As Our Heroes Learn, Episode 1

Join our resident Dota 2 noob and see if you can overcome one of the highest learning curves in competitive PC gaming!

 Welcome to one rewarding Hell! 

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MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games include titles such as Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, Smite, Awesomenauts, Guardians of Middle Earth, Monday Night Combat and many more to come. The basics of the genre are as follows: two opposing teams of five unique characters and their constant flow of creeps each try to destroy enemy turrets and eventually bases in three lanes (top, middle and bottom) and a jungle of neutral monsters. First team to destroy the enemy structure wins. Games in this genre are notoriously difficult to pick up for many different reasons: mainly, a large and diverse pool of heroes each with their own unique abilities, all utilizing a vast array of highly specific and powerful items in a fast-paced, viciously competitive PvP environment. 

This series won’t really be a reference guide, nor is it a simple tutorial on how to get an instant upper-hand in the maddening realm of Dota 2. Instead, I’m hoping to share my experiences and insights, giving new players a unique resource for learning by joining me as I go about learning Dota 2 for myself. I’m not sure where this series will go, but go we shall!

Why Dota 2?

Before we get started in Dota 2: why this MOBA and not others? MOBAs require quite an investment of time, energy, and maybe small chunks of your soul here and there. On top of the time it takes to learn each hero, all of their individual abilities, which items, skills and upgrades are best for certain heroes in certain situations, and how all of these factors work together to form one cohesive team composition facing off against another similarly formed team comp. There are the constant changes implemented from the developers to balance the game and make sure each element is neither under nor overpowered. While this detailed knowledge will come to you in time, it does make it difficult to play any MOBA casually. The investment required to play well in any MOBA can be daunting, but trust that the satisfaction and payoff at the end of the day is well worth it.

As such, you’ll want to make sure you’re playing the MOBA that’s right for you. Here’s a handy little comparison chart to start.

  No. of Heroes Game Types

Meta Critic Rating

Tutorial Co-op /Bots Free- to- play Custom options Systems Release
Dota 2 110 5v5 82 No Yes No (but yes, see link below) Think TF2 Hats PC, Mac Beta
League of Legends 110 5v5 (multiple), 3v3 78 Yes Yes Yes Skins PC Yes
Heroes of Newerth 115 5v5 (multiple), 3v3 76 Yes Yes Yes Avatars PC, Mac, Linux Yes
Smite 30 5v5 (multiple) n/a No Yes Yes n/a PC Beta
Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes 32 5v5 (multiple) n/a Yes Yes Yes Skins PC Beta
Awesomenauts 12 3v3 78 Yes Yes No Skins PC, PSN, XBLA Yes
Battle for Graxia (Rise of Immortals) 25 5v5 (multiple) n/a Yes Yes Yes Skins PC Beta
Super Monday Night Comabt 5 5v5 (multiple) 76 Yes Yes Yes Sponsors PC Yes
Guardians of Middle-earth 29 5v5 75 Yes Yes No Skins PSN, XBLA Yes
Demigod 10 5v5, 4v4, 3v3, 2v2 76 Yes Yes No n/a PC Yes

Dota 2 has the privilege of being the successor to the original Warcraft III map  (which is in turn a successor to the Starcraft custom map Aeon of Strife) that spawned the MOBA genre. This, along with Valve’s fantastic production and marketing efforts for the game, has led Dota 2 on to become one of the most popular games in the genre, second perhaps only to League of Legends with Heroes of Newerth being a close third. Many new variations of the genre have been emerging: Awesomenauts takes the MOBA genre into the 2D side-scrolling arena, while Super Monday Night Combat does the same thing as a first person shooter. Smite’s third person game play makes for an exciting new perspective as well. Give it a thought (you can try most of these titles for free), and if Dota 2 is still your cup of masochistic tea, continue on!

First things first:

We need to get the game without forking out $30

Now you have Dota 2! Gift copies of Dota 2 are quite plentiful, so just ask any Steam friend or forum and you should be able to find a copy if you don’t feel like going through the bot at the link above. Although you can still buy early access to the game (the game is still in beta) for $30 on Steam, Valve seems content to give away copies by the thousands. The existence of microtransactions through the Dota 2 store (just like the bustling trade of the TF2 store) surely makes up for it. In fact, the TF2 free-to-play model is hard at work here; even before I hit level one this free game has already taken a bat to my bank account.

You’ll need Steam to download, install and play. Once you’re in the client, there are many options. I’ve personally started by diving headfirst into solo queue. I wouldn’t recommend it. This is baptism by hellfire and might just turn you off to the game before you really start to get into it. Instead, I’d suggest queuing solo for co-op games against the A.I., or queuing for normal games with a friend or two (ideally, one who can give you sufficient insight to at least allow you to survive).

Do your homework

Spend time reading up on what each hero does, and each item as well. The built-in abilities you can acquire from different items are astounding and will change your approach for each hero, so figure out what’s available. Spectating is also a great way to watch experienced friends play (make sure you select the player perspective camera when spectating so you can see where your friend clicks and how, where he holds his camera, and so on). Dota 2 streams and tournaments are also excellent places to learn, though the lingo might not mean to us noobdoodles much yet.

No really, just trust me on this one

Lastly, stay away from the following heroes during your first matches, as they are difficult for even veteran players to master:

  • Invoker has a whopping 10 spells he can use.
  • Meepo, Chen, and Visage all require high levels of micromanagement.
  • Rubick requires a deep knowledge of what abilities other heroes have as he steals them for his own use.
  • Wisp needs a player who understands the finer mechanics of other heroes and a great amount of communication in order to succeed.

Stay tuned for Ep. 2, where we’ll cover our first foray into a steady stream of matches, the usefulness of guides, how to not ragequit, and how we can turn this humongous learning curve into something that might just resemble fun.

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