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We sit down with Blizzard's Ion Hazzikostas to talk all things World of Warcraft, including upcoming expansion Warlords of Draenor.
Talking Draenor with Ion Hazzikostas
Dota 2
Dota 2

PC
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Valve Software Official Site: http://www.steamgames.com
Publisher: Valve Software
Release Date:
2011
Dota 2 Review
Review By @ 02:11pm 16/07/13
PC
Around 20 years ago, I used to play a game on the Apple II called Rescue Raiders. On the surface, it was a simple 2D Choplifter-style game where you piloted a helicopter and blew things up. But it had another aspect to its gameplay - you had to also build tanks, troops, and some other vehicles and get them to the other end of the map so they could blow up the enemy base. Of course, there was an AI-controlled enemy chopper doing the same thing.

Rescue Raiders was one of the first games I can remember playing that had autonomous non-player characters that were critical to the game - but you had basically no control over them and could only indirectly affect their fate (for example, by buying them in the correct order and escorting them to make sure your troops weren't firebombed by the enemy helicopter).

I never played the original Dota (or League of Legends, or any of the other MOBA/ARTS class of games that are so popular nowadays). I'd avoided Dota primarily because I'm an FPS guy with some slight RTS tendencies, but also because I'd heard it had a pretty toxic community, which turned me off. However, when I played Dota 2 for the first time, I had instant flashbacks to playing Rescue Raiders - the creeps are vaguely analogous to the tanks, anti-air trucks, and troops that I had so much fun sending to a fiery death in Rescue Raiders. So I liked it already.

...I find it amusing that my game playing is basically being subsidised by a primarily male population of video gamers who - when it comes down to it - like to dress up virtual dolls...
For those who came in late, games like Dota are a little bit of a mix of everything. There are some classic RPG elements - you pick a character and have to level him through the game. There's a lot of real-time strategy - you're working with teammates to accomplish a common goal. But explaining what you actually do turns out to be sort of complicated. Remember, it makes a lot more sense when you're actually playing.

Dota 2 is a multiplayer game (though you can play against bots). There are two teams of five players - the Radiant, and the Dire. Each player picks from a list of many characters, each with a different set of abilities. The two teams start on opposing sides of the map (there's only one map in the game). Each team has a base area, in which resides an "Ancient". From each base, creeps - these autonomous NPC creatures - spawn periodically in waves, and start a journey toward's the other teams base. Towers are scattered around the map that will automatically fire on any enemy unit.



The goal for each team is to destroy the other team's Ancient, while defending their own. Hence: Defense of the Ancients.

Sounds simple - but there's a lot more to it than this. Imagine the game starts and both teams just stay in their own base. Creeps from both teams will wander out from one base and head to the other, meeting somewhere in the middle of the map, where they will fight (again, they do this automatically without any player input). The creeps are evenly matched so typically they will both wipe each other out. The next wave of creeps will clean up anything left over - or they'll reach a tower, and get smashed by it - and the cycle will continue.



Basically, nothing will happen - the game will not end, because the creeps can't get anywhere. Now imagine just one player from one of the teams goes out with his creeps. He can attack the enemy creeps, and support his own creeps as they make their way across the map, knocking down towers along the way. Eventually, he'll get to the enemy Ancient, and be able to destroy it. But if just one enemy player comes out to meet him, the teams will be more evenly matched - and it comes down to a player versus player (PvP) scenario.

The PvP is, of course, the heart of the game. It is of a high level of complexity - the learning curve is quite steep, making it challenging for noobs, which is one of the reasons why the community was famed for being full of what I will euphemistically call "short tempered people". One player who doesn't know what he is doing can easily bring down the whole team.

The complexity comes from two main parts - first, the sheer number of selectable characters in the game. At the time of writing, there are 102 characters - with more added periodically as the game is updated. Each character has four different abilities (sometimes more) that are active (requiring the user to press something to make them go) or passive (they just operate automatically). The abilities are character-specific, though there are common elements between them. Some of the abilities require chaining to use them effectively, and each ability is leveled individually as your character earns experience.



