Defense of the Ancients has been the most popular Warcraft 3 map for years, now. With a gargantuan amount of active players, it’s no surprise that the Warcaft 3 custom map list is flooded with instances of this map. Over 100 different heroes and a vast player base manage to keep players coming back to this highly competitive game. There have been multiple attempts to bring this game out of the archaic and dated Warcraft 3 engine, resulting in games such as League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, and Rise of Immortals, each having a respectable amount of success utilizing a free-to-play model. Various developers of DotA have worked on these games, Steve “Guinsoo” Feak developing League of Legends, and IceFrog overseeing early development of Heroes of Newerth. Each sought to improve upon DotA, and freeing it from the grasp of the Warcraft 3 engine, allowing much more interesting thoughts and ideas to be incorperated into the game. When Valve announced that they were going to throw their hat into the ring with DOTA 2, having IceFrog on their lead development team, fans of DotA went wild with excitement. An exact replica of their game with overhauled graphics and a shiny new game engine. What more could a fanboy want?

DOTA 2 is, in essence, exactly what DotA fans have been asking for for a very long time. DotA, in its entirety, is being brought piece by piece into the Source Engine with a shiny new coat of paint, and some name changes to avoid copyright infringement. (e.g. Obsidian Destroyer is now Outworld Destroyer) IceFrog seems to be going over this game meticulously, making sure the pacing, movements, and animations are just as they were in the original DotA, ensuring that the gameplay balance remains intact. Turning speeds and attack animations affect how well a hero can farm up, and can be tweaked and fine tuned just right to give that hero just the right feel. The pacing of the game, in terms of how long it takes a game to get past the laning/farming phase and into the teamfighting/pushing phase, feels slower than that of the very aggressive Heroes of Newerth, but faster than the infamously passive League of Legends. Some heroes, of course, require much more “farming” than others, and will end up focusing on the last hitting of creeps until mid/late game comes around. Yet in general, I feel like the pacing is done very well. The pacing of Heroes of Newerth is very, very fast. Lane aggression is prominent, ganks happen much faster, hero control is much faster, everything just happens in rapid succession. In League of Legends, aggression is very much discouraged. Towers dealing so much damage deter tower diving, most of the laning phase consists of poking rather than farming, and lasts for much longer than that of the other two games.



DOTA 2 seems to go by the philosophy, “Don’t fix what ain’t broke,” and this becomes evident in the gameplay. IceFrog put a lot of effort into recreating the DotA experience inside of the Source Engine, but he seems to have turned too much attention towards coding in the limitations of the Warcraft 3 engine. There’s nothing more annoying when, while being attacked in the enemy jungle as Anti-Mage, dying due to ferevently clicking into the Fog of War to get a Blink off, but getting the error “Cannot target unexplored areas!” As Valve is working on implementing one new hero per week or so, not having access to the full pool of heroes gets annoying. An example of this being frustrating can be seen with the early implementation of Anti-Mage. Anti-Mage is a hard carry character, and once he accumulates a large amount of gold, he can easily kill multiple members of your team by himself. Until the recent addition of Outworld Destroyer, he was a very overpowered hero, because there were no available heroes that could take him on. I also feel like I should mention the community, which is atrocious, although I have yet to play an ARTS without a bad community. Even when queueing for matches on the US East and US West servers, people get matched with hordes of foreigners. Nine times out of ten, this impedes communication, which is essential in this game. If you aren’t with a foreigner, you are probably with one of those people who can’t take any constructive criticism without having his ego injured beyond repair, and he refuses to play anymore. “zzz u insult me afk in spawn gg”

Now, there are also great parts to the gameplay of DOTA 2. One would think, with more than 100 heroes implemented, you would see some skill rehashes. Yet IceFrog has managed to keep every hero extremely varied in their function on the team, their unique skills, and what they can bring to the table, something that is very respectable. However, some functions desperately need to be implemented. A concede vote system is something that players have been begging for, and is currently not in the game. This causes games to drag on much longer than nessecary, when all of the players on your team don’t feel like playing anymore. Another complaint I have is the fact that, even if three people leave a game, it still counts as a loss on the records of the people who stayed. Though, the game is still in a beta state, and many features are being added with every new content patch. Perhaps all of the things mentioned here will be added at a later date.

Most of the gameplay consists of a few different things: Farming, ganking, teamfighting, pushing. Farming occurs early on in the game, and consists of sitting in the lane and attempting to get the last hit on a creep before it dies, granting you gold an experience. During this, denying also occurs, which occurs when someone kills an allied creep, denying the enemy experience and gold. Ganking is something else that occurs early in the game, and happens when multiple people blitz an enemy and quickly kill him, often a surprise attack. This can be avoided by watching for heroes who are missing in action (or MIA) from the map. Pushing is the rapid killing of enemy creeps with the intent of quickly pushing your allied creeps to the enemy tower and kill it. Teamfighting is self explanitory. The composition of your team can greatly affect your performance in each of these fields. Playing Axe, Nature’s Prophet, or Broodmother allows your team to excel at pushing enemy towers. Ancient Apparition, Slardar, and Night Stalker are all very adept gankers, capable of bursting down a low-health hero very quickly. Sand King, Tidehunter, and Earthshaker are all initiator heroes, which will allow you to get the upper hand in team fights. Anti-Mage, Bloodseeker, and Rikimaru are all very effective at farming creeps, and having them do so will allow them to prosper into the late game.

To sum up the gameplay, it’s exactly what DotA fans have wanted for a while. Nothing more, nothing less. The game has succeeded in doing what it’s intended to do and what what was asked of it. I enjoy the hell out of most rounds of DOTA 2, regardless of the flaws pointed out above.

There is much to be said about Valve’s decisions on DOTA 2 when it comes to graphics. The simplistic art style is very smooth, easy on the eyes, and makes it very clear what is going on. Most of the heroes are designed very well, in that you can easily tell what a hero does by just a quick glance. “Okay, he’s throwing burning spears at things, and is glowing red. He will probably kill me if I go anywhere near him.” Water looks gorgeous in DOTA 2, and the shaders for it seem to make it fit right in to the stylized art direction the game is headed in. Projectile clutter is not a huge problem, as it is in Heroes of Newerth, but one major problem with the aesthetics is the GUI. The fact that it takes up half your screen is one thing, but the back panel is useless and takes up vision that some of us might like. The game would benefit greatly from an option in the settings to downsize the UI. The client outside of the game is pretty well designed as well, displaying all sorts of information, giving you a profile, friends list, history, yet for some reason, lacks a Kill/Death ratio feature. The “Social” tab is unused, and I am eager to see what kind of content will be placed there. One last thing. Remember how I said “most” of the heroes are designed very well?

In the end, DOTA 2 is exactly what I, and many others, asked for. IceFrog has managed to capture the feeling of DotA superbly in the successor to the single most popular Warcaft 3 map. Knocking off the bindings of the Warcraft 3 engine, however, opens up new doors to many new possibilities in hero design. The game looks and feels very nice, and it is headed for many things in the future.


Team Avolition


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