One thing I’ve experimented with this summer is DoTA 2. Since my wife is very monocular when it comes to games, she’s been focused solely on WoW. As a result, I’ve been playing other games with some of my other buddies from time to time. One of them, the really friendly guy in our new guild, kept mentioning DoTA 2 as an alternative game we could try. Since it was a MOBA, there was no way my buddy was going to be interested, but eventually, I figured I’d give it a try.
It’s a medium-sized download from Steam, but it’s also free, so that was a huge plus. I’ve only played three matches, mind you, so as I put forth my opinion here, keep in mind my deep ignorance to the deeper elements of the game.
Let me also preface that the really friendly guy who got me willing to try DoTA 2 is a bit of a fanatic; he vehemently insists that the game is special and good and not at all like LoL. He does admit to some of the weaker elements of DoTA 2, as well, but for the most part he’s a zealous defender of the game. And he hates League of Legends. I assume there’s some sort of community v. community mindset here, like rival sports teams, but I don’t know. I never knew anyone zealous about LoL, so I can’t really be sure.
All that said, he’s been very helpful and patient as I learned the game, which has a much steeper learning curve than LoL does. That, in fact, is the one criticism I really have of the game: it’s hard as hell to get into. That’s the one deficit which he acknowledges, too; the game is not open to new players. As much as one might talk about fighting games as closed communities nowadays, communities that study frame rates and pixel distances and so forth, DoTA 2 was much less accessible than League.
There’s two primary reasons for this. First, all the champions are available all the time. When you first get into League, you can only really afford to purchase a few champs, and there’s only ten free a week. If you play a reasonable game or two a day, you can try each of those champs. In DoTA 2, there’s hundreds of champs to wade through on day 1. That’s not a great strategy, really. I like the “fairness” of equal access for all, but it’s dangerously overwhelming.
Second, there’s a hell of a lot more buttons in DoTA 2. A lot of League has been streamlined, but in DoTA 2, it’s not. There’s the basic 4 attack and 6 item buttons, but then there’s more. You have to hit a button to level up. You have a mule (referred to as the “chicken” by “real” players). You have the ability to click and target others, which removes your own action bar as you “inspect” them. You can create target groups, like in the RTS games on which DoTA was originally based. It’s goddamn overwhelming for someone used to League or any new player to the genre.
The map, too, is far more complex than League’s. It’s not perfectly symmetrical, for one; each team has two short and one long lane. The long lane is terrifyingly spread out between towers, and players find themselves far away from any kind of help. Additionally, the jungle is far more complex. Instead of two sets of jungling “paths” on each side of the river, there’s hundreds of nooks and crannies in which to get lost or mis-path and end up wandering into the wrong place. There’s also jungle areas outside the outer lanes, which I keep forgetting about and getting ganked from. These changes make a seemingly similar game incredibly confusing.
To top all of this off, the game is a lot burstier and longer range than League. In my first game, I was being hit by abilities that I couldn’t identify the source of. Sure, this can happen in a very limited way in LoL: Ashe’s ultimate arrow, Lux’s light beam, Gangplank’s ship barrage – there’s a few. But it seems in DoTA that many champions have off-screen ranged abilities. This is partially because you cannot zoom out in DoTA 2. I feel like I’m a chiropractor treating my champion’s back the whole time, while claustrophobically trapped inside this tiny screen box. Since CC is stronger and attacks longer-range, you’re often dead before you could possibly react.
I realize these are all just differing playstyles, not actual problems with the game. I’ve grown accustomed to one play style, and the other one’s a bit stifling. My vast knowledge of League toons is gone, too, so I don’t know what my competitors can do to me when I’m facing them. On the other hand, most of the abilities in DoTA 2 are reflected by abilities in League, so once I see abilities in action, I can usually say, “Okay, that works like Tristana’s attack speed boost,” which helps me understand the new toons.
All in all, it’s enjoyable, but I’m not to the depth of play to see the real differences between the games. I can see the increased complexity allowing for much greater finesse and subtlety in DoTA 2, but I’m barely able to control the mule, so tiny hiding spots and teleport ganks and river buffs are lost on me. I’ll stick with it, nonetheless, as I assume once I begin to adapt to the button and map differences I can begin to at least dip my toe in the 100 champion differences, but it may be a while before I get there.
Stubborn (Sand King / Windranger / Lion)