Time Extended - DOTA 2: Balance and Heroes
If you haven't been following this new feature, you can find the first and previous entries at the bottom of this page. In simple terms, I play a game I have never played before over a 24 hour period. If I like it enough, I'll grant it Time Extended coverage until I feel satisfied that I've uncovered all that it has to offer. This week my Time Extended is still continuing with DOTA 2 though I sense it could be coming to an end...
My greatest concern when first playing DOTA 2 was the confusion as to how Valve can possibly balance a game with dozens of unique Heros. Considering massively multiplayer games tend to struggle in the balance department with only a handful of classes, in such a competitive game as this it seems odd that Hero numbers continue to grow.
From my limited experience with DOTA (very limited compared to the addicts out there!) I just cannot understand how it can possibly be balanced when the approach to play is that of Rock, Paper, Scissors and when the sheer variance of skills, equipment and items is brought into play.
I think my main concern is the fact that any balance issues are masked by abundance rather than through the finesse of Valve. I experienced early concerns relating to balance when faced against Ursa. While that single match might not be the best example (I still consider myself a novice) his punishment of me and other Heroes was evident throughout the entire match because of the items and Hero combinations he had chosen. With no time or ability to react (and thus counter) death was inevitable and surely that's just a little strange, especially when my good friend who accompanied has over 500 hours invested in DOTA 2, died in equal speed.
What surprises me the most about the approach to balance I think Valve use (which is basically flooding the game so that no Meta can ever be established) is the fact that it isn't a level playing field. Some Heroes are crap, some amazing and some better in pairs than others. Unfortunately, unless you construct a party and join every match as a party the likelihood that your skill alone will win the day is slim. I think that approach is fundamentally flawed in a competitive game type as outside of the confines of organised play, surely that means that all other play is unbalanced and requiring a great deal of luck.
As someone who has fallen in love with the Lone Druid it becomes incredibly apparent that he is hugely flawed without access to a stun/slow removal skill. Admittedly there are many that suffer this issue, but it seems odd to me that where stuns/slows/snares and roots are the cornerstone of spikes, all Heroes aren't afforded the ability to escape. Instead you are forced to stand (or struggle on slowly) in the hopes of interception by one of your team mates. Sadly, the likelihood of this is often slim due to the lane-split nature of the game.
There's a side of me that wished DOTA 2 offered a little bit more than positioning and the use of 4 skills as although there is a huge skill ceiling to the effective use of both these elements, I'd have liked less Heroes with more skills, a greater control system and a focus on all Heroes having at least one get out of jail skill they have to time to perfection.
Perhaps I'm showing my ignorance now and my complete lack of experience in DOTA 2, but I don't think I'll ever truly get to the bottom of whether the game is balanced or not as every match is different and every Hero chosen never the same (though there are some that are much more popular than others). I think for that very reason, DOTA 2 isn't likely to be a game I could play long term. I'm the type of person that needs to deal in certainty in the knowledge that my hours invested will allow me to triumph over those that are a worse player than me in terms of skill and not in terms of the hero they happen to have chosen.
I'm going to stick with DOTA 2 for a few more days yet as I've still lots of Heroes to try and builds to explore but I'm confident by the end of the week, my Time Extended will be over.