After you've done the maths and figured out how many different abilities there are between all the characters - and thought about how long it would take to become familiar with even a small handful of them - consider that in addition to that, there are over 120 different items that you can equip your character with. Items can perform new actions or augment your existing ones (again, they are active or passive in nature).

Oh yeah - each game takes a long time to finish - around 45 minutes is pretty common. You will never get away with saying "I'll just have a quick game of Dota" to your significant other - at least, not once they've put up with you playing it a few times.

So - learning curve. Big one. Time investment (or sink, if you prefer). Big one. Especially when you're trying to play with other people and they're abusing you for not knowing what you're doing. But the real question is - is it worth it?

I've clocked up almost 400 games (and there's still some characters I haven't played). I'm not turning pro any time soon, but have a reasonable handle on the fundamentals. My win rate is about 50%, which seems to be fairly normal. Losing is often traumatic, especially after you've lost a couple of long 45-60 minute games in a row, or you're saddled with random teammates in the matchmaking who are abusive idiots (or just bad).



But the games that are good - they're really good. With so many combinations and different ways to exploit them, the level of satisfaction when you're playing with friends and manage to co-ordinate a five-person push on a tower, laying down that perfect combo that takes advantage of all your abilities, wiping out the other team.... well, that's what keeps me coming back for more.

Not only that, but once you've invested a bunch of time and gotten over some initial learning humps, it's genuinely fun exploring the different characters and item combinations. There are always new builds to try and new items to buy. I've gone through several "favourite characters", depending on which new ones I've played recently and how well they worked out with my natural play style and with my teammates. Even after around 400 hours of gametime, I still have more to explore.

I do, however, only really enjoy playing the game with my friends. I've tried a few games "solo", just picking up teammates using the matchmaking service, and I find this massively less fun. It's less engaging because I typically don't like to communicate with randoms via voice, and your chances of picking up toxic players are increased. I've had good games with randoms, but generally don't bother playing unless my mates are online.



As with all reviews, this one attempts to help answer the question: "should I buy this game?". Well, good news - Dota 2 is free. It has just come out of a long invite-only beta period, so your actual financial investment in whether or not you should get into the game is zero. But there are two big questions you need to ask yourself:

1. Can I justify the amount of time I need to get decent at this game before I start enjoying it?

Make no mistake, the learning process for this game is An Ordeal. If you're prepared to spend many hours reading guides and playing with bots until you can beat them on a reasonable difficulty - maybe 10 games? - then that's a good start. If you've got mates that are happy to babysit you then that's good - but note that most of them will not want to do this because it almost certainly means they'll be losing (a lot) while you're still struggling with the basics.

The best way to approach it is to read some guides - I recommend Welcome to Dota, You Suck - and play with bots until you can beat them on Hard, reliably, with one character. Then find some friends who are happy to play with you knowing your noob status, and play some games online with them. The more friends the better; if you're matchmaking with randoms they will probably be less tolerant.

2. Why is it free? I seriously can play this without paying anything?

Dota 2 is built on the "freemium" model. It's free to play, and you can purchase in-game items for money. By giving the game away, Valve hope to make more money selling in-game items than if they'd charged for the game. This is an increasing trend - so get used to seeing it more, especially for games with a strong network effect (i.e., anything with multiplayer).

The things you can buy for Dota 2 are basically adornments for the characters. For example, you can outfit them with new armour, or a new sword, or some new spell effects, that are different from the stock-standard one that they come with. You can get some of these for free - they'll randomly drop at the end of games - but the good ones for your preferred characters you'll have to shell out for.



It's very important to note that these items are purely decorative and have no impact on the gameplay at all. You can't pay money for a new sword that does more damage - it just looks different. This is critical and stops the game from becoming a silly pay-to-win thing. If you're a content creator, you can also create your own stuff and sell it in the store (splitting revenue with Valve).

