After about 2 years of beta testing Dota 2 has finally been released to the masses. For those that don’t know Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)  with a long and complex history that I won’t go into here . The beta testing phase of the game wasn’t as closed as other games, with passes seemingly being handed out left, right and centre however I didn’t bother with trying to play it during beta. Now that it’s been given a full release I decided to give it a go and see what all the fuss was about.
Gameplay consists of two teams of 5 trying to destroy each others bases. The map contains 3 avenues of attack called lanes that are defended by turrets and NPC units for each team. Each player picks a powerful hero unit to control from a list of 46, and the aim is to break through the enemy defences with your NPC helpers finally reaching the opposing team’s base.
The game has been praised by critics and players alike and has shot to the top of the most played list on steam, beating TF2 into second place with nearly 6 times as many players. Personally however, I just don’t get on with the game. And it’s not just for a few little reason, for me the game just doesn’t work on any level.
The matches themselves can take a long time, and while that isn’t usually a problem for games in and of itself, in this case it’s a big negative. The reason being you’re always just just doing the same thing; attacking or defending the lanes. There’s no change in objectives or scenery as the game progresses or from game to game, it’s just a repetitive battle back and forth along the lanes as each team fights for a slight advantage. In some instances the game seems to be balanced to a fault, giving rise to protracted stalemates as neither team manages to push forward. The issue with stagnation is also compounded by the fact that there is only one map and one game mode. A few minutes into a game and you’ve seen all you’re ever going to see as far as the map is concerned.
Another issue I have is the small team sizes. With 5 players and 3 lanes you’re usually only going to have 1 or 2 people per lane which limits the tactics available to you. If you’re defending a lane on your own it doesn’t take much for two enemy players to overwhelm and kill you, forcing you to wait out the ever increasing re-spawn time and then make the long trek back to the action. The small team size also means people can’t just drop in and out. One person leaving is a 20% drop in the team which can have a huge affect on such a balanced game allowing the other team to steam-roll you. Of course this doesn’t really matter much to the person that dropped out, but the rest of the team has to carry on at a disadvantage. In games with bigger player numbers dropping in and out is more of an option, meaning you can easy browse around for a game you like the look of. Having said that, all Dota 2 matches are pretty much the same so the only real variable is who you’re playing with. This may mean that moving around between matches doesn’t have the same value as in other games and doesn’t happen as often.
Once the game has begun you can’t change your heroes. If you happen pick a hero that doesn’t work well with the rest of the team then you’re stuck ,unless of course you drop out and try and join another game, however this takes far to long. Maybe it’s because the game has only just been released to the general public but waiting over two minutes for a match seems ridiculous. You can alter and improve your characters stats by choosing from the 129 or so items, however it seems like there is only the illusion of choice as there are only a handful of items that work well with each character so your best bet is to just look up the best builds online and just copy them. When it comes to actually getting the items however you can’t just rely on fighting the enemy team to generate enough in game money, you also have to grind against neutral enemies dotted around the map.
I would definitely suggest trying it; it’s free to play and so will only cost you time and you may end up loving it. For me it’s not a game you can play casually; it seems like you have to invest a lot of time in the matches and a lot of time in learning all the heroes and items. It’s just too much like hard work to be fun.
I don’t know why but from what I’ve seen most MOBA’s seem to be lane based fights to destroy the opposing teams HQ. Why is there not a greater variation in the types of multiplayer online battle arenas?↩