Hitting the Wall
While S2 has delivered a genuinely superb backend to HoN
, the core DotA gameplay it sets out to so directly emulate is both a blessing and a curse. Each hero from the amazing 62 on offer has four unique abilities which they gain and improve on as they earn experience. The types of abilities are very wide-ranging, going from stun hammers to invisibility spells. Because of this wide variety each hero has a completely unique way of playing and this is where the problem arises; there’s just too much to learn.
While the game offers a brief tutorial on the basics and even has a practice mode for you to tinker with in safety, there’s little substitute for heading online and playing against some real human opposition - this is a multiplayer game, after all. As such, you need to have a through understanding of what heroes you might be about to face and exactly how best to counter them - is a shield spell going to hold out against a horde of summoned skeletons or would you be better of creating a mirror image of yourself as a distraction?
Choose your hero! Then die lots
All this information is vital for your success and survival but it only comes after hours of learning, practice and inevitable trips to the HoN
strategy forums. It’s further complicated by the baffling array of items and recipes you’ll need to buy to complement your hero. All this makes HoN
, like DotA
and League of Legends
, extraordinarily hostile for those new to the game.
This is worsened by the fact that rookie players themselves can severely imbalance a match just by their presence. Because HoN
is geared towards killing opponents, rewarding you with extra gold and experience when you get a kill, a new player can all too easily repeatedly fall prey to a more experienced veteran, feeding them to a level at which the rest of your team can’t compete. Not only is this incredibly frustrating for you when you’re the one getting beat down on, but it’s even more so for the rest of your team as they watch the game turn inevitably against them despite playing well themselves.
Get away from my tower!
A learning curve steeper than the north face of the Eiger would usually be enough to damn a game to the bargain bin; after all, at an average game time of 45mins you’ll need to play close to 48 hours of HoN
just to try each hero once. The thing about HoN
, and DotA
before it, though is that when you finally get it together and have some experience under your belt then it's fantastic, intricate and almost obsessively fun. That first time you lure an enemy hero into a team ambush or the first match where you’re the one racking up the kills; the satisfaction and thrill of HoN is on par with the very best multiplayer games.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of things, HoN
’s longevity can really shine too. While the game format means there’s just one 5v5 map (and a 3v3 map in beta), the massive amount of hero and item combinations available means you’ll never play the same game twice. The map is merely the blank canvas onto which the players can make the game and there’s huge variety in approaches as to how to play particular heroes. Do you build for pure damage items, or pick up extra disable abilities? Save for expensive kit or minimise the risk by buying cheaper gear? There’s plenty of licence to stamp your own style onto each hero.