The store is well integrated, and not at all in-your-face; you certainly don't feel like you're constantly being pressured into buying stuff (I'm looking at you, Tapped Out). I have spent a total of zero dollars on in-game items. I almost feel guilty about it, but I have always been completely uninterested in character customisation aspects in any game and am completely focused on the multiplayer experience.

So, you can play it for free, but you can trick out your character if you so desire. I find it amusing that my game playing is basically being subsidised by a primarily male population of video gamers who - when it comes down to it - like to dress up virtual dolls. Keep at it, people!

I could go on and on about Dota 2. It has amazing competitive features - it's trivial to spectate games, making watching the pros play painless and fun. They're running a huge competition with a prize pool that's just passed USD$2 million, funded in part by purchases of virtual items. It's well maintained, runs really well on a variety of hardware and has local Australian servers - I've had two server crashes in almost 400 games. Mac and Linux clients are about to come out. The list goes on.



One final note - Valve have been very active in dealing with the oft-criticised toxicness in the Dota community. They're constantly tweaking their player reporting system, and recent results are promising. Anecdotally, I feel that player behaviour has improved significantly since I started playing - general abuse seems way down as players adjust to the new systems. There'll always be bad eggs, but you can report them, mute them, and move on knowing that - if they are truly douchebags - they'll probably be getting dealt with.

It's an amazing game - technically outstanding, showing all of Valve's usual polish and attention to detail, especially in the all-important multiplayer aspects. The continual balance tweaks and new heroes combined with the vast amount of content in the game offer countless hours of enjoyment. It's hard to master but good wins with your teammates are incredibly satisfying. It took me a long time to warm up to, but I'm helplessly addicted and every day look forward to getting home to fire this up with my friends. If you can spare the time - play it.
What we liked
  • Awesome multiplayer action
  • Excellent competitive support
  • Local Australian servers
  • Free to play
  • Lots of customisability with purchasable stuff
What we didn't like
  • Steep learning curve - big time investment before the fun really starts
  • Long average game time means no quick games
  • Bad community reputation, though noticeably improving.
More
We gave it:
9.0
OUT OF 10
Latest Comments
carson
Posted 02:56pm 16/7/13
179 wins? You are noob scrub. Get on my level bro.

Otherwise good review. Dota is pretty much the only game I had been playing for a year, until this steam sale, and once I've finished everything I've been playing I'll be back on dota.

The competative scene is the first competitive scene in ANY sport/esport that I have been interested in. The personalities are great and Valve are doing magic with how they are making it work with the pros and fans.
DeadlyDav0
Posted 04:03pm 16/7/13

But the games that are good - they're really good. With so many combinations and different ways to exploit them, the level of satisfaction when you're playing with friends and manage to co-ordinate a five-person push on a tower, laying down that perfect combo that takes advantage of all your abilities, wiping out the other team.... well, that's what keeps me coming back for more.

So true.

I really hope matchmaking improves so games are less stomps and more evenly matched.
Nukleuz
Posted 04:36pm 16/7/13
Couldn't get into it. Uninstalled it after 4 hours the first time. A friend of mine encouraged me to try again. Got to 11 hours and I still couldn't find any enjoyment in the game and it was gone again for the second and final time.

The review is dead on in highlighting those particular negatives which, for me were just too much to get over. This is definitely going to be one of those games where you either love it or hate it, with no room for anything in between.
konstie
Posted 04:45pm 16/7/13
nice review :)
DeadlyDav0
Posted 04:56pm 16/7/13
Honestly Nukleuz, if you didnt spend at least a few hours playing with bots and a mate then jumping straight into pub games is gunna suck. At least you can restart a bot game if you play poorly.

Ive taught a few friends to play and for each of them i played a number of games 1v1 mid lane to teach them the basics while talking to them over voice comm.
glynd
Posted 05:01pm 16/7/13
I look at DOTA like golf. It''s frustrating as all hell but it's that one great shot that brings you back for another round. Eventually you get a good groove going and can enjoy the game. It's a game of excessive highs and excessive lows....but I love it all the same.
Nukleuz
Posted 05:42pm 16/7/13
I gave the bots a go and had a few games with said friend of mine who encouraged me to install it again. Read a few guides on ideal starting characters and strategies. In the end it just wasn't the game for me.

