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Heroes of Newerth at Frankfurt: Prophets in a Dota paradise

Sören Vendsahm
Contributing Editor
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Although Dota 2 was in the focus of ESL One, with incredible matches leading up to Invictus Gaming’s (iG) return to glory at an international tournament, it was also host to many side stages and activities for the 12,500 gaming enthusiasts who made their way to the Commerzbank Arena on each respective day.

For the guys from the Heroes of Newerth (HoN) team and the free-to-play MOBA title itself, it will be forever linked to the ‘birth’ of their custom map initiative. At the event, the first step towards reintroducing Warcraft 3 mods and giving them a new look was taken, igniting a new spark while keeping the game’s old and much-loved charm intact.

Sam Braithwaite, Heroes of Newerth’s head of marketing,  was one of those showcasing the new mod, which appeared to be universally well-received. Despite a slightly slow start during the first ESL One game between mouz and iG as everyone clamoured to get their bit of Dota 2 action, the HoN booth was packed throughout the entire two-day stretch, the computers all occupied and fierce competition for prizes taking place on the shrinking battlefield.

Nostalgia in a new look

A game that was closely linked to Dota from the get-go, Heroes of Newerth is going back to its roots with the creation of custom maps, Prophets being only the first of several planned. Warcraft 3 veterans might be reminded of the game’s popular Warlocks map - an intentional comparison. Throughout the event, the aim was clear: to reignite the interest of their fanbase and inspire developers alike.

Viewed by some as a fish out of water at first, it became one of the greatest ESL One success stories as HoN rekindled its flame with the Dota 2 audience, with everyone able to dip their toes into Prophets’ contested waters and emerge a champion.

Skill shots flew, close escapes elicited groans from the crowd and every round one player emerged to triumphant cheers. The success of HoN at ESL One was arguably rooted in nostalgia, but also presentation. Loud announcements, a live-cast atmosphere and competitive environment in addition to in-depth discussions about the goals of the new mode and future plans left the audience satisfied and completely up to date. Braithwaite and his crew connected with the fans, kicked them out of their Dota 2 reserve and made them appreciate all the hard work and dedication he and the team had put into their product.

Over the weekend, competitiveness even emerged, with a number of playful rivalries forming. Good plays earned applause, while mutual respect and handshakes were given to the deserving winners by fellow competitors and the crowd in addition to prizes. Overall the new mode didn’t quite connect with old Warlock veterans from the sadly bygone Warcraft 3 era, but they still managed to reel in new fans, who left with a smile.

Small battleground, big action

For those unfamiliar with Warlock or the new Prophets map, the rules are simple: survive. In this battle royale arena, a combination of skill shots, cunning movement and a lot of luck will lead to victory. However, being the last man standing often proves to be more of a challenge than it sounds.

Up to ten people must fight for the survival, with the battlefield gradually getting smaller and smaller while the nukes and spells continue to gain power. In the end, it is a festival of dodges, big hits and well-timed leaps back into the action that separates the prophets from the average fortune teller. Additionally, to truly find the best player in each game, the real winner has to win four battles - only then is he deemed worthy.

That this is a high-tempo and high-skill game was evident to the audience right away. After the ‘initiation phase’ as players got to grips with the mechanics and equipment, the games turned into competitive and highly entertaining masterpieces. Sometimes the rounds even went into extra innings as everyone was quick to adapt to the mode’s playstyle. During the first day, four different competitors had match points, and were all on the verge of taking home some cool gear.

The overall design and fast-paced matches makes Prophets interesting for everyone, from a casual gamer looking for a quick adrenaline rush to a savvy HoN veteran trying to get his practice reps in. The rapid downsizing of the map, overload of players in a small space and added pressure of a timer result in non-stop action without real downtimes.

MOBA fans, old Warcraft 3 hands and complete newcomers to the game or genre will find plenty of fun to be had with this latest addition to HoN mode portfolio.

Only the beginning

Prophets is only being the beginning of HoN’s further advancement into the realm of custom maps. Not only will pre-existing modes like Rift Wars or the very popular Mid Wars be supported in the future, but other fan favorites will also find their way to Newerth as well. The developers in Kalamazoo, Michigan, won’t be responsible for all the content, however, with the all-important fans being given the power to decide what should be included.

Prophets was created and put into action by HoN enthusiast Jonathan and Kawaiiii, who put their heart and soul into the project. In the future, the option to create similar content will be available to every passionate modder as HoN will offer incentives for creative minds. The soon-to-be-introduced Sol’s Theater campaign will not only give modders the tools to create their own content but will also hand out an incredible US$10,000 to the creators of modes that make it into the game.

The modes don’t always have to be battlefields with spell-slinging prophets trying to kick each other out of existence - they could also be something completely different. Warcraft 3 is a source of inspiration, and original ideas are equally welcome.

What’s next?

After the extremely positive response at ESL One, HoN will be making another European appearance. Heroes of Newerth will be present at gamescom with a booth, passion and more exciting custom maps. The crew will once again be there to guide you, and will be dedicating a lot of time to talking about the future of HoN as well as making your experience with the game as awesome as possible.

Still not sold? At gamescom, you’ll have the opportunity to watch - and try - it for yourself. Named #1 game to watch and also having picked up the People’s Choice Award, some considered HoN quite the show stealer at Frankfurt. Now heading for an even bigger audience at the largest gaming fair on the planet, Heroes of Newerth is sure to pick up some new fans among the gamers at gamescom.

So what are you waiting for? Order your gamescom tickets now and come and check out what HoN and ESL have to offer. The event kicks off in less than a month from the 14th to the 17th of August, so be sure to grab your ticket before it’s too late!

If you want to have a competitive edge for when you go head-to-head with the other warriors at gamescom, you can also download the official game client to test your strength and sharpen your skills in preparation for the fierce competition ahead. Prophets, as well as the 5v5 version of the much-loved Forest of Caldavar map, are available right now - what are you waiting for?