Heroes of Newerth PC Review
Many an hour have I spent scrolling my mouse cursor over goblins and orcs, and many an hour have I spent revelling in their summary dismemberment or, if nothing else, salivating at the experience and loot they are soon to dispense. So when I was told that Heroes of Newerth was a hardcore game, for hardcore players, I jumped at the chance to delve into the depths of a game that was eager to satisfy my urge for number-crunching, effect-stacking and minion-slaying.
With joyful little eyes, and a twitching index-finger I loaded up the game, but I was treated to a startling reality. I am not hardcore. I am, in fact, the softest of the cores. If there was a type of core that all the other cores laughed at and called a n00b as they farmed his fat head for experience over and over again, then I am that core. Spawned from the realm of ignorance and optimism, I strike where you are strongest, run away when I should be pressing forward and I strive to gimp my character within the first 5 minutes. I am flaccid-core. Saying this game is ‘hardcore’ is like calling Kanye West ‘egotistical’ – he’s so much more than that.
The game plays as an RPG/RTS, seeing you guiding your character across a map through various lanes, killing enemy minions, defence towers, and other player-controlled opposition that can reach a maximum of five versus five, with the ultimate goal of destroying the enemies’ shrine. As you defeat your opposition you quickly level up and gain money – you can then spend your experience on unlocking one of each character’s four unique skills, and spend money on various items from the game’s shops, boosting stats and adding various unique effects. Nothing surprising so far, but with the game having sixty playable characters to choose from, various skill levels, item choices and your own team’s diversity, variety truly is the saviour of this game.
Now you know the basics, prepared to have your fragile little world shattered by the realm of online play. It’s not a nice or friendly world, but if you try your hardest, just like real life, there is always a Subway around every corner… or a silver lining, whichever has more emotional gravitas for you. The beginning of every game starts out with your character choice -this may not be initially obvious, but competitive play starts here in a quick-draw ‘rock, paper, scissors’ mini game. Basically the host can entirely disallow some character classes, which are completely cut off from both sides selecting them. Now, in theory, both teams hold off on choosing their favourite characters, knowing that the other team will choose their own character as the best counter measure to your favourite character’s skill set. In reality, though, this usually results in everyone scrambling for their favourite characters in the dying seconds of the lobby’s countdown.
The game begins and you’re treated to impressive character creation – character models are unique and interesting, well animated, and each with their own voice talent. The maps and the items in them are detailed, easily recognisable models with vibrant colour schemes. And the matches themselves play as a strategic tug of war, with you engaging in hit and run attacks into enemy territory, earning experience, leveling up and strengthening your character with new items and abilities as you go. Certain items can even be crafted to give you a higher chance of combating the enemies’ attacks and offensive intentions, adding a much-needed level of complexity and on-the-fly creative thinking to combat your enemies’ plans.
And here lies a problem – your enemies are obviously other players. Real people. Those who engage in online play nowadays will be familiar with a bit of smack talk, usually involving a bit of foul language. But the amount in this game borders on obscene. I say this as a pretty easy-going soul – someone who can take a jest and give one back, someone who can giggle at a fart, and roar at a strategically-placed paedophile joke at a dinner party. But the amount of abuse you will receive while playing this game borders on pure griefing. And the cleverly implemented built-in voice chat just gives these autistic sad sacks any excuse to assault your ears as well as your eyes. Standard internet pleasantries are still here, with people saying “gg” after your humiliating defeat. Which, in some ways, is almost as insulting. It’s like Evel Knievel patting you on the head for having your stabilisers taken off your bike.
Let’s get down to specifics. Highs on this game are suitably rewarding – few things are more satisfying than levelling up your character to a point that you can go on a killing spree unhindered across the map. But winning feels no more satisfying than any other RTS, and all other RTSs don’t have the bred-in-World of Warcraft PvP posse, who find nothing more enjoyable than telling you that you’re a faggot, because they single-click killed you with a spell you don’t have yet. And as far as creativity during combat goes, 90% of PvP encounters will consist of you running away from an enemy because you have low health, or chasing an enemy because they have low health. Somewhere along the lines, the feeling of an epic war is lost.
It’s hard to recommend a game with such a fundamental flaw – you could argue that if there was a single player campaign it wouldn’t be so big a problem, but that’s not what the game is about, and why should it be? The issue is not with the game’s creators, who haven’t made a bad game at all. It’s with the community that they have catered for with it. Words like ‘PWNING’ popping up when you’re on a killing spree, however tongue and cheek, still add to the vibe that these overly-aggressive, humiliating or just downright internetty behaviours are encouraged. Of course, there are players out there – funny, interesting, nice, well rounded players – who no doubt have a guild I should join. But who has the time to hold out against hope that the next people you play against won’t be c*nts, on a game seemingly created to attract them. No matter how well crafted it is. Pun intended.