I have put 50 hours into DotA2 now and I am slowly revising my outlook on the game. It will not be as bad off as I predicted. In fact, even in its beta form it has become one of the most played games on Steam. I can’t imagine how big the game will become once it has hit a full on release and anyone with a computer can try it out for free. There are certainly some things to like about DotA2.
While the DotA map is symmetrical (for the most part), the same cannot be said for the pool of heroes. The 80+ available heroes in DotA2 are varied and unique, with almost none of them working the same. I am a huge fan of asymmetry in game design. Balance is so often forced through symmetry: team A gets uber power 1 so team B gets uber power 1 as well just with a different name and graphic. This is annoying and destroys any chance at something feeling unique within a game. Not the case in DotA 2.
Take for example the support hero Wisp; a shiny ball of energy that has almost zero offensive capabilities, some middling defensive capabilities, and only really excels at supporting a team’s carry. Wisp serves almost no purpose by itself. Now compare Wisp to Phantom Assassin; a hard carry capable of killing enemy players in a single hit and thus is almost single handedly responsible for winning the game. Phantom Assassin can dominate without the help of Wisp. Wisp, when placed against Phantom Assassin, could never win. In a vacuum, those two would be completely broken.
This asymmetry leads to amazing dynamics as neither team can have a copy of the same hero as the other team. Combine Wisp and Phantom Assassin together on the same team and all of a sudden the support + carry combination can easily wreck the other team if the other team failed to pick a counter. And really what the core of DotA2 competitive play comes down to is the counter picking and execution of that counter pick. And at the end of the day, this asymmetry results in a balance in the competitive scene of DotA 2.
To note, this isn’t always the greatest thing and in my next post I will talk a bit about how this is detrimental to the game at times. Even with that in mind, I am still a firm supporter of the asymmetry.
DotA 2 has character and is building in character; from custom announcer packs to the constant quips the heroes give off during the course of a game. I can’t wait for First Blood in every game, hoping it will be a new hero who scores the kill just so I can hear their First Blood quote (for example, Invoker says something to the effect of “First, as I am in all things”). Another example is the hero Gyrocopter who flies around the map in a helicopter-like contraption making helicopter noises with his mouth. It is brilliant. Just as Valve did with Team Fortress 2, they have really cemented the idea of character into DotA2 and with 100+ heroes to eventually have in the game I can only imagine the sort of stuff they will bake in. Now they just need to deliver a “Meet the” video for every hero!
I’ve spoken about this before, but DotA2 is as much of an experience as it is a game. The interface and feature set are amazing (without even having everything in the package yet!). Spectating, replays, learning features, etc. DotA2 really strives to deliver the entire package that the MOBA genre seeks.