Digging into DotA2: bigger, bolder, more addictive than ever


DotA or Defense of the Ancients was first created using a Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos world editor, this allowed anyone who owned the game to create their own map. With the editor, you had access to all the games units and buildings, and could change almost all properties of that unit or building such as damage, speed, armour, set waypoints and so on. You could also manipulate the landscape by adding rivers, cliffs and trees. These functions of the world editor are what made DotA a dynamic and eventually balanced mod, because updating the map was easy and could be done ad hoc.

DotA gained a large fan base between 2003 and 2009, so much so that Valve-corporation bought the rights to develop DotA 2. DotA 2 has almost the exact same feel as DotA 1, which is what Valve intended. This was to ensure an easy transition for all players from DotA 1 to 2. What I mean by “feel” is that if you were good at DotA 1 it shouldn’t take you long to reach the same skill level or higher in DotA 2, because most of the game’s mechanics feel the same. The reason for this was because Valve employed Icefr0g (the leading guy responsible for DotA) to be the lead designer for Dota 2.

Clear and easy

Dota 2‘s graphics are a lot clearer and the game does run smoother but these are, of course, not the only upgrades the game has. Dota 2, now being its own game, allowed Valve to customise the sequel and add features that make it slightly easier and more user-friendly. In DotA, you would wait for someone to create a game which you could then join, but you’d have to wait yet again for all 10 spots to fill before the match begun. DotA 2 allows you and up to four of your friends search for a game, it then matches you up with five other players (at approximately your skill level), you click accept and bang, you’re in. Once all ten have successfully loaded, the game is on. Another incredibly useful feature in DotA 2 is that if you’re disconnected from a game for whatever reason, you can rejoin and no progress is lost. There are of course many upgrades when compared with DotA 1 but I will only refer to the ones that are relevant in this article.

This is how we do it

The concept is quite simple, there are two teams, The Radiant and The Dire consisting of five players each. You start of with a bit of gold (the currency in the DotA 2 arena), which you use to buy your hero and some starting items. DotA 2 gives you recommended items for your hero through all stages of the game. If you’re new it’s best to follow these item guides.

All heroes are accessible to all players, you do not need levels to unlock certain heroes. Everyone starts at level 1, so the only advantages anyone has at this stage are wit and sleight of hand. Your final objective before the horn sounds and the game begins is to choose your path or lane. Getting this right is incredibly important, it ensures that you and your teammates will be able to perform your role to the maximum effect. The penultimate goal is to destroy each teams ancient, which officially ends the game.

It’s not quite so simple to do this. You can’t just man up and storm into Mordor (an endearing term for the enemy base) and destroy it. It’s invulnerable until you kill all towers guarding it, and therefore impossible, and each lane is guarded by three towers at different stages of the lane – the ancient has another two towers guarding it. You have to outsmart and outplay your opponents in whatever way to get ahead, until you can muster up the strength and successfully take the lane.

Sunday driver

You have 3 lanes to choose from, these are commonly referred to as top, middle and bottom lanes. They are easily distinguishable, no matter what team you’re on. If you take a look at your minimap (the small square map at the bottom left of your screen) you will see three lanes going along the outside of the square and through the middle. Choosing which one you take depends almost entirely on the hero you have. Each hero has a specific task to perform throughout the game. Firstly you have a hero to solo the middle lane. Being on your own in a lane, or solo, allows you to gain more experience than players in other lanes with two heroes, giving you an advantage in levels. As you level up you have abilities to choose from: three standard abilities which can be upgraded with any level up and an ultimate ability which is upgraded at level 6, 11 and 16. As solo mid you use this the level advantage as well as mythical runes, which pop up in the river between the lanes, to sneak up and devastate your enemy heroes in battle.

DotA 2 is largely a team game, while individual skill can go a long way, numbers usually makes up for a slight lack of skill. This brings me to the next role, which is a combination of heroes, one to support and the other to get as much gold and items as possible, and carry the team through the late game. Support/carry combinations of heroes usually go in the other two lanes. If you are The Radiant team, the bottom lane is the favoured lane because a tower is closer to you and your ally.

If it any point you are in danger, you can easily fall back to you trusty tower which is extremely damaging early on in the game and usually well avoided by the enemy heroes. If you are on The Dire side, the lane you would preferably take is the top one (you are also close to your tower). Getting gold with your carry is the main objective, you do this by getting the last shot on a dying enemy unit or hero, it is the supports job to do everything in their power to keep the carry alive so they can earn and burn.

As you play more DotA 2 you can change-up roles and go for more complex strategies like a tri-lane and two solos, or you could have a busher, a midsolo and a normal dual lane with the carry and support I spoke of. Of course, you need to make sure you take the right hero for the job. Every hero has their arch-enemy and there are combinations of heroes that have good synergy and can perform their roles well. All of this is learned through playing and practicing as well as watching tutorials and the pros.

Some DotA 2 tips, regardless of skill level:

1- Do practice, it’s a lot of fun and rewarding to get better and “own” your enemies.
2- Don’t give up, it can be incredibly demoralizing to anyone to continuously lose battles and eventually the game. Many people give up but persistence will pay off, trust me.
3- Find a hero or a few heroes you enjoy and just practice with them until you have a few wins under the belt and a large smile on your face.
4- Watch the pro’s when you feel you know enough to admire whats going on. DotA 2 is competitive, and a great spectator sport. The pro’s are at the top of their game.

To the victor, the spoils

DotA 2 is a massive E-sport boasting a competition with the largest prize pool in E-sports. Recently, 17 teams battled it out for a shot at the finals of The International 3. For the sake of spoilers, I will not reveal the teams, but I will say this about the final though: It was the most anticipated final of any International. On 11 August 2013, two DotA 2 giants duked it out for the US$1.4-million prize. The finals were played differently to the other games, a best of five as opposed to a best of three. It went to five games with an epic finale.

Look out for DotA 2 legends like Dendi, arguably one of the best midsolos in the world because of his playmaking (expert plays that help win battles). Admiralbulldog, the best Lone Druid and Natures Prophet in the world. Akke and Puppey were placed on opposite teams but both are incredible supporters with their own signature hero, Chen. Loda, XbocxT and Mushi are all remarkable carry players with loads of experience and guts.

Dota 2 is one of the finest and most entertaining games of chess, as no two games are the same. It takes foresight, cunning, speed and finely tuned coordination to pull off something miraculous. Achieving this on a daily basis is what these guys do. All of these players and their teams can be seen playing their finest DotA 2 in The International 3. It’ll be viewable on YouTube and Twitch.tv later this month.



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