Heroes of NewerthIf you’ve heard of DOTA or Defense of the Ancients, then you have likely heard about the upcoming Heroes of Newerth release. Let’s start by giving you a little background in to DotA. Defense of the Ancients (DotA) is a custom scenario for the real-time strategy video game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, based on the “Aeon of Strife” map for StarCraft. The objective of the scenario is for each team to destroy the opponents’ Ancients, heavily guarded structures at opposing corners of the map. Players use powerful units known as heroes, and are assisted by allied heroes and AI-controlled fighters called “creeps”. As in role-playing games, players level up their hero and use gold to buy equipment during the mission.

Since its release, Allstars has become a feature at several worldwide tournaments, including Blizzard Entertainment’s BlizzCon and the Asian World Cyber Games, as well as the Cyberathlete Amateur and CyberEvolution leagues; Gamasutra declared that DotA was perhaps the most popular “free, non-supported game mod in the world”.

Fast forward to Heroes of Newerth, the second iteration of the popular scenario. The game plays exactly the same as it did in DotA but with a few big differences. First, this is a stand-alone game on to itself allowing the creation of additional maps and avatars. The game has roughly the same UI with notable differences in screen resolution and overall graphic quality. Graphics in this game are very good, and rather breathtaking when compared to their earlier cousin.

Heroes of Newerth also has a single shop building rather than about a dozen you see in DotA. This is due in part to the custom environment allowing for tiered shop spaces. There are secret shops scattered about the map allowing you to purchase powerful artifacts and getting to them is easy as long as you aren’t discovered by one of your opponents.

Creeps come in waves where NPC creatures make their way to opposing villages. You have the ability to support them and help them defeat defense towers along the way and ultimately your opponent’s ancients. These creeps gain in strength and numbers as the game progresses.

Heroes of Newerth is a thinking game and one best done on your toes. You have to keep up with your equipment upgrades, maintaining three fronts, combating an array of enemies both human and NPC while remembering what their various powers and skills are. What struck me as most difficult about the game is learning to be on the lookout for and recognizing various skills, spells and equipment powers by their visual effects. This can be the difference between a victory and defeat if you mistake an opponent baring barbed armor for an easy kill.

Overall, this game is exceptional in beta and I can’t wait to see it in the wild.