In considering a review for one of the most highly-successful (and possibly most hated) games in MOBA history, I scrapped that idea. Almost every gamer already has an opinion of DotA 2. And to be fair, no one is really wrong. Ask any gamer what DotA is and you’ll usually get one of the following responses:
1) “I tried it for awhile and just couldn’t get into it.”
2) “Stupid @#$* game ate half my life.”
3) “I want to marry DotA.”
There’s a reason why DotA has one of the largest money pools in competitive gaming history and why, despite it being a free-to-play game in the purest sense (no amount of cash you throw at this puppy will win you any tactical advantage at all), DotA-diehards are still willing to spend so much of their dough and time on it. Whatever that reason is, it’s not going to be apparent to newcomers.
For one, the “smart” newb will enter the game practicing in bot matches first. But as we already know, as clever as bot AI is (and you can set the level of difficulty for your bot opponents), a bot can never perfectly simulate a human, which doesn’t prepare the poor newb for the real world of unintentional trolling, rage-fests and hero tactics that mean that three-quarters of the game are spent re-spawning in the fountain while the rest of your team abuses you in the most creative and trendy fashions.
For the average newb who’s thrown out the manual and decided to jump into the deep end of playing with real humans, having to potentially deal with the above challenges isn’t enough. My personal opinion is that DotA needs a dictionary. Okay sure, figuring out what “ulti” is an easy one (the “ultimate” ability which heroes receive at level 6). But then there’s last hitting, denying, blocking, pulling, stacking, roshing, raxing, bb, def, feeding, silencing…most of which if done in the incorrect manner will earn you a “WTF” from your supposed allies. And if you were wondering, “DotA” stands for “Defense of the Ancients”.
And then there’s the store. As if trying to stay alive wasn’t hard enough, shopping itself is a hazard as you spend 15 minutes trying to figure out not only what to buy, but how to buy. For those brave enough to travel to the “secret shop”, beware of being ganked as you’re standing there so carefully selecting the perfect shoes. Personally, I would love to see this scenario played out in real life. Christmas shopping would never be the same.
To those playing support characters who are peer-pressured into buying the courier for the team (a little character that ferries your purchased items to you should be away from the store), nobody bothers to explain why buying one courier and ONLY one courier is essential. Surely having more couriers means that everyone gets their items faster, right? Wrong – oh so, wrong. For some reason, having multiple couriers only screws up the delivery system. And once activated, the extra courier cannot be undone. At that point, don’t be surprised if your team starts abandoning due to their shopping needs not being met.
But to the brave few who encounter all this and still persevere to discover that DotA has become the top-played game in their Steam list, well done. Welcome to the world of a game that has high replayability (849 hours in and I still haven’t played every character), one of the best simulations I’ve experienced of what it means to rely on your team, and can evoke emotions that cause you to fist-pump more times than necessary. Yes, it’s a hairy world out there, but come with a comb and DotA can be one of the best free things you’ve ever experienced.