Beyond Azeroth: HoN vs LoL

Once the Heroes of Newerth free-to-play beta terminated (with the full release) I started playing League of Legends which is free-to-play. Having played both for at least a few weeks each, I feel I am in a position to share some observations (and judgements) on the subject.


Both HoN and LoL derive much of their mechanic from DotA, and there's no shame in that. They do differ somewhat in competitive design and learning curve.

Every death in HoN significantly alters the game in favour of your foe, via experience points and gold earned (or not earned). I'm definitely a "noob" for being in a position to notice this, but it will take several deaths in LoL to have the same detrimental effect on your team as it would in HoN.

I would like to see HoN lower the stakes just slightly and such that new players have a chance to find their groove. A skilled player can be completely undermined by another player's deaths (known as "feeding") and I think this is a little unfair at times.

While I have had fun playing LoL, I sometimes crave the often hectic experience than HoN offers. So the pressure to perform is a little higher, but it's not altogether a bad thing.

Verdict: draw.


The clear winner here is HoN, but with some caveats. HoN looks and feels terrific. The animations are smooth and the spells are shiny. WoW players will feel quite at home as the art style seems very much inspired by Warcraft 3 (which spawned DotA). All the characters have a distinct appearance without any of them being harder to click on or easier to spot.

I have heard comments that intense conflicts in HoN can become confusing with all manner of bright spells flashing back and forth. It is a valid concern, but it's one I don't particularly share.

LoL doesn't look terrible. However, if you've been playing WoW for years, and HoN for a few weeks, then there's definitely a visual adjustment when playing LoL. The characters seem cell-shaded almost, auto-attack animations are indistinct. LoL seems more zoomed-out than HoN, though, which probably helps with player awareness.

Verdict: HoN wins.


This is an area where the stand-alone nature of both HoN and LoL really allows them to differentiate themselves. DotA was simply a multiplayer map pack for Warcraft 3, so it just wasn't possible to build some of the features that HoN and LoL provide to their players.

I like LoL's the most at this level. While you are earning levels in-game for your character in order to win the match, between matches you are earning levels for your player profile. These meta-levels control your access to abilities, characters and other configurable perks such as Runes and Mastery points. There just seems like there's more to do when you aren't actually competing, creating a desire to progress.

There's even a LoL store where you can spend points that you have earned to unlock new characters and costumes. And if you don't have the time to earn the points in the ring, you can swipe your credit card or PayPal account for instant access. I no longer feel averse to micro-transaction games, provided they are at least as thoughtful as it seems to be implemented here.

HoN has a ranked ladder system that is not unlike the Arena system in The Burning Crusade. Your position on the ladder effects the other players you are grouped with by the automatic match-making system. Custom matches feature a team-balancing function that works of this personal rating as well. And that's all. Striving to be your best in HoN isn't as specific a goal as aiming for a new character in LoL, and goals definitely help incentive me to play.

Verdict: LoL wins.

Software implementation

HoN has some very strong cross-platform support. They make simultaneous releases for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. As a player who won't be paying the Microsoft tax anytime soon (or the Apple one, thank you very much) this is extremely important to me. The HoN team would have made this decision very early in their development process, and I am grateful they didn't succumb to platform-specific ideas.

LoL just feels like it's been put together in a strange way. When hopping between the lobby and a match, the lobby "program" disappears and for a few seconds it feels like it just crashed. Then the match pops up. There's probably a good reason for this, maybe it was just easier to do, maybe not having the lobby code floating around makes the game play more efficiently, I don't know.

Disappointingly, LoL only works on Windows. I realise there's a tremendous effort required to support Mac and Linux, and it would appear they've already gone part of the way by using Adobe's AIR cross-platform framework. This is all the more frustrating because my partner prefers LoL and we are unable to enjoy the game together. I won't be rushing out to spend $300 on Windows just so I can play LoL.

Verdict: HoN wins.


These games are very similar, and they both add meaningful between-match features to the winning DotA formula. If LoL worked properly and easily under Linux and had HoN's graphic quality and style, then it would be my first choice. The problem is it doesn't, so my choice is basically made for me on the Linux issue alone.

At a time when game developers are transitioning to the console, it does seem a little rich for me to be sitting here with my alternative PC operating system crying for lack of support, but there it is. Many of the other games I enjoy can be experienced under Linux with little issue, and I hear even StarCraft 2 can be played with only a little effort under Linux.

Until the LoL developers commit either way on this subject, I'll wait with baited breathe. Blizzard and HoN can keep me warm until then.


  1. I just cannot get into these games because of the community. They make trade chat 2 minutes before shutdown look like a well educated discussion on the finer points of polo.

  2. @Vok: Haha! I totally agree with you. While HoN players seem to be the more frequent examples of bad sportsmanship, I've definitely encountered a few LoL players who take the game a little too seriously.

    Actually, just the other night I was playing an unranked "noobs only" match and was berated by another player when I died. Not really sure what other people expect in that sort of match, but I assume as human beings we're allowed to make a few mistakes.

  3. There is a large group of ex-obs players that currently play LoL more than WoW basically, that list includes
    :Me (Mouldy)
    Thecrang (Thecrang)
    Naboo (Naboolio)
    Selphii (Selphii)
    Crimsonshade (Kingpotato)
    + alot more

    As to which game I prefer, it's LoL hands down, having played both HoN just doesn't compare imo.

  4. I'd definitely rather play where the cool kids are. :) As with other multi-player games, the friends you bring can make all the difference.

  5. When LoL was first launched, I found it harder to get into as it seemed a little unbalanced at the time with some champs. So I went to HoN, which was pretty cool. But then it came out of the beta and now charge $30 bucks, and my friends are stingy, so I've gone back to LoL, and it is really alot of fun. Infact I missed a raid because I was on LoL with some mates and we were on a hot streak.
    As far as the community goes, when we run into the bad sports, we tend to antagonise them more to make them rage quit. Which we laugh about. When people take it too seriously, we take it more of a joke. The main thing is, you have your 4 or 5 mates that you mainly run with, and we treat it as a more of a social thing amongst us, just with human opponents instead of bad ai.