Dota 2 Review: A Compelling and Comprehensive Game
After a lengthy beta, Valve is confident enough to open the gates and make Dota 2 available to everyone for free, which means that it is also time for our very own Dota 2 review. While getting into the game will take time, the reward is definitely worth it as this is easily one of the deepest, most addictive and satisfying multiplayer games out there. For those interested but unsure, read on to understand more of this compelling and comprehensive experience.
The first thing you will want to do upon launching Dota 2, is play the tutorial. Within, you will learn the basics of movement, attacking, last hitting and laning. These tutorials take place in entirely different maps where you play a specific character completing various different objectives which teach you the basic mechanics of the game. The actual matches are a completely different beast – much more complex than the tutorial – even if you completed the tutorial on the first go without any problems, you will get owned in a real game, at first.
Obviously, more tutorials are on their way as Dota 2 receives a patch every week to fix bugs and exploits, as well as a more substantial update every month or two which brings in new heroes and/or tutorials. As things stand now, however, the tutorials cover the very basics of the game and don’t quite offer enough to bring players up to speed to compete in a regular match. This has always been a limiting factor in MOBAs: accessibility. Dota 2 is no different, if anything, it’s even less accessible to newcomers. You will get killed, your team mates will flame and you will have no clue what is going on. However, you will get better.
I started playing properly last September, coming into the game with only a very basic knowledge received from playing the original Dota for a little while, as well as a little bit of League of Legends. I was still a noob in every sense of the word. At the time, there were no tutorials and I didn’t know anyone who knew the game well enough to teach me. It took me maybe a good month of playing fairly regularly to really come to grasps with every hero, their abilities and the basic (and some more advanced) gameplay mechanics. After that initial hump, the game started coming together, and I enjoyed every match more and more.
I strongly suggest, to get through that initial hump, you watch more tutorials on Youtube and read up on some strategies. Watching professional players play also helped in terms of how to play roles more effectively and thinking outside the box. Lastly and most importantly, play with friends. Dota 2 is most fun when played with people you know and can talk to easily. You are a much better team if you communicate effectively instead of constantly pinging the map and typing abuse at your team mates.
This may seem like a lot of work to put into just understanding what is going on, but I wouldn’t stress it so much if it wasn’t worth it. I now have over 1,000 hours clocked in Dota 2 and there is no other game like it out there. I still play other games, of course (I have a lot of free time!), but I always come back to this one sooner or later.
If you are familiar with the original Dota, Dota 2 is extremely similar. Essentially, it’s the same game. The same heroes are featured, gameplay is the same as the original Warcraft 3 mod, with the only major changes coming in the form of UI and cosmetics. If you are a veteran of the series, the transition will take only a couple of days at most and overall you will enjoy the additions of Dota 2 much more.
First off, the time of scrolling through a server browser trying to find a match with people of similar skill level is over. While you still have this option, the matchmaking system is a much better way to make sure you are matched with people of similar skill and who don’t live on the other side of the globe. The system is usually fairly fast, finding a match in just a few minutes. You can also join solo matchmaking if you are by yourself so you only get matched with people who are also by themselves (thus eliminating the chances of getting matched into a team where no one knows each other against a pre-made team of five players), or you can queue as a party to play together.
Another major addition is the Dota 2 store. This is the place where you can buy cosmetics to make your characters look cool and unique and stand out from the crowd. Most of the sets and items are actually made by the community, so with each purchase a percentage of the sale price goes to the creators. Some of the most talented artists are already making six-figure salaries, which just shows how successful this method of selling is. Sets are published into the workshop, the community rates the sets they like and dislike and Valve adds the sets which seem worthy of your money.
Cosmetics, however, don’t have to be purchased in order to obtain them; with every match you earn XP for your profile, and, every time you level up, you earn a cosmetic item. Different items have different drop chances, so don’t expect to receive a free mount for Mirana whenever you level up, but there is always a chance. You can then trade with other players to get the cosmetic you want or risk deleting your unwanted items for a chance of receiving a rarer item.
Other than cosmetics, you can also buy tickets for events such as tournaments, which you can watch directly in the game client or on Twitch TV.
If you have a group of friends you enjoy playing with, you can create a team and together use team matchmaking, which works off a different matchmaking system as your team climbs or falls through the ranks. Alternatively, you can create or join a guild, which can hold more players, so you never queue alone again.
All these features are what separate Dota 2 from other MOBAs and there is definitely more to come.
Now, for the question everyone is asking themselves: is it better than League of Legends? Yes… and no. Personally, I prefer Dota 2, but I can also see why people prefer League. In Dota, every hero is unique; they are all very different and can be built to fulfill many different roles. The laning stage is shorter, which opens up the map earlier for ganks and teamfights and many items have active abilities of their own which completely change the course of the game when acquired. League, on the other hand, has a longer laning phase which emphasizes frequent ability usage to push your opponents off the lance compared to Dota’s slower, more calculated laning stage.
Heroes – excuse me – Champions are more cookie-cutter in League, almost everyone has a nuke, gap-closer, passive, AoE clearance (all with a fairly short cool-down, allowing for frequent use) and a massive ultimate with a long cool-down. In addition to this, League of Legends has more abilities which aren’t targeted (aka: Skillshots) compared to Dota 2 which only has a handful of skillshots, instead to trigger the majority of abilities all you need to do is click on the right guy.
Also, League uses runes and masteries which specialize your profile to play a specific role in the team. This won’t make a massive difference in low level matchmaking but is essential in higher levels. There are many more differences than what I mentioned, and it all comes down to personal preference. League is more accessible but Dota 2 is deeper, in my opinion, and both have their shortcomings.