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As someone who has played Dota 1 and Dota 2 for approximately 10 years, I have a keen understanding of its nuances. Unlike other titles on the market, Dota requires significant time investment just to get ahold of the basics. It is one of the rare games where knowledge is more important than reflexes.
In this Dota overview, I would like to talk about the title and what makes it so popular. In a way, the game’s biggest advantage is also its biggest flaw: it is so hard! Even if you decide to play casually, there are so many different things to cover. You will need lots of time just to learn the heroes and their spells. After that, you’ll also have to learn about the items and other in-game mechanics.
History of Dota 2
Dota 2 is considered one of Valve’s biggest accomplishments. The game development started in 2009, and it was released to the general public in 2011. That same year, the company decided to create a tournament that would forever change the face of esports.
The International 2011 (or just The International) featured a record-breaking prize pool of 1.6 million dollars. The “bag” was so enormous for the time that some Dota 1 teams thought that the whole event was a hoax. The first International was a major success, and it became an annual tournament.
After two years of testing, the game was officially on July 9th, 2013. However, even before that, the game was already a major success. Its enthralling, complex system coupled with a very competitive professional scene made the game very popular in a short amount of time. Young, aspiring esports athletes rushed to the title, trying to leave their mark and win the massive prizes handed out during Dota 2 tournaments.
Over the years, the title received numerous prizes and accolades. It is considered one of the best online multiplayer games, and together with League of Legends, Dota 2 is regarded as the most successful MOBA ever to be made. Even after 9 years of existence, the game attracts over 500,000 players every month.
The Game’s Positive Impact
There are a few reasons why Dota 2 will always be revered by players and gaming historians. As mentioned, this title completely changed how we look at esports and gaming events. Previously, esports athletes would eventually have to quit their favorite title due to low prices. Even if you continuously won, you could barely make ends meet.
This all changed with The International. Suddenly, gamers became superstars winning millions during single events. For reference, the latest International 2021 had a total prize pool of 40 million, with the winning team getting an 18-million purse.
Another reason why Dota 2 is so great is that it revolutionized the Free To Play concept. Back in the day, most games were paid. You even had examples of World of Warcraft where you had to pay a monthly subscription after purchasing the discs.
Dota 2 changed all of that by becoming one of the first high-profile games to be completely free. We can use League of Legends as another good example, but unlike Dota 2, this game gives players a limited champion pool, which you have to unlock through either playing or purchasing new characters.
The Game’s Negative Impact
Unfortunately, the game also had its fair share of problems. Over time, Dota 2 became notorious for being one of the worst gaming communities. Due to the competitive nature of this title, passions quickly flair up during matches. Verbal abuse is very common, and almost every long-term player has to deal with this problem.
But this isn’t the only title that is struggling with the issue. Other games like Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Valorant, Call of Duty are also experiencing the same problem. Nevertheless, Dota 2 would constantly rank as number 1 of number 2 in terms of its player toxicity scores.
Dota 2 as an e-sport
It is hard to talk about Dota 2 without mentioning its impact on esports. Today, The International is regarded as the crown jewel of gaming competitions, and while certain tournaments might have more viewers, none of them can compare in terms of the prize pool.
The International is an annual event usually held in August. From 2011 to 2016, it featured 16 teams. The number of participants increased to 18 from 2017 onwards. For the first 7 tournaments, the majority of teams would receive an invitation, while the rest had to qualify during a special event.
The rules have changed in the last 3 years; teams now qualify based on their DCP ranking (Dota Pro Circuit) and through qualifiers. Nowadays, larger competitions held throughout the year would carry a certain amount of DPC points. So, instead of giving invites, Valve decided to reward teams that perform well throughout the year.
Funny enough, Valve has never increased their own contribution to the tournament. It has always remained a static 1.6 million dollars yet, the total prize pool continued rising with years.
The majority of prize pool money is collected through interactive purchases. Since The International 2013, the company would issue digital booklets known as Compendiums. A part of Compendium sales would go into the overall prize pool for the event (measly 25%). So, if you take a look at the 2021 prize pool of 40 million, you will quickly realize that the company made a bit less than 30 million off of The International.
However, these are not the only competitions that had large prize pools. Dota 2 Majors held from 2015 to 2017 gave contestants $3 million. A lot of other tournaments had prize pools of several thousand dollars. So, even if you don’t qualify for The International, there are numerous other opportunities to make money off of this game.
Best Dota 2 Teams
It is hard to say which team is the best. Most analysts tend to evaluate them based on their performance during The Internationals. If I had to qualify them, I would do so based on their performance over time. In that regard, the best teams are Natus Vincere, OG, Invictus Gaming, Liquid, PSG.LGD, Team Secret, Evil Geniuses, Alliance, Nigma, EHOME, TNC Predator, Vici Gaming, Fnatic.
