December 28, 2011

Thoughts from the Dota 2 Beta


Hel­lo, every­one. It’s been a good while since my last post­ing. Again, same old excus­es- social life, col­lege finals, manda­to­ry hol­i­day fam­i­ly time, and all of that good stuff. How­ev­er, I’ve def­i­nite­ly not let my gam­ing slip. Far from it- I got the invite I had been pray­ing for, and have spent the last week or so enthralled with Dota 2. While I’m def­i­nite­ly not expe­ri­enced enough to put out a full review yet (not even con­sid­er­ing the fact that the game is still tech­ni­cal­ly in beta), I can sure­ly pro­vide some per­spec­tive for those of you wait­ing who haven’t received invites yet.
Dota 2 is, unsur­pris­ing­ly, an incred­i­bly good and chal­leng­ing tac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence. It takes some dri­ve and desire to play, how­ev­er; for new­com­ers, DotA has always been more of a learn­ing cliff than a learn­ing curve. Dota 2 eas­es much of the pain that was caused by the lim­i­ta­tions of the orig­i­nal DotA with­out chang­ing the game too ter­ri­bly much at all. The graph­ics are excel­lent, and it’s far eas­i­er to dis­tin­guish between heroes and creeps (a com­mon novice com­plaint from the orig­i­nal) than it was pre­vi­ous­ly. All of your abil­i­ties fol­low the new “indus­try stan­dard” set­up of QWER, rather than the pre­vi­ous War­craft 3 sys­tem of “some ran­dom let­ter from the spell name”. The shops are amaz­ing­ly improved, stream­lined, and user-friend­ly (thank God, because DotA’s shop sys­tem left a LOT to be desired), and you can buy items into your stash from any­where on the map with just a few sim­ple clicks.
Rest assured, though, the chal­lenge is not gone. Last-hit­ting and deny­ing with most cast­ers requires impec­ca­ble tim­ing because they wind up their shots like a Looney Tunes char­ac­ter play­ing base­ball, and ani­ma­tion can­celling is an absolute must for chas­ing. Quar­ter-sec­ond reac­tions can decide entire team­fights, which in turn can decide entire games. If you don’t know what you’re doing (and unless you played DotA a LOT, you don’t), you will die at any giv­en oppor­tu­ni­ty until you get the basics down. Play­ing LoL does NOT trans­late into Dota 2 skill AT ALL.
I’ll speak to the LoL play­ers specif­i­cal­ly for a moment. In Dota 2, you don’t get your con­ve­nient cast range cir­cles, skill­shot mark­ers, or any of that good stuff. With the excep­tion of AOE spells, every­thing is tar­get­ed with a sim­ple cur­sor, and you have to know how your spells work. Last hit­ting is WAY hard­er due to the afore­men­tioned ani­ma­tions, and deny­ing is a thing. A cou­ple of spells can kill you even at lev­el one, and every­thing (except the lan­ing phase) moves a whole lot faster. Your health and mana are great­ly reduced, so every shot counts. Tur­rets can’t save you. Flash can’t save you. God can’t save you, because he’s Zeus, he’s on the ene­my team, and he’s going to kill you with his instant Karthus-like ult from across the map when you thought you got away. Play­ing Dota 2 will make you quite para­noid if you’re used to LoL. Learn the dif­fer­ence quick­ly.
How­ev­er, even with its stag­ger­ing chal­lenge lev­el and excel­lent user inter­face, Dota 2 is still in beta and as such, there are a few faults. The lack of an obvi­ous “invite to game” or “join game” option makes find­ing games an inter­est­ing task. Match­mak­ing search times range from the fair­ly instan­ta­neous to the unbe­liev­ably slow. Yes­ter­day I wait­ed a full fif­teen min­utes in game search before giv­ing up and play­ing with bots. On that note, the bot games are often­times more chal­leng­ing than play­ing against real peo­ple; the ene­my team is a tac­ti­cal hive­mind, and yours some­times has trou­ble acknowl­edg­ing your exis­tence. To the bots on your own team, you’re the bab­bling, unpre­dictable for­eign­er who’s off doing your own thing and ignor­ing com­mands. They gank seem­ing­ly arbi­trar­i­ly, and you have no real way of request­ing assis­tance oth­er than div­ing head­long in and pray­ing that they fol­low you (which is typ­i­cal­ly NOT a good strat­e­gy in Dota). Oth­er than these incon­ve­niences, every­thing seems to work fine. The game hic­cups and lags dur­ing game start and char­ac­ter selec­tion (which makes the sounds hang up and repeat to form a slam­min’ three-sec­ond tech­no beat), but this real­ly has no effect on the over­all game.
There ARE many things that Valve has got­ten very right with this game, though. The spec­ta­tor fea­ture is INCREDIBLY help­ful, as you can watch the pros (or your friends, or just ran­dom peo­ple) play and view their actions right down to each indi­vid­ual click of their mouse. This works pret­ty much flaw­less­ly, and is easy to jump into. Watch­ing a num­ber of oth­er peo­ple play a cer­tain hero is an amaz­ing way to learn, and you don’t have to wor­ry about bias, track­ing down VODs, or patch­es mak­ing metas out­dat­ed: you see every­thing in real time, and you get the kind of vari­ety you don’t find in online text guides. Doing just about any­thing I’ve not already men­tioned is pret­ty easy, because the menu con­struc­tion is incred­i­bly intu­itive. You’ll rarely hav­ing trou­ble look­ing for an imple­ment­ed fea­ture.
That’s about all I have to say right now, as I still tech­ni­cal­ly qual­i­fy as a “noob”. I’ll be sure to post back more fre­quent­ly with details on the beta and the com­pet­i­tive scene, and I look for­ward to doing an offi­cial review upon the game’s release. Until then, keep enjoy­ing your games, and remem­ber: ALWAYS have a Scroll of Town Por­tal handy.

3 comments

  1. SuperEliteGames - December 29, 2011 7:56 pm

    I’ve been mean­ing to try out Dota 2.
    Thanks for the info! Def­i­nite­ly going to try it now.

    Reply
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