As many of you may (or may not) remember, I wrote an article two years ago about why I didn’t want to play DOTA 2 which promptly turned into why I would never play DOTA 2 thanks to the kind, loving words of the community in the comments section. Well, I buckled. I started playing with a few friends, got drunk, had some laughs, put on some sensual music… I’m in a deeply committed relationship with this game and I’m going to tell you why I went from a some-time League of Legends player to a “I play DOTA 2 as my main game” player at record speed.
In general, it’s nice to know how to actually play the game you want to play. Since the launch of DOTA 2, they’ve made the tutorial more comprehensive by adding a last hit/deny practice tool, in-built bot games and, most importantly, playing a specific game mode against other players which feels like a safe place free from newbie ridicule. My favourite thing they’ve put in has to be their Guide system. When you’re in a game, you can click on a book icon in the top left corner to explore guides for the hero you’re playing sorted by rating or language. They inform you of good items to buy and what skills to put points into as you level up, with the best guides explaining why you should buy those items or level up those skills along with a rough overview of what your hero can do for your team.
I’ve played over 400 games and I still use guides when I’m unsure about the hero I’m playing. Gone are the days when my team suggests I pick a certain hero and I refuse due to being unfamiliar with it or don’t want to waste time alt-tabbing into a guide every couple of minutes.
Another great tool for helping players learn the game is the coaching system. If a player spectates your game, there’s a 3-minute delay but joining a party of players as a coach means you can spectate in real time (only the team you’re coaching, of course). You can ping on the map, draw on the map (which also shows up on the terrain meaning whoever you’re coaching doesn’t have to worry about staring at the minimap), see things from a specific player’s perspective, and the chat defaults to talking to the coach and other students. This means you don’t have to worry about your team seeing one-to-one coaching and giving you shit for being a perceived scrublord.
League of Legends doesn’t have a coach system, doesn’t have any practice tools and doesn’t have any kind of in-built guides. In terms of teaching and encouraging new players, DOTA 2 steals the show.
Multiple Game modes
I mentioned above that there was a newbie-specific game mode to learn the game but that’s only scratching the surface. The game modes available in DOTA 2 are:
- All Pick – This is your standard five guys on a team, picking your hero and destroying a base.
- Single Draft – You get presented three random heroes from the three stat pools (Strength, Agility and Intelligence) and you choose one of them to play with. This is the mode that got me to play a lot of DOTA as everyone is pretty laid back and it’s great fun to play.
- Limited Heroes – This is the newbie-friendly game mode. You can only select your hero from a limited pool which have been marked as being easy for newbies to learn and play. If you’re brand new to DOTA, start here.
- Least Played – Excellent mode for trying something a bit different or for expanding your knowledge as a player. In this mode, as the name would suggest, you can only play your least played heroes. It often forces you to play a new role and everyone is on a level(ish) playing field as everyone is playing something they’re not familiar with.
- All Random – Everyone gets given a random hero and little extra starting gold. Pure chaos (in a good way).
- Random Draft – A pool of 20 heroes is generated randomly and players take turns in picking who they want to play. Good practice for the next two game modes and dealing with hero bans.
- Captains Mode – A player on the team is randomly chosen to be the captain. The captain then bans and picks heroes for their team.
- Captains Draft – As above but with a limited hero pool.
- Ability Draft – Everyone gets given a random hero and their skills are put in a pool. Players then take it in turn to pick skills for their character from the pool. Not recommended for new players and, if I’m honest, I’m not a fan.
As all these game modes work on the same map, there’s no issue with trying to re-balance heroes for different game modes which is a massive issue in League of Legends. There’s also alpha support for custom maps in DOTA 2 but, at the moment, it simply doesn’t fucking work and won’t until Valve allows people to set a custom ‘wait for everyone to load in’ timer.
Possibly the biggest reason I switched from LoL to DOTA 2 was the playable heroes.
For starters, all the heroes in DOTA are given to you at the start meaning you can familiarise yourself somewhat with every hero or at least have a rough idea of what they can all do*. In LoL the number of heroes available to play as is staggeringly high in comparison and you have to either purchase them with real money or earn them with their play money. That’s not inherently a bad thing but it feels very restrictive and can completely screw you over if you’re wanting to get into ranked play. “OK, they just picked Hero X and the perfect counter to that is Hero Y, does anyone own that guy? No? Well… fuck”.
The elephant in the room, however, is what Riot did to their heroes in terms of their metagame. In LoL, a competitive meta was found and it spread to public play quite quickly. That’s fine. Then Riot started to make new heroes that fit neatly into that meta. Sure, that means that the developer is enforcing a meta rather than potentially doing something a little different but it’s still ok. Then they went back to older champs and reworked them entirely so they would fit into the meta, regardless of what their old use or utility was.
Why would you dictate to your players exactly how they can and can’t play in a (relatively) open strategy game? Why would you enforce a meta which is already stale and predictable? It’s like taking out all the cards of a deck apart from the face cards and trying to play poker. Sure, they’re high-value hands and you can still bluff and there’s still some strategy but you’re never going to see that ballsy call into a straight on the river. Homogenising the heroes and enforcing the meta in League of Legends made it no longer exciting or possible to try out some kind of wacky team composition centred around smack-talking the enemy team so much that they constantly ran after Singed whilst he was poisoning them. If a game’s not fun, what’s the point in playing it?
So to anyone considering making the move from LoL to DOTA 2, I say this: Join us and jump in. It’s better than you’ve heard. It’s more fun that League of Legends. And the Russians are really easy to make fun of.
*Although the release of Goblin Techies really threw a spanner in the works for anyone who didn’t play the original mod