Up until this week, I had never played a single MOBA game in my life. It was never something that appealed to me, mostly in part to the extreme learning curve attributed to them. I'm not one for cut-throat competition, especially when the community, as the story goes, is vicious in their condemnation of new players who do not perform at their requisite level of skill. Heroes of Newerth has always been the most frightening of MOBA's to me, as the chatter throughout the web had seemed to agree by consensus that if you wanted real competition, you check out HoN. Needless to say, I wasn't too excited at the prospect of playing a match with my good friend, Paul "[S2]Malloc" Dziadzio, who enquired whether or not I'd be interested in going toe-to-toe with his newest creation inside the hallowed walls of S2 Games: HoN bots. “At the very least”, he argued, “you won't embarrass yourself in front of strangers.”
Oh how wrong you were, my good friend. I may be an uncompetitive, lackadaisical layabout, but I am not a coward. A fool, maybe, but not a coward.
Sensing the undoubtedly slyest of sly grins creeping across his face like cracks on a windshield, I accepted his challenge under the express directive that I would record our game for posterity to show that I am afraid of nothing except bees and Australia, where I can only assume they have some sort of super-bee enriched in ungodly amounts of sunlight and punishing heat. That night, we booted up HoN 3.0 and I began my first ever match of a MOBA game in my life.
Heroes of Newerth 3.0 has been advertised as the most new player friendly state the game has ever been in, and from what I have seen and played, that seems very true. The “Learnatorium” offers new players the chance to engage in a completely relaxed quick tutorial of the basics of HoN, a library of videos to help newbies come to grips with the more advanced tactics of the game, and a complete hero roster breakdown complete with guides on specific hero uses and play styles, many of which have been created by other players. While there is still some room for improvement, as complete newbies such as myself can get lost in all the jargon, there is still extremely useful information that can be gleaned from these videos and guides for newcomers and old hands alike.
However, the night was not for book learnin', but skull bustin'. Despite my strong desires to remain within the safety and comfort of the Learnatorium, I was urged to join a private match with Malloc against the hellish minions of his own creation, numbering 12 strong. Selecting Flint Beastwood, a hero I had become comfortable with from a previous session, we leaped into the fray and began our assault on the armies of the Hellbourne.
The depth of the game is staggering, but with the tactics I picked up from the Learnatorium under my belt, and the ever-watching gaze of a seasoned veteran over my shoulder, I had a good feeling about this match, unlike my previous attempt at conquest which was thoroughly thwarted by the frigid hand of Glacius – a most cruel and wicked bot, the likes of which I will not soon forget. This time, however, I was ready.
The start of the match went well. Learning the ropes went even faster with a friend who knew his stuff, and we were slowly making progress towards the enemy stronghold. Many a creep were slain on the opposite ends of Beastwood's mighty rifles. Gold and experience were collected en masse, gear and potions were purchased, and the front line continued to move ever forward.
On occasions, I squealed like a 10 year old girl.
It was at the height of my enjoyment that, once again, the gauntlet was thrown down at my feet. From beyond the vale, the frozen murder-machine, Glacius, appeared to put the brakes on our party, unleashing unspeakable icy death upon both Malloc and myself. I fell to his destructive assault several times, but was able to best him in combat near the end of the match, the satisfaction from which I savoured like a fine steak.
In short, HoN 3.0 has done the impossible for me: made MOBAs enjoyable. Whether or not that says something to you is up to debate, but the effort all the people at S2 Games have put into making what has been the video game equivalent of a full-contact sport is admirable to say the least. Going further, there are certainly features I would love to see, but bots have been the biggest hang-up for the longest time. With them finally implemented, I'm excited to see what S2 comes up with next.