If we take into consideration just the Internationals, OG takes the cake. They are the only team who managed to win this prestigious tournament twice, thus setting a bar for all the other squads. OG also made the most money; with total earnings of $34.9 million, they are the most successful esports team in history.
Dota 2 players are also the richest esports athletes on the planet. They occupy the first 21 positions on the list of highest earners. OG’s captain, Johan “NOtail” Sundstein has earned $7.1 million dollars from Dota 2 competitions. He is closely followed by teammates Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka ($6.4 million) and Anathan “ana” Pham ($6 million).
How Do You Play Dota 2?
Dota 2 is a very complex game that is hard to explain in one overview. But let’s give it a try!
Dota 2 basics
Dota 2 is categorized as MOBA or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Like Counter-Strike or League of Legends, it is a team game where 5 players are pinned against 5 other players.
The battle is between the Radiant team (good guys) and the Dire team (bad guys). Keep in mind that these names are just for differentiation as the map is almost a carbon copy on both sides. In other words, being a Radiant or Dire team will not provide any advantage.
The main difference between the sides is more esthetical than anything. While the Radiant side has a light, vivid colors, the trees and vegetation on the Dire side are withering while the area is gray and dark.
On the opposite sides of the map, you have 2 team bases. At the center of every base, there is the main structure called Ancient. The game is over when one side destroys the opposite team’s Ancient. But, to get to it, you need to go through several lines of towers and barracks.
The Dota 2 map has three lanes running through it: top, middle, and bottom. Each lane is protected by 3 towers. At the end of these towers, you have melee and ranged barracks, structures spawning NPCs called creeps. Every 30 seconds, a new wave of creeps will head down its respective lane. Although you can’t control them, they can help you push towers by providing a buffer absorbing towers’ shots.
Between these lanes, there is a vast forest, which can be utilized to surprise the enemy team. Within this forest, you have static wood creeps that you can kill for extra gold and items. Between two sides of the map, there is a Roshan pit, an area where the strongest creep, Roshan, resides. By killing him, your team gets special items that will give you an advantage in future engagements.
Dota 2 Heroes
Each player controls a hero, a powerful character with a unique set of abilities. Most of them have 3 regular spells and 1 ultimate spell. Usually, these spells synergize well with one another, and only if you use them properly can you unlock a hero’s full potential.
As you kill lane creeps and other heroes, your character gains experience and gold. You can progress the hero up to level 30. Getting as much experience as possible will provide a significant advantage over enemy heroes while also making it easier to destroy towers and structures.
On the other hand, gold is used to buy powerful items. These magical objects provide various effects, from passively increasing your health, mana, regeneration, damage to giving more tangible effects (such as hex, area heal, magic block, etc.). You can also gain neutral items by killing neutral creeps. Each hero can wear just one such item.
Besides spells, heroes also have access to talents. These are available at levels 10, 15, 20, and 25. Once you reach each one of these levels, you have to choose between one of two buffs that will either improve your spells or add passive benefits to the hero.
When making item and talent choices, you need to decide how you wish to play a hero. Most characters can be played in several roles, which gives players a lot of flexibility.
Dota 2 Roles
Although every player would inherently like to get as many items and experience as possible, this way of thinking is counterintuitive. In Dota 2, you have heroes who are more or less item-dependent. Certain heroes need to kill a lot of creeps (referred to as “farming”) to maximize their potential, while others can be efficient with little to no items.
Based on that, we have 5 primary roles in Dota 2: carry, mid, offlane, soft support, and hard support.
Carry, or the number 1 position, is crucial for your team’s success. For this role, you choose a hero with high physical damage. These heroes become significantly stronger with items. Basically, as the game progresses, carry will be so strong enough to kill several opponents during team fights, thus “carrying” your team to victory.
Mid, or position 2, is a player who takes the middle lane of the map. Unlike the top and bottom lane, where teams fight 2v2, the middle lane is a 1v1 matchup. This means that both your and enemy hero will quickly gain levels. By having a level advantage, they can attack enemies in other lanes (referred to as “roaming”), thus creating an advantage on the map. Although not as item dependent as carry, mid laner also needs significant farm to remain important as the game progresses.
Offlane, or position 3, is the hero that commonly goes in the “off” lane. In other words, he will go to either top or bottom lane (depending on the side) that has a disadvantageous layout. Like mid laner, the main purpose of offlane is to control the tempo of the match while carry farms. These heroes usually initiate fights and absorb damage for the team.