Who knows, I might knock my head on something one day, and find myself inspired to install it again. By then it just might be a game that's a little less overwhelming for someone who never played DOTA 1...
Eorl
Posted 05:47pm 16/7/13
My boss has played more Dota than I have, what an odd thought heh. Honestly I love the MOBA genre, its a great investment and offers a huge amount of playtime. It is a love/hate relationship with some days offering me fun, enjoyable times while other days I'm raging at my teammates for being stupid.

It takes time though, which can be one of the bigger problems (but at the same time a good thing in weeding out those not wanting to put in the effort) for players but you will get a lot out of it for doing so. I've played at least 300 hours of League of Legends and countless hours in the original Dota, both of which have offered me a huge amount of fun and enjoyment.

Spot on review.
kos
Posted 06:17pm 16/7/13
Great review, covered my concerns perfectly.

Personally I'm not a fan of the RPG elements, but the length of games is what really bothers me about this gametype. In Starcraft, games can end up going for as long or longer than mentioned, but you can really be a master of your own destiny and force a shorter game by playing different styles, which isn't really an option in DotA.


Also, toxicness isn't a word, it's toxicity! :P
Viper119
Posted 06:41pm 16/7/13
Thanks for this, I have NFI what DOTA2 is, will read and check it out.
Obes
Posted 07:02pm 16/7/13
Having tried HoN, LoL and DOTA2.
For "noobs" (and I am a noob) LoL has the easiest curve, and the best community, DOTA2 to me seemed to have the most keyboard ragers. LoL is slower paced and doesn't even have the concept of denies and items builds are a lot easier. It probably implies that the meta game is more complicated in DOTA2 but ... not good enough to know.

I remember 1 game where the match maker failed and put some first game person in the match. He told everyone it was his first game (A good idea).
(Surprisingly to this forum) I tried to give him tips and help him, but 2 people spent the entire match hurling insults at the guy.
At the end of the match he left saying he was uninstalling (NFI if he did or didn't).

Keato after 5 matches of HoN refuses to even try DOTA2 or LOL purely because of the community.

Dota2 OSX support is in beta.
LOL is on live.
HoN has Linux and OSX.
carson
Posted 07:58am 17/7/13
Nukleuz it's not for everyone and it is overwhelming. The thing that, for me, really makes this game strong is finding 2-3 friends to play with. I think solo playing is a painful experience and I avoid it at all costs.

I think the perception that the community is toxic is way over represented. I've made some really good friends through the game, and like any game, you have d*******s who will be d*******s. I find they are few and far between though.

Unfortunately because of match making and how it works for new players, your first 10-20 games will have people who are not that great to play with, after that you generally end up being paired with people who are more fun to play with.
Eorl
Posted 08:05am 17/7/13
Unfortunately because of match making and how it works for new players, your first 10-20 games will have people who are not that great to play with, after that you generally end up being paired with people who are more fun to play with.
That or you get matched with smurf accounts who expect you to be the best in the world.
trog
Posted 09:24am 17/7/13
Keato after 5 matches of HoN refuses to even try DOTA2 or LOL purely because of the community.
It has definitely improved. There are still asshats but people seem a lot more careful now. The first sign of idiocy these days I mute, report, and move on with my life - then a few days or weeks later I usually get a popup saying they've taken action against someone I've reported.
Dota2 OSX support is in beta.
Apparently they're still having performance issues - 25fps sounds like the most they're getting out of it. Hopefully they sort this out soon.
Obes
Posted 01:30pm 17/7/13
Apparently they're still having performance issues - 25fps sounds like the most they're getting out of it. Hopefully they sort this out soon.

Yeah TBH it felt better when I dodgied it up in wine and wine bottler.

