create your own game, all open matches are listed and you can opt to join that game’s lobby. A matchmaking option is also provided by S2, but it is so refreshing to have the choice available. The K2 Engine which drives HoN is, to be frank, great. It deals remarkably well with connection issues, allowing the user to rejoin the game as soon as that issue has been resolved. Lag caused the poor connections of other players is dealt with and seems to have no effect upon game play. Well done S2!
Heroes of Newerth doesn’t really surprise visually. Animation is strong and smooth and delivers everything that you would expect, but does at times feel like a blast from the past. Go on a successful killing spree and ‘Bloodlust’ bursts onto the screen in big red letters accompanied by the standard ‘Unreal Tournament-style’ voiceover; old hat and head scathingly cheesy.
So, Heroes of Newerth does precisely what it sets out to do. It provides the user with a fun, punchy online fantasy strategy game. HoN isn’t going to going to set the world alight. It is essentially a re-hash of an already popular game format but this, along with clever online community based marketing, gives HoN an instant and faithful audience. If S2 deliver regular updates and keep the game running as smoothly as it has started, No doubt that Newerth will be full of Heroes for a long time to come.