Soft and hard supports are roles 4 and 5. One of them will go top, and the other will go bottom. Their main purpose is to help out carry and offlaner as they farm. Another responsibility they have is to place wards, invisible items that provide vision over specific parts of the map. They are the least important heroes on the map, and they often sacrifice to save more important positions.
Tips for Getting Better at Dota 2
Getting better at Dota requires a lot of time, hard work, and focus. In this overview, I will go through a few basic skills you need to master to get better results.
Understand Heroes, Spells, and Items
Learning about heroes, their spells, and items is not as simple as it seems. Each hero has unique characteristics that set it apart from the rest. The only way to truly understand a hero is to play it constantly.
Numerous spells in this game have unique interactions with other spells and heroes. Even if you play a hero for years, there might be something interesting about his spells that you’ve never learned. In that way, Dota 2 is a process of continuous education.
Understand Your Role
The main issue with Dota is that everyone wants to be a hero (no pun intended). In other words, new players want to get as many kills as possible and to feel good while overpowering opponents. By doing so, they often neglect their role and start making bad moves, which can ultimately cost their team the victory.
To get the best results possible, you need to understand your role and what is expected from you. For example, even if a carry feels very powerful, he shouldn’t be reckless when engaging enemies. One carry death can completely turn the game around.
Similarly, support players shouldn’t steal farm from more important positions. In the lower tier, players often compete with each other who will get more items, which leads to a situation where everyone is equally underpowered.
Learn More About Timings and Team Composition
Picking the five strongest heroes doesn’t always help you win. Instead, when making a team composition, you should choose characters that go well together, complementing each other’s abilities.
Every hero in the game has a specific role or set of roles. You have nukers (heroes with high damage output), healers and defensive heroes (heroes that can support and save teammates), pushers (heroes who are good at destroying towers), etc. Ideally, you should have a bit of everything or focus on one specific ability and build your strategy around it.
When talking about timings, every hero and team reaches maximum potency at a certain point in the game. As mentioned, carries need more time to become effective so, they will usually start peaking after 30 minutes. Understanding these timings will allow you to better control the match. That is, to avoid fights while you’re weaker and to force them when stronger.
Buy Items That Make Sense
Another common mistake players make is buying items and choosing talents that are suboptimal. If you wish to win as many matches as possible, you should build a hero in a way that would maximize its potential.
Due to numerous possibilities and sometimes boredom, players like to experiment with their characters. They will play supports as carries or might purchase items that will help them get as many kills as possible while reducing the team’s overall potential.
One of the greatest pearls of wisdom in Dota 2 is to play heroes the way they are meant to be played. While you can experiment a bit, your choices should make sense.
Learn How to Last-hit, Farm and Stack
First off, you need to learn how to last-hit and deny creeps. By dealing the finishing blow to a unit, you will get gold from it. Alternatively, if the enemy creep is killed by your lane creeps, you will only gain experience for standing close to it. Denying is the same thing, but you do it on your own creeps, thus preventing enemies from gaining a farm.
For a team to be efficient, all the players need to maximize the map’s resources. In other words, you should find a way to kill as many creeps as possible, whether in lanes or woods. Each time you allow creeps to kill each other or to be killed by a tower, you’re missing an opportunity to gain gold and experience.
Moving quickly from one place to another to kill as many creeps as possible is called a farming pattern. Finding optimal patterns can significantly improve your farm and, thus, the strength of your hero.
In Dota 2, there is a mechanic called stacking that allows you to create clumps of jungle creeps. It is mainly the support’s job to make these stacks. By learning how to do it, you can help carry gain items at a much faster pace.
Play as a Team
As players get stronger, they have a tendency of venturing into enemy woods in an attempt to find pickoffs. While this can be a good strategy, it can also lead to position 1 or 2 dying, causing you to lose map control.
The success in Dota 2 is often attributed to the team’s ability to work together. At one moment, you should start moving together as a unit. Not only does this prevents ambushes on solo allied heroes (referred to as “ganking”), but it allows you to win team fights by having an element of surprise.
Whatever you do, it is important to have a high level of coordination. Not only should you move together, but you should also understand your role in these team fights. By properly positioning yourself and casting spells at the right time, you can increase the chance of winning encounters. Furthermore, you should also understand which targets are the priority, and which ones you should leave as the last.
This is probably the hardest part of the game, as you need to understand all the mechanics that I’ve previously mentioned.
Should I Play Dota 2?
The great thing about Dota is that you can play it at any time. It is completely free, and all you need to do is download a gaming platform called Steam, and after that, download the game itself. So, if you’re intrigued by it, you can test it at any time and make a decision for yourself.
Dota 2 is very popular among MOBA fans, but also RPG enthusiasts. The game has numerous similarities to role-playing games, such as items and leveling. If you’re a fan of the genre, you should appreciate its complexity, freedom of choice, as well as the amount of time you need to master it.