Can always bootcamp or fusion.
Dan
Posted 02:16pm 17/7/13
Does Dota 2 attempt to address the end of round issue at all? Most RTS have that awkward point of no return where the match has already essentially been won, but the winners have to continue chipping away at the loser's base to claim victory, but it was particularly lengthy and boring in other MOBAs I've played, and bailing during that time would reflected poorly on your game history.

Is conceding/bailing at that point generally accepted in d2, or do you still have to just sit around at spawn awkwardly waiting for all your s*** to hurry up and get trashed?
Crash
Posted 02:30pm 17/7/13
Is conceding/bailing at that point generally accepted in d2, or do you still have to just sit around at spawn awkwardly waiting for all your s*** to hurry up and get trashed?


I've had plenty of games where you think there is no way you can win the game, then it turns around within 1 team fight. I had a game recently where we were up by 20 kills but still lost because our carry refused to push and just kept wanting to farm. I would hate for them to put a surrender button in. Its not over until the ancient drops. For people that disconnect and leave during a game they get put into low priority queues.
trog
Posted 04:54pm 17/7/13
Yeh, what Crash said. I had one of my best games ever last night; they'd just pillaged most of our barracks and towers and were generally looking like they were dominating us. They got a few cheap frags camping the spawn (my pet hate) and eventually we killed a couple of them and they went back, presumably thinking they'd have us in one more push.

I was playing Doom and just got Refresher Orb. They turned back up and I'd Doomed two of them and everything else just went our way in the teamfight; we smoked them all and went and won before most of them were back. They almost certainly could have won if they'd pushed the Ancient - and we would have been tempted to end much earlier on.

Another pet hate is those people who, 10 minutes into the game, are like "gg, it's over". Then inevitably we come back and win. It's just another delicious layer of satisfaction.

That said - there are definitely games that are so one sided and you just want to leave. I think overall though, the benefits of not having a quick out are worth it.
carson
Posted 06:55pm 17/7/13
They will never, EVER, put a surrender button in. They've said it more than once.

I've had games turn around, but most of the time now a days if it's a loss and without trying hard to win it wont turn around, I just let them finish.

I've had a game where I won when we lost all our rax and were facing mega creeps. I've lost games when we we destroyed 2 sets of the enemy rax, but one team fight went s*** and we lost. The real point of no return is when your ancient is dead. If your team has a good composition, you can turn it around. It all comes down to the heroes.
koopz
Posted 12:13am 19/7/13
If you're a PC gamer and you take your multiplayer games seriously, then you probably want to check this game out.



ta for the recommendation.


Dave, people make YouTube vids now when they want to explain something.


Stop being lazy dude - get some vid editing skills and make your boring posts matter. Hopefully your staff will follow your lead.


tldr: your smart, but your lazy, pull your finger out. This is supposed to be entertaining.
Tollaz0r!
Posted 08:36am 19/7/13
My only issue with Dota2 is that because the minimum round time is really 15-20mins, average about 45min and a long game can go for 1.2-1.5(epic) hours, I find that if I play 2 or 3 rounds of Dota, I run out of game time. It just gets smashed away with that game. If you have 2 bad games in a row, it can be a rather disappointing gaming session.

d^
Posted 09:20am 19/7/13
DeadlyDav0
Posted 10:10am 19/7/13
Who is the dave koopz is talking about?
reso
Posted 10:27am 19/7/13
trog I assume.
DeadlyDav0
Posted 10:28am 19/7/13
lol, I did not know trog's name was dave. thx.
arkter
Posted 04:09pm 19/7/13
Superform
Posted 08:33pm 20/7/13
You are currently 55041 in the Launch Queue
You will be notified by email when the game is ready for download.
infi
Posted 09:26pm 20/7/13
I tried LOL and just couldn't see the attraction. COH2 all the way.
trillion
Posted 09:27pm 20/7/13
his name's David Harrison

aka troggles. :)
Raider
Posted 07:00pm 21/7/13
Queue times really aren't that bad, i wouldn't have even made them an issue.. I regularly queue 3-5 people and never waiting for more then 3-4min.. which when you're talking on vent / skype / whatever.. is irrelevant especially when you can alt tab and hear the ready button while tabbed out.

