I’m ashamed of that pun.
There aren’t really a lot of TV shows to watch right now, so I’ve taken to watching HuskyStarCraft’s videos over dinner. But even then, I sometimes run out of new SC matches to watch, so I’ve turned to watching some of his other videos. Out of curiosity, I decided to watch him play several games of League of Legends and DOTA 2 to satisfy my curiosity about the MOBA genre.
MOBAs are the next big thing, for better or for worse. League of Legends is known to be the most played video game in the world, and may just be the most popular game in history.
Husky’s videos didn’t make the games look too exciting, but it peaked my curiosity enough that I decided I should try a MOBA myself. Again, if only to see what all the fuss is about. For reasons that are at best unclear to me, DOTA 2 had already been added to my Steam account, so that wound up being my pick.
After a few days of play, I’m not quite sure what to make of it.
I can’t tell if I suck:
Naturally, my first few matches were something of a baptism by fire. Early on, I had one player report me because they thought I was intentionally sabotaging the team.
But I pretty quickly gained a basic understanding of the game. I settled on a hero I liked, a fire mage named Lina, and developed a strategy of defense in the early game leading into cautious aggression at high levels.
Even so, I ended up on a ludicrous losing streak. It took me until my eight or ninth game — don’t remember exactly — before I found myself on a winning team. But this is where I start to get confused.
Initially, I assumed all those losses were on my head. I was the common denominator, after all. But while my performance was far from stellar, I usually wasn’t the only one failing miserably. In fact, I’ve rarely, if ever, been the worst player on a team.
And when I finally started winning some games, I found that I tended to do pretty well in such situations. My kill counts are high, I’m usually one of the top players for last hits from either team, I’m one of the few people who bothers to deny, I seem to effectively defend my lanes, and I get a lot of assists. I still die a lot, but I’m usually not the worst in that regard, and my kills tend to outstrip my deaths.
So I don’t know how to rate my performance. Were the losses the result of bad teams dragging me down, or are the wins because I’ve been carried? Both? Neither?
For all the talk about how incredibly hard to learn MOBAs are, I’m not finding the learning curve terribly steep. If anything, I’m already getting a little bored by DOTA’s simplicity. I don’t deny that figuring out ideal hero combinations and builds for the high level must be very tricky, but in whatever newb division they dumped me into, there’s not a lot to the game.
To be fair, there are a number of things that lower the learning curve in my case. I’ve always been a huge RTS fan, so the controls are very familiar to me. I watched Husky play several matches, so I came in a decent idea of the general game mechanics. And DOTA borrows from Warcraft III to a ludicrous degree, so I already have a basic understanding of a lot of the heroes, abilities, and items.
Still, when you get right down to it, all you need is a good memory of what items can help your hero and some basic micro skills.
I can’t help but compare DOTA 2 to competitive StarCraft II, and in that comparison, it seems a bit like kindergarten. SC2 requires so much more in terms of reflexes and multi-tasking.
SC2 multiplayer is a constant panic attack even at the lowest levels of play, requiring lightning reflexes and constant attentiveness. In DOTA 2, the main challenge is fighting my urge to do anything. Mostly, it’s just a lot of sitting in my lane and last-hitting creeps. I quickly learned that most of my early failures were largely the result of being too aggressive.
Am I having fun?
You’d think that would be an easy question to answer. You’d think.
I’m enjoying DOTA 2 far more than I expected to, though that doesn’t say very much. I definitely see where the addiction people have for MOBAs comes from. There’s a lot of satisfaction to getting a lot of last hits or pulling off a good gank. And again, it’s a very low stress game.
But on the larger scale, it’s a fairly dull game. By far my biggest complaint is that the matches are far, far too long. You can generally tell which team is going to win in the first five to ten minutes, but the matches still drag on to half an hour or more. If you’re losing, it’s a slow and agonizing slide into oblivion, but even if you’re winning, facerolling the enemy team gets dull after a while.
If nothing else, playing DOTA 2 has a bit more excited for Blizzard All-Stars. Blizzard has a knack for taking successful concepts by other companies and then refining them to perfection. If they can iron out some of the annoying things from other MOBAs, they could have a pretty awesome game on their hands.
And hey, DOTA may have some pretty cool heroes, but it ain’t got Nova.