James Bacon's ++Guide into the World of MOBA gaming (Part 2 of 3)

Right off the bat I’m going to let you all know that this piece is a bit shorter than I’d usually be comfortable with; however, with the large degree of similarities between Heroes of Newerth, DotA2, and League of Legends, I fear I’d simply be retreading previously discussed materials. Add to this the fact that the next piece will contain a wealth of new game styles and perspectives from the ‘traditional’ MOBA format, and you’ll thank me later for keeping this so tight and trim.

So, here we are, a little over a week later, and this time I’m going to discuss both DotA2 (Defense of the Ancients) and Heroes of Newerth (HoN). Upon reflection, I thought that maybe I should have lead off with DotA2 in part 1, since it’s the ‘sequel’ to the game that invented the genre, but decided, upon further reflection still, that this is the best way to go about it. You see, of all of the games I’ve played, League of Legends is beyond the shadow of any doubt, the simplest with regard to game mechanics, the nicest to get into regarding community, and the the most popular (which shortens your wait for getting into a game significantly). TL;DR, I started with LoL because it’s the easiest to talk about, and it’s got the most simple presentation.

Also, I have received a bit of feedback regarding first piece, and a lot of you thought I was a bit lax in actually explaining the terminology. I would say things like “laning phase,” without giving an appropriate explanation as far as what that is, when it happens, or how you should behave while it’s going on. I’m going to do my best to rectify that, here. My apologies for any confusion that may have occurred as a result.

I’ll begin by citing the differences between HoN/DotA2, and League of Legends. I’m grouping HoN and DotA2 together because they are nearly identical with regard to mechanics, and the vast majority of their champions are just as similar. Thunderbringer might be an electricity slinging gorilla when compared to DotA2’s thunder god Zeus, but their spells and stats are the same. Anyway, the first difference is the day/night cycle. DotA2 and HoN both have a day/night cycle that affects the game in a global way. When night time rolls around, the vision of your character, but also your team’s buildings and creeps is drastically reduced. This makes pushing a lane (the act of killing off your opponents’ creeps in an effort to ‘push’ your creeps into the range of their buildings to destroy them) extremely dangerous, as you cannot see your enemy until it’s far too late. Some characters, like DotA2’s Nightstalker, receive full map vision when it’s night, and can even alter the phases, adding 80 additional seconds to the night phase, or straight-up turning day into night for 80 seconds. As far as I’m aware, he’s the only hero that can do this, but he’s largely feared because of it. Night time is often when a team will try to stick together and gank (the act of killing enemy players in order to put them on a respawn timer, which hinders the other team; heroes on respawn do not earn XP or gold for kills… this causes an exponential disparity later in the game), or pick team fights (the act of engaging the other team as a group in an effort to kill as many of them as possible, buying you map control due to respawn timers). It significantly alters the behavior of players, and pace at which the game is played.

And here we have Ashe… wait a minute! How’d this LoL screen get in here? You said HoN and DotA2!!!

Also, unlike LoL, both of these games require that you purchase an item that teleports you back to your HQ, instead of making it available to everyone in the form of a spell. In LoL, you can return home from anywhere on the map by casting Recall, which costs nothing, and has no cooldown. The spell is located conveniently on your HUD, and I prefer this method far better than the purchasable items in HoN and DotA2. The trade-off is that these scrolls will allow you to teleport close to ANY of your team’s structures… even your towers. It provides a high degree of mobility, since if you’ve always got a scroll, you can defend any of your teams structures after a very short cast time, and from anywhere on the map. You need to be mobile, though, since the maps in HoN and DotA2 are significantly larger. In LoL, you don’t really need the scrolls, because everything is pretty much accessible in a short-ish period of time, simply by walking to it. This is a part of the general streamlined approach Riot Games took to the genre. As a result, the game seems far more engaging, and far more team oriented, since you’re expected to help out besieged teammates, and can actually run to them. In HoN or DotA2, without a scroll, you can’t do a damned thing.

Also, in HoN/DotA2, you can fortify your structures for a short period of time, making them damage immune for a few seconds. This is a team cooldown ability, and it honestly doesn’t really do too much in the grand scheme of things. I never saw it completely save a tower, often just delaying the destruction for a few seconds, but it’s a noteworthy difference.,

Razor unleashes his ultimate.

It wouldn’t be a proper comparison if I didn’t mention the communities, and if you thought LoL was bad… you simply aren’t prepared for HoN. The amount of blame passing, and backbiting, and infighting, and name calling is embarrassing. If I were a member of only one gaming sub-community, and HoN was it, I’d hide it; I wouldn’t want to hold it up as an example of anything other than how NOT to behave during a multiplayer team game experience. There isn’t a single game of HoN that I played (out of approx. 75) where there wasn’t at least one instance of name calling. Often I’d watch as teammates refer to each other by their character’s name in a derogatory fashion, often making public addresses as if the offender weren’t present. However, and contradictory, HoN was the game in which I made the most long term friends. Players like TheHashKing, and _Zerathul_ took things one step further than the LoL contingent who defended me, and actually threw friend requests my way, and then played several games with me after suggesting heroes based on my play style. They are, unfortunately, in the microscopic minority. HoN is a good game. It’s a fun game, and it’s interesting… but make sure you have the thickest of hides prior to joining a rated game.

DotA2 is, by far, the least vocal community of the bunch. Often, you’ll find you’re playing in dead silence, regardless of whether or not your team is winning. If you break the silence and ask a question, 9 times out of 10 you’ll get the help you’re looking for, but other than that, it might as well be a single player experience for all the communication that takes place.

Thor Thunderbringer, an alternate skin for regular-old Thunderbringer.

Both games are fun, especially if you prefer casting your hat in a more complex arena, but the streamlined LoL, even with it’s often harsh community, is more my cup of tea. I still play both HoN and DotA2, but not nearly as often as LoL.

Next in the series is bound to be a doosey. Changing the perspective, control scheme, or format of the traditional DotA game mode makes for some terribly interesting, incredibly fun gameplay. Look forward to my commentary on SMITE, Bloodline Champions, Smashmuck Champions, Super Monday Night Combat, and Wrath of Heroes, all in the next article!

-James Bacon