As for game time and people saying you can't control it... you very much can control it by how you pick... Certain heroes need more times before they become completely dominate and destroy in a 35min + game... by picking a more aggressive team which don't require those items to become the real nightmare you're able to force the pace of the match... it's not uncommon for pro games to be gg'd in the space of 15-20minutes.. or even pub games if you're playing with some mates.

Steep learning curve is true, each moba community doesn't seem to like each other i.e. dota 2, hon, lol... the communities themselves are normally decent, you always get a*******, in every online game you get a******* so the community is no different from any other online game.

Overall some people love or hate the genre, there doesn't really seem to be a middle ground.
rrrocket
Posted 07:32pm 21/7/13
this game is boring.
DK
Posted 08:22pm 21/7/13
this game is boring.


Agree. Play smite
trog
Posted 10:03am 22/7/13
Queue times really aren't that bad, i wouldn't have even made them an issue.. I regularly queue 3-5 people and never waiting for more then 3-4min.. which when you're talking on vent / skype / whatever.. is irrelevant especially when you can alt tab and hear the ready button while tabbed out.
I didn't make them an issue in the review and agree that 99% of the time it's not a big deal. I would say my average wait time experience is 3 minutes which is fine (although, I would note that a decentralised server system would probably lower those waiting times :)
this game is boring.
If you don't have the patience to make it through to the actual fun stuff - which as I noted, takes a while - then yes. It's all about pushing through that part and getting to the hardcore multiplayer action. I think hardcore oldschool PC gamers should really dig on this more than most other groups because it really has that deep arcane technical aspect to it (i.e., knowing all the right combos and having the micro skills to bust out moves at the right time).
Superform
Posted 10:29pm 22/7/13
still 55k in the queue to download...
straw hat hippie
Posted 07:24am 23/7/13
Kunka is the coolest. That is all.
qmass
Posted 04:23pm 25/7/13
I am still terrible at playing carries but it sure can be fun sometimes.

Lithium
Posted 03:00am 24/7/13
I stopped playing a few months ago but will prolly get back into it eventually.

Call me immaature but this video gets me everytime

DeadlyDav0
Posted 07:53am 24/7/13
^
Yeah, i watched all his vids, awesome, just like that farming game vid.
Superform
Posted 05:58pm 24/7/13
4 days later and now i have moved up 5k places
trog
Posted 09:13am 25/7/13
4 days later and now i have moved up 5k places
I still have no idea what you're talking about dude. You must be getting a completely different experience to everyone else because you're in NED?
Khel
Posted 10:00am 25/7/13
Hes in the queue to download it, not to play a game, I think Valve was restricting how many people could get it and play it to stop servers being flooded and overloaded or something?
trog
Posted 10:27am 25/7/13
Hes in the queue to download it, not to play a game, I think Valve was restricting how many people could get it and play it to stop servers being flooded and overloaded or something?
oh right - yeh probably just part of their global roll-out still being in progress. I suspect if you copy the files from someone else that has it you can probably get right into a game..?
DeadlyDav0
Posted 10:48am 25/7/13
Why wait til its available for all? Not like beta invites were hard to find. Id much rather get into a game before all the other noobs decide to check it out when its finally released.
Zapo
Posted 11:22am 25/7/13
Well it was pretty f***ed for several hours last night. When it is working (which it usually is) I'm finding it much quicker to find games now. So bring on more peeps :D
trog
Posted 09:14pm 25/7/13
Just had the worst game I've ever played; we lost like 30-something to 3. Didn't think we were going to even get a single kill. We were so hopelessly outclassed it wasn't even funny. Of course the other team were spawncamping towerdestroying object coveting jerks, so the game took 10 minutes longer than it needed to, because instead of destroying the ancient they screwed around trying to get cheap frags.

They need to have a sub-30-minute achievement to stop that sort of idiocy.
qmass
Posted 09:39pm 25/7/13
Just buy a quelling blade and hide in the trees.
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