|Dev: Valve Corporation|
|Pub: Valve Corporation|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Jake Valentine
Before League of Legends, Smite, and Heroes of Newerth, there was Defense of the Ancients. The Warcraft 3 mod’s popularity would soar to unprecedented heights, ultimately spawning a genre of similar games. Other games offer similar experiences, but there can be only one original. Add in the fact that Valve is backing the game’s official sequel, and that’s a recipe for success.
It certainly helps when the game makes its public debut with a million-dollar tournament. Dota 2’s buzz has only grown since it was first unveiled at the 2011 International Championships. 2013’s tournament, scheduled for this August, currently has a whopping $2,250,000 prize pool. People tend to pay attention to a two-million-dollar prize pool, so what better way to bring them in than with an extended beta? While it’s technically a closed beta, picking up an invite key isn’t the hardest thing in the world to do. A running joke between Steam owners is that they get excited to find new items in their inventory, only to be disappointed when it’s just another batch of Dota 2 invites. Still, you can’t fault Valve for wanting to get as many people into the game as they possibly can. You gotta grab them early, especially for a game with an incredibly steep learning curve.
Compared to League of Legends, a game inspired by the original DotA, accessibility isn’t a word used to describe Dota 2. League of Legends developer Riot Games catered their experience to ease players into an incredibly harsh environment; penalties for failures aren’t as severe as they are in Dota 2. But Valve knows their audience well. People want the original; they want DotA, but they want it with with modern matchmaking, HD graphics, voice chat, replays, and other modern features found in multiplayer games.
That’s exactly what Dota 2 is: a dolled up version of DotA. For better or worse, this is what Valve and IceFrog, famed DotA developer, have given us.
It’s impossible to describe how Dota 2 plays in a paragraph, but I’m going to try anyway. Teams of five will work together to destroy the opposing team’s Ancient (a large building that lies in your base). Standing in your way will be NPC creeps that spawn every minute, towers, and the opposing team. You’ll be able to combat each other on three different paths, referred to as lanes, on the mostly symmetrical map. Teams will consist of five different heroes, each with different abilities and roles. Heroes will, for the most part, have four different abilities, some passive and some requiring activation. Three abilities will be basic, but the fourth is your ultimate, and it is only available at certain levels. You’ll need experience, gained by killing enemy creeps, to level your hero up. Delivering the killing blow to these creeps will earn you gold. Gold allows you to buy items that help strengthen your character. Killing enemy heroes will yield in a greater gain of experience and gold. Sounds simple, right? It’s not.
Having played Heroes of Newerth, a game that originally started out as a port of DotA, it’s honestly a bit hard for me to ease back into the Dota 2 experience. The two games play at a much different pace; HoN is much faster, while Dota 2 has a more relaxed and slower feel. The camera angle feels like it’s zoomed in too far; the graphics aren’t as bright and crisp, and the presentation seems off-putting. Those were my first impressions with the game before I went back into the world of HoN as literally all my other friends tried to figure out why. It’s personal taste, I guess.
I should probably state that none of this makes Dota 2 bad; yes, the presentation isn’t as in-your-face as HoN, but there’s some brilliant back and forth dialogue between the characters you play. The game’s slower pace also helps encourage patience. Matches typically run 30-40 minutes, so even if you’re doing poorly in the first five to ten, it’s far from over; patience is important. It’s honestly pretty hard for me to get over the camera, though. Being able to look around the screen in HoN feels far more natural than it does in Dota 2. That could be a personal preference, though, so take it with a grain of salt.
The one thing that allows Dota 2 to stand above its peers is the hero selection. Want someone that has dozens of spell combinations? Play Invoker. Want to play as a dragon that’s able to shoot a wall of ice that stuns your enemies and also surrounds them with fire? Play Jakiro. Want to play a ball of wisp that buffs your allies? Play Io. Dota 2’s heroes are vast, varied, and, most importantly, absolutely fun as hell to play. Regardless of your role, there’s plenty of fun to be had.
Oh, and it helps out a lot that the game is pretty damn balanced. Similar games often struggle with heroes being incredibly strong to the point where their mere presence in a game disheartens the enemy team. Sure, there are some of those really strong “overpowered” heroes in Dota 2, but it’s not even close to game breaking.
Perhaps the best part of Dota 2 doesn’t involve playing the game. Again, this is a game built around eSports, so it better damn well have a great vehicle for watching games. Worry not, because it does. Queued up for a matchmaking game? Feel free to spectate a game while you wait. Worried you’ll miss the action? That’s okay, because the AI director will focus the camera for you. Itching to play that match when your queue ends? Accept the game invite and you’ll be seamlessly transitioned to your match. Developers take notice: This is how you ease the pains of waiting for a game to pop.
Dota 2 is still in beta, and there’s definitely a lot I’d like to see fixed. I’ve actually noticed they fixed a couple of my earlier concerns, specifically my hero’s habit of attacking enemies on his own. But for a beta, Dota 2 is incredibly polished and well worth your time. It may not 100% win me over from Heroes of Newerth, but Dota 2 is an absolute blast.
Date: June 6, 2013