I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with DOTA 2 but sadly for you dear readers, this will be my last Time Extended. First and foremost, DOTA 2 is an incredible game and as is the purpose of this feature, is a genre I’ve never really played before. I’m glad I now have.
I can fully understand the appeal of DOTA 2 and other variants on it because the gameplay, though simple, is incredibly moreish. There is a tactical depth here that isn’t immediately evident and one which can only be appreciated through sheer time investment. That however, is one my biggest concerns with DOTA 2. This isn’t a game you can simply pickup and play, but one which requires significant periods of time spent learning your favourite Hero as well as every other, so you know what you’re up against.
You need to learn a perfect spike rotation, the routes of the maps, when to lane and when to purchase X, Y or Z item to maximise your efficiency. This game isn’t for the faint hearted and it isn’t for pesky casuals. I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing, but it’s a double edged sword. On one hand its gating access for new players because of the sheer amount of time you’ll need to play DOTA 2 to get up to standard but on the other, why shouldn’t a game require such an investment?
There’s no right or wrong here and over 6 million unique players this month suggest DOTA 2 is a bristling game for people who have that level of time spare but it does beg the question as to how popular it could be if it wasn’t such a time sink. Games such as Counterstrike were huge successes because time invested was about your skill improving and a reward in itself but also because rounds lasted little more than 10-15 minutes. When a single match can extend past the 60 minute mark (I’ve yet to have a match last less than 40) you begin to see the scale of the problem. Even if I was to have a day off and play DOTA 2 all day, I doubt I’d achieve more than 8 games during that time. At that speed, it would take me months and months to get to the skill level I need to in order to truly compete.
On top of all of that, it’s the temporary nature of the game that conflicts with me. Sure I might unlock some skins or purchase some (astronomically expensive, I might add) but if I’m to exclusively play DOTA 2 (which I think you really would have to) I’d need something more. I’ve already mentioned in my previous Time Extended that I have serious concerns about DOTA 2’s balance and the fact that the number of Heroes, items and variables leads me to believe it isn’t. Improving my skill in the game wouldn’t be too bad if I wasn’t faced with bullshit builds, being the victim of imbalanced team setups or fighting against overpowered Heroes. Unfortunately, I’m not sure any amount of time spent in the game could rectify that – skill cannot overcome much of these problems.
If there’s one more thing that’s been bugging me about DOTA 2 it’s the fact that the Heroes art-direction is a confused mess. There’s no sense of “world” or cohesion to how they’re all presented. Yes they all look fantastic, but their appearances are all so varied (which is good) I find it just a bit strange that more time and effort couldn’t have been placed in getting them stylistically aligned. Ranging from Zeus (has he come from Olympus) to Clockwork, it really makes little sense. It is a minor complaint as they all look amazing and are wonderfully animated, but it just feels haphazard.
It’s not all bad though. DOTA 2 has brilliant tutorials, community tools and information relating to Heroes and skills and while the community is hostile, many in it are incredibly helpful. The entire eco-system in DOTA 2 is about supporting you and providing all the tools you need to learn and prosper in the game. If I wasn’t so hugely into massively multiplayer games I’ve no doubt that DOTA 2 would have sucked up a great deal of my time and while I’ll still happily play the game with friends, I’d rather have something to show for my hours spent playing: skill and physical items, in a permanent game world.
To be fair to DOTA 2, I’ll be playing SMITE and League of Legends in the coming days so be sure to stop back for my impressions on both of those products.