Hands-On with the new Defense of the Ancients
After several months of looking enviously as my friends happily gamed away on Dota 2, I've finally made it into the open beta myself. It was worth the wait, but I'll warn you right now: it's not a game for everyone. While the learning curve of Valve's sequel is much less overwhelming than that of the original, it's definitely a lot higher than that of, say League of Legends. To be frank, I'm still getting the hang of it myself; it's been several years since I last played Defense of the Ancients, and right now the old adage "use it or lose it" most definitely applies. But that doesn't stop it from being damned fun.
From what I'd heard (and told all of you in my initial preview of the game), Dota 2 is, on the surface, an updated version of Guinsoo and Icefrog's genre-defining Warcraft III map. Fans of the original will find a lot of familiar territory here. Aside from some aesthetic retooling and a few renames, the entire experience is a very nostalgic one.
As for the aesthetics… I've gotta say, Dota 2 looks good. The fact that in-lane creeps are the same size as your hero gives a sense of scope that's not really present in League of Legends, and the redesigned appearance, to me, actually feels a lot like Team Fortress 2's graphical design. I feel that's a good thing; something tells me the game simply wouldn't work all that well with a hyper-realistic appearance.
The game's appearance isn't the only thing that received an overhaul. One of the things that always bothered me about Dota back when I played was that every hero had different hot-keys for their abilities. Whereas one character might use "E" for her ultimate, another didn't use it at all, and still another used it for one of their basic abilities. Dota 2 throws that issue out the window, replacing the scattered, disorganized hotkeys with the default "Q-W-E-R" array.
There's still no camera lock, however; you'll just have to get used to moving the camera around manually.
The store itself has also received an overhaul, and Dota 2's new system works. Rather than having to shop for your items at six or seven different vendors, there are now a total of three "shop hubs" for each team. There's your fountain shop, which sells your bread and butter items; an in-lane shop with a slightly smaller inventory, and a "secret shop" which sells pretty much everything you'll need to get the best items in the game.
I particularly like that they've added "recommended items" for each hero. Though they might not always be ideal for a particular build, the fact that you have a general idea of what to pick up for your character eliminates a huge obstacle on the learning curve, and it makes it a lot easier for players unfamiliar with the title to learn the ropes.
As I said, though, the game's not for everyone; Dota 2 presents a far greater challenge than other titles in its genre. It's a lot more unforgiving of mistakes than League of Legends (dying means you lose a certain amount of gold, based on your level), and the ability to deny creeps and towers (killing them so your opponents don't get the kill) adds a new avenue to gameplay that new players might find difficult to grasp at first. Still, a bit of difficulty never hurt anyone.
If there's one gripe I have with Dota 2, it's that the voices, at times, are downright horrifying. The dialogue for some of the heroes I've played (Venomancer, for example) irritated me to the point that I ended up playing on mute, and in some cases the voice acting just sounded… bad. It's a small quibble, though - so far, the rest of the game is excellent.
Now, if you'll excuse me, there's some ancients that need destroying.
A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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