Having spent two years in beta, DOTA 2 is finally here, bringing Valve’s take on the MOBA genre to the masses. If you’ve played games such as League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth, it should feel instantly familiar yet has its own distinct feel and visual impact.
For those who don’t know, DOTA (Defence of the Ancients) was originally a mod for Blizzard’s popular Warcraft III. DOTA took the bare bones of the RTS genre, grinding them into a much more concise, combat-focused experience without the need for resource gathering. The mod resulted in one of the most intense competitive online games ever and has since been replicated by studios across the world.
None, however, are quite as ambitious or refined as Valve’s own attempt. Many of the team, best known for hits such as Half Life, Left 4 Dead, and Team Fortress, were avid DOTA players and took it upon themselves to create a sequel in more than name alone.
The basics of DOTA 2 are fairly easy to grasp. Two teams of five go head-to-head on a symmetrical battlefield as they attempt to sack their opponents’ Ancient. However, these beings are heavily fortified by a network of towers that also populate the map’s three “lanes”. Through skill and coordination, players must navigate between lanes whilst killing enemy players and destroying towers. All the while, NPCs known as “creeps” will continually spawn and help to attack and defend.
Though simple in premise, DOTA 2 is perhaps one of the most complex and intimidating games you will ever encounter. It has many facets, though the learning curve is mostly dominated by two sections; items and heroes.
DOTA 2 is teeming with dozens of playable heroes, each with their own stats and four unique abilities. Even after managing your own hero’s abilities, it’s crucial that you memorise those of your opponents’ in order to get the upper hand. On top of that, there are also items which can be purchased during the course of a match. These enhance stats and also offer unique buffs and active/passive traits. Again, memorising these will become essential as you become more advanced, as well as how each hero should be developed as they gain levels.
Luckily, DOTA 2 provides a great number of tools to support new and returning players. The latest, post-beta version of the game comes tagged with a slew of playable tutorials that do a great job in spanning both basic and intermediate topics. DOTA 2 is also riddled with numerous tweaks, offering quick and digestible information on-the-fly. This is supported further by the inclusion of user-generated guides. These effectively allow players to enter autopilot mode when it comes to levelling and buying items, letting them focus on gameplay instead of stat-tracking.
Like most MOBAs, items and levels are contained within a match and won’t carry over. Instead, players’ overall progression continues to build with the Battle Points system. Upon winning or losing a match, you also have the chance to unlock random items which can change a hero’s appearance. The prospect of finding super rare items is a powerful incentive and one that will have players returning match after match.
Outside of matches, there’s still plenty to do. You can create teams with friends, read info on item builds and heroes as well as spectate live or archived games. DOTA 2 is also supported by a number of Steam features such as Workshop, allowing modders and creators to publish items for other players to download.
Visually, the game looks gorgeous. DOTA 2 doesn’t boast the stunning graphics we’ve seen from “next gen” games but its unique art style is just as -if not, more- compelling. Heroes are diverse and each have their own personality with unique voiceovers, their appearances occasionally re-worked and refreshed by Valve.
In reality, the MOBA genre doesn’t have an “easy” entry point. These games are tough to learn and tougher to master with updates and new heroes constantly changing the rules. However, with its numerous tools and Valve’s deft touch, DOTA 2 is definitely the most recommendable MOBA of the year to newcomers, casual players and veterans like.
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Video Rating: 4 / 5