If you’re a young player who wants to start an esports career, this is one of the best titles to start with. Besides The International, there are numerous tournaments throughout the year that can make you money. However, keep in mind that Dota 2 requires months and even years to master, so the process of becoming a competitive gamer is relatively slow.
What Is the Best Hero to Start With?
Another important thing for beginners is choosing the right hero according to their skill level. Dota 2 has very complex mechanics, so the last thing you should worry about is how to properly cast your spells.
There are a few heroes who are very popular among beginners. Crystal Maiden is a support character that is fairly easy to play, with straightforward spells. If you wish to try carry role, you can go with Wraith King, who has just 2 active abilities. Other good choices are Lion, Night Stalker, Omniknight, Phantom Assassin.
Don’t be discouraged if you feel lost during your initial games. Even with these simple characters, you will likely need a lot of time to get adjusted to things. If you previously played League of Legends, this should definitely help. Just keep in mind that Dota 2 is much faster and requires a bit quicker decision-making.
What Are the Best Heroes Based on the Playstyle?
There are 121 Dota 2 heroes altogether. Lots of them can perform multiple roles. So, no matter what you want to do on the map, you have several options at your disposal. Here is a breakdown of some of the best characters according to your playstyle.
Complexity (Invoker, Meepo, Earth Spirit, Arc Warder)
- Snowballing (Slark, Legion Commander, Pudge, Silencer)
- Nuker (Lion, Lina, Phantom Assasin, Kunkka)
- Disabler (Shadow Shaman, Bane, Puck, Lion)
- Initiator (Clockwerk, Earthshaker, Sand King, Axe)
- Carry (Medusa, Gyrocopter, Terrorblade, Specter)
- Durable (Bristleback, Centaur Warrunner, Tidehunter, Wraith King)
- Escape (Anti-Mage, Weaver, Storm Spirit, Puck)
- Support (Crystal Maiden, Dazzle, Wisp, Witch Doctor)
- Pusher (Lycan, Lone Druid, Leshrac, Nature’s Prophet)
- Jungler (Nature’s Prophet, Chen, Enchantress, Enigma)
- Aggressive (Spirit Breaker, Night Stalker, Slardar, Mirana)
Ideally, you should experiment with several heroes before finding the one that suits you the best. Some players tend to stick with several characters, and simply love playing them over and over again.
Best alternatives to Dota 2
When talking about the best alternatives to Dota 2, the first thing that most people think of is League of Legends. This is the second most-complex MOBA after Dota, and you can spend hundreds of hours mastering all of its champions.
Other notable games are Smite and Heroes of the Storm. If we also include shooters, you can add Overwatch, Paladins, and Valorant to the list.
Question: Is Dota 2 really free?
Answer: Dota 2 is completely free in every sense of the word. However, players still have the option of buying cosmetic items, such as hero skins and map modification. Every now and then, you can also buy virtual books called Compendiums that would enhance your overall experience.
Question: Is Dota 2 losing popularity?
Answer: People tend to exaggerate by saying that Dota 2 is a dead game. This is far from true. But the game has definitely lost some of its popularity in the last year or two. Nowadays, Dota 2 is played by 500,000 to 600,000 people at any given moment. For comparison’s sake, its historical peak was 1,291,328 players.
Question: Is Dota 2 popular in Japan?
Answer: Unfortunately, Dota 2 has never become popular in Japan. This is very strange as Japanese gamers love titles with difficult mechanics. One of the possible reasons for the lack of popularity is that the title was never translated into their native language. On the other hand, League of Legends is available in Japanese, making it easier for young players to get ahold of the basics.
Question: Is Dota 2 like League of Legends?
Answer: If you never played either one of these games, you would probably think that Dota 2 and League of Legends are basically the same. However, there are numerous differences in terms of heroes, items, strategies, mechanics, etc. People often say that Dota 2 is more complex, while League of Legends is easier for newbies. Also, Dota 2 is much faster.
Question: Why does Dota 2 pay so much?
Answer: The reason why Dota 2 prize pools are so high is because of the community involvement. Valve creates virtual booklets called Compendiums for its larger events. A part of Compendium sales would then go to the event’s prize pool. In a way, the community is sponsoring Dota 2 professional scene.
For me, Dota 2 is one of the best games ever made. The best thing about it is that no matter how much you play, you will always make mistakes. It is like a game of chess where you have to predict opponents’ movement to win.
Valve has done a great job of adding new content over time making the game feel fresh even in 2022. If you have some spare time, and want to try something new, I recommend that you give Dota 2 a chance. Keep in mind that the game can be very addictive, so make sure your schedule is free for the upcoming period!