It's been a while since I last had a chance to play Heroes of Newerth for any extended period of time, so I was a bit sad to discover that the game's community is still one of the worst on the planet. However, being someone who has participated in my fair share of trash talking during gaming sessions, I have fairly thick skin and didn't let this deter me.
With version 2.0 releasing last week, S2 Games has put a considerable amount of time into revamping many areas of the game, as well as adding a few highly anticipated features such as team matchmaking, interface improvements, a micro-transactions shop, and a map editor.
Unfortunately team matchmaking still seems to be in a beta state, as they've taken it down fairly consistently over the past week during my time playing, with it only being up for focused testing sessions to collect data and feedback. That said, the experience thus far has been amicable and the feature being introduced is what largely has gotten me to play the game again.
Succubus gets a naughty variant in the in-game shop.
One downside to matchmaking is the in-game shop, which was introduced with 2.0 and utilizes micro-transactions to purchase "Goblin Coins" that are used in the acquisition of account icons, hero avatar variants, sound packs and more. While S2 has stated that you can earn these coins in-game as well -- ensuring that you don't have to spend an extra dime to buy all the shop content -- the rate in which you collect the coins through the matchmaking system seems to be intendedly abysmal. At the end of the day, unless you want to wait a year to have an appreciable amount of the shop's offerings, you're better off doling out real cash for the coins.
That said, the shop has some very cool additions to it, none of which will ever directly impact in-game player performance. While you'll be able to change your hero avatars -- some of them include original concept variants like a female pyromancer and scorpion magmus -- none of the variants actually alter your hero's abilities. One startlingly offensive offering in the shop, though, has to be the "Flamboyant" sound pack, which seems to directly target and ridicule the homosexual community. It's easily one of the more offensive things I've seen introduced in a video game, and left me scratching my head wondering how it made it past the S2 office whiteboard.
It really makes you wonder what was in that koolaid at the design meeting.
Another major addition in this update is a new map -- Grimm's Crossing -- a 3v3 offering which is designed to be extremely fast-paced in comparison to other maps. I haven't personally had a chance to play it, though it seems to be getting a lot of positive reaction from players and media. Ciderhelm of TankSpot considers it the best MOBA map ever introduced.
The user interface enhancements seem to focus heavily on the match UI, though there are improvements everywhere. From the slicker look of the main screen that provides access to matchmaking, replays, the shop, and more to the match lobby. The lobby improvements are fantastic, with the ability to hover your mouse over a player's name and see a quick overview of their match stats, including the latest matches and their favorite heroes. In-match offers rather robust improvements, including the ability to mouse over a hero and see their items in a tooltip, as well as minimap tooltips when mousing over towers and other important points on the map.
Finally, Heroes of Newerth 2.0 introduces a new game mode called Casual Mode while also removing the largely loathed "Easy Mode". Casual Mode does exactly what the name suggests by warping Heroes of Newerth into a more casual-friendly experience. I haven't personally bothered with it, as it's not something that interests me when jumping into Heroes of Newerth. If I wanted to play casual mode, I'd probably just log on League of Legends, as it's essentially Heroes of Newerth Lite already in terms of competitive intensity. Still, I can understand the appeal for some players and S2's interest in helping to more slowly introduce game concepts to those new to the genre. Plus, extra game modes never hurt, pushing the game even farther above the competition in terms of gameplay options.
An original Magmus concept, now a variant available in the in-game shop.
Overall the update has satisfied me, giving my friends and I a place to play matches -- at least when it's up -- as a team without (for the most part) having to deal players below our skill levels. The new heroes added since I last played have mixed things up quite a bit as well, so this isn't just a nostalgic trip back to a game I previously enjoyed, but also a new learning experience. I would definitely recommend checking the game out if you're a fan of competitive arena-style player-versus-player gaming.