DOTA 2: Back in the saddle

Written by Harry Butler

October 16, 2012 | 08:10

Tags: #dota-2 #moba

Companies: #valve

Valve’s endlessly-in-beta-might be-released-soon-pro-gamer-trap DOTA 2 is game that’s intrigued me, along with its whole genre, since its announcement. I played the game a lot back when it was a Warcraft 3 mod, but hadn't picked up a creep wave in anger for years. Today I finally had a bash at DOTA 2 and amazingly found a game that was just as engaging as it ever was. Even if I didn't really know what I was doing.[break]

Of course, DOTA and its ilk aren't for everyone. Best described as a player vs player MMO experience compressed down into a 55 minute strategy game, our own Joe Martin struggled with both League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, similar (now also free-to-play) games in the DOTA mould, rolled into the hideously titled MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre. There’s just one map, with the game’s variety coming from the combination of opposing heroes you face and the item build you use to combat them.

DOTA2-1b.jpg
We're in their base, killin' their d00ds

It’s a game that’s frankly brutal to new comers; there are 92 different heroes, each with four different abilities and 159 different items with which to augment their stats and powers. That’s a frankly ludicrous amount of data for new players to take in, and I was in a more fortunate position of having at least played the game a fair bit years ago and having an idea of how some of the more popular heroes worked.

If I’d been a new player though, I’d have had little clue what to do and while there’s a practise mode vs. bots and an index of heroes and abilities, I don’t see how Valve can expect new players to sit through hours of practising before jumping online into a match-making game. Inviting uninitiated friends to play DOTA 2 online is like asking them to go on Mastermind and answer questions on the history of the Butternut Squash and its aerodynamic properties in zero gravity; no one’s going to have any fun, and everyone’s just going to get confused.

DOTA2-5b.jpg
While many deride MOBA players for being rude and unpleasant, there are plenty of nice players about too

Having ignored the tutorials and training, I went straight to an online matchmaking game. To Valve’s credit, matchmaking is simple, although it does take a while, and even then I found myself outmatched by the competition, despite starting out by declaring myself the n00bist of n00bs. After 30 minutes of getting owned and dying a lot though, I finally found how to buy items and recipes and with the n00b mode of the game levelling heroes evenly I didn't find the common situation of old where one hero became overly powerful and steam-rollered the game. We still lost, but I never felt that the game had become one sided. Even better, I wasn't called n00b, idiot, or feeder and no insinuations were made about my mother’s private life. Was I really playing DOTA?

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While the learning curve is almost vertical, DOTA 2 is great fun

In my second game then I already felt that much more comfortable and made a much better fist of it, farming well and putting together a decent item build thanks to a quick load-screen Google search for a hero build guide. Again, the other players were courteous, although I’m not sure how much that had to do with the ominous warning at the start of the game to report all abusive players. At the end of the night, my interest in the game had been very much rekindled and while I still firmly class myself as a DOTA 2 rookie, the game felt much fresher, friendlier and more engaging than the Warcraft 3 mod I last played 4 years ago.

Have you played DOTA 2? Did you find the amount of data to learn intimidating? Have you encountered abusive or unfriendly players? Let me know in the comments.
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