A while ago (yeah, like six freaking months!) i wrote an article expressing my humble opinion about the overlooked MOBA Heroes of Newerth. My conclusion was that the real problem wasn’t the game itself, but rather the company behind it, S2.
Even when they did made some serious mistakes which eventually left the population divided, they still managed to keep the game in a stable and balanced state. Yet, in time they just abandoned the lands of Newerth and gave it to another team, the newly formed Frostburn, acquired by Garena Online.
So, let’s now talk about these fellas who, for the record, they already worked on HoN before, so they knew what to do with the game… right?
Too bad, it's me... Frostburn!
Their first decision was to make a gigantic patch to “balance” the game. They basically tweaked every single hero, no matter how irrelevant, starting from giving meaningless points of speed, to very low buffs to their starting base damage, and many other things. Most of the changes were totally unnoticed, except for two which totally CRIPPLED the game. A couple of heroes, usually picked for specific roles, were reworked and became machines of massive destruction, impossible to stop – I’m talking about Wildsoul and Hellbringer, who at the time could be paired with Syllabear and Warlock from DotA.
Before the patch those heroes were barely picked, yet after that awesome beginning they were chosen 99% of the games, and basically the picking phase became a race – if you had both of those heroes, the enemy team may as well Alt + F4 because they were already screwed. Otherwise it would’ve been a 1v1 while the remaining 8 people watched a fierce battle between two demigods with insane damage and ridiculous lifesteal.
As you can imagine, the game became boring and predictable. You knew at least two people were going to have those heroes, so you had to make your own team to counter them, which severely limited your options. After much rage and tears in the forums, the Frostburn team had to launch an emergency patch to fix that mess – yes, it was THAT bad.
Your typical match against Hellbringer.
This was the usual scenario up until 1750mmr - f@ck you new players.
Everything was sort of good after the hotfix, but people kept picking those heroes because they were still powerful. In the following patches they nerfed them even more, but to this day they remain incredibly strong (specially Wildsoul). You may think the developers learned something after this mistake, but alas, they didn't.
Every two weeks or so, the game received another enormous patch with tons of tweaks, until they screwed it once again but this time with Zephyr, another obscure hero who was barely picked. So, again, every game was like this: someone picked Zephyr, the enemy team tried to build their setup to counter him; if they actually managed to do it, Zephyr was locked down but his companions weren’t, so they won the game for him – if they didn’t managed to stop the mighty owl, then he would just wreck them all easily. HoN was, once again, a crapfest with predictable matches and a constant crying on the chat.
It's ok, Zephyr used his ultimate. Just call for a concede and let's not waste any more time.
After a while they eventually nerfed the hero to the ground, and now nobody picks him. Apparently, they learned that a small patch can be controlled in a more effective way, while hundreds of modifications at the same time result in an unpredictable and mostly disastrous change for the game.
Nowadays they seem to spend most of their time making terrible cosmetic options, in the form of announcers and alt avatars, with the occasional ward and courier thrown in the mix. The problem is that most of them suck. They suck… so bad.
I’ve talked before about the immersion in games. HoN is based on a fantasy setting with mostly sword and magic stuff going around, so you’ll expect to see things matching that scenery. Knowing that, how would you feel when your medieval hero with armor is fighting a girl dressing as a panda, while a surfing board passes through the screen and an evil Pac-man is chasing you? It not only makes zero sense, but it’s also just a clear lack of ideas to begin with.
What's this, a MOBA you say? Oh man, i can't wait to play this badass game!
Still, no matter how terrible the cosmetics are, many people buy and use them in the game. I’m fine with that, I can’t expect to everyone share my point of view, but my question is… why I am forced to watch all that awfulness? Why not add a single option to hide those features? Yes, I know it’s their only way to make money, but if I want to hide them it’s because I won’t buy anything… ever. So what’s the point?
Not to mention, if you’re a new player you could never catch up with the insane amount of avatars they launch every month – any hero has between three and eight avatars, and they keep growing. Imagine trying to become familiar with more than a hundred heroes, AND their alternative skins.
Yeah… maybe that’s one reason the game doesn’t have new players since like forever, don’t you think?
I could rant all day about these things, but to be fair, the Frostburn team is doing a somewhat good work at keeping the game fresh. They recently added new items, a couple just copycats from other games, but at least they did took their time to include them here. Also, they brought the War Effort, a quest system with fun rewards that gives you an incentive to play with different heroes every match, along with a competitive ladder to measure your e-peen – and if you played MOBAs, you know how much people likes to brag their ranks.
For now, I could say that the new developers are doing just fine, and learning from their own mistakes. The fact that they SHOULD know better after working on the game for years kind of pisses me off, but hey, you can’t have everything. Still, I don’t honestly think they really want to move the game into a new, more popular front as they claim – actually, with all these constant changes they’re doing the opposite.
Heroes of Newerth is doomed to a small, loyal playerbase, forever chilling in the background.
But perhaps... it's for the best.