I grew up playing League of Legends as my main MOBA of choice, but I was eventually dragged into the world of Dota 2 by my Filipino friends in 2015.

I got hooked on the thrilling esports moments and incredible outplays throughout the years. My friends and I have spent countless hours dissecting the True Sight documentaries just to test out the same game-breaking moves in our own public matches.

But after years of trying to learn the Valve MOBA to perfection, I can honestly say that I’ll never be good at Dota 2, and here’s why.

A noob-tastic review of Dota 2

The gameplay is way more than just point and click

Dota 2 Roshan's Greed loading screen
Credit: Valve

Dota 2 is one of the deepest games in terms of how much players need to assess gameplay over an extended amount of time. While other games like FPS’s and fighting games are always played with a time limit, MOBAs will only finish once a base falls.

Dota 2 sports a bigger map with limited teleporting compared to League of Legends so the game has a painstaking process of resource and economy management. From the gold and experience you get from killing creeps, camps, and opponent heroes, you invest in the best items possible.

By the late game, things start to change drastically for both teams. Dota 2 has an obsession with ascension, giving players trillions of ways to go about besting their opponents.

For essential items, teams can purchase Black King Bar, Lotus Orb, and Linken’s Sphere to deter any incoming debuff. There’s also a long list of tier 5 neutral items that players can pick up from creep camps after the 60-minute mark.

Heroes also get stronger and stronger with talent trees that provide amplified stats on either skills or attributes. Players also have the ability to prolong engagements with the Buyback option, which truly matters in the late game where death timers reach minutes.

Looking at the map, you have bounties, runes, and outposts to capture as well as Roshan who provides the Aegis of the Immortal — an item that resurrects a fallen hero to full health and mana — and some cheese.

Needless to say, Dota 2 doesn’t shy away from giving limitless opportunities to players and teams. With no real time limit to the game, you’ll experience thrilling wombo combos and defiant item builds in every match that you play.

Going seven years strong as a casual Dota 2 player, I’m still dumbfounded at a lot of things that I see. It might even take another seven years for me to nail everything down to a tee.

The micro-mechanics are harder than you think

Muerta new Dota 2 hero
Credit: Valve/Wykrhm Reddy

Dota 2 prides itself on making each and every action you make a definitive one. With clunky turn rates and a daunting fog of war, the game sides with those who are mechanically gifted and I am not one of those people.

A diehard support player in all aspects of gaming, I thought the position 5 role was basically “heal and block damage,” but in Dota, it’s terribly more than just that. You’re in charge of smokes, wards (both observer and sentry), dusts, stacking camps, pulling waves, and saving your reckless carry.

It takes accuracy and consistency to actually do well in Dota 2. Even if you pull creeps into a camp, you still need to last-hit everything to earn gold, all while you’re keeping a close eye on whether your carry is about to die or not.

While it may be a handful at first, it truly becomes a triumph when you’re able to check off all the boxes of being a contributing member of the team. You’re giving vision, calling MIAs, grabbing bounties, and essentially taking control of the game.

Compared to my previous LoL experience, I’d say that Dota 2 just feels a bit more drawn out in how it gets everything done. From ultimate cooldowns to hero projectile speeds, it’s just not part of my natural gaming style to deal with slower-paced micro-mechanics.

Smurfs are ruining the learning experience

Smurfs in Dota 2
Credit: Valve, Peyo

The worst thing about Dota 2 is that there’s no free platform for you to effectively learn the intricacies of the actual game.

Valve does offer Dota Plus — a paid subscription service that shares in-depth analytics on things like team compositions and creep pulls — but you can’t expect a beginner to buy into such a service without having a solid grasp on how to play Dota 2.

This is where your more experienced friends come in. With a mentor at play, you could learn a lot of things such as builds and laning positions, but it comes at a cost.

Even if you go on to play with friends with a similar skill level, you’re bound to find an Immortal player disguised as a clueless Guardian in the queue. With Dota even pairing grouped lobbies together, your learning troop will encounter squads of smurfs who immediately counter-draft your try-hard Sniper pick and just chain stun you to oblivion. At the end of every loss, the question truly is, “how can I get good when everybody else is already good?”

Facing a limitless skill ceiling with no way to truly climb above it, casual Dota 2 players like myself will forever stay at the bottom of the barrel.

The game keeps changing

As someone who’s played the game for a few years now, the game painfully punishes those who don’t keep up with the times. Though most free-to-play games add new concepts to keep things fresh, Dota 2 over-delivers with innovative changes that alter the entire game.

Getting a game-changing patch every few months, a player will experience different kinds of Dota in just a year. I’ve seen the removal of the shrines, the moving of the outposts, and the introduction of neutral items throughout my playing time, and it’s honestly intimidating to understand the game’s meta.

In the Mistwoods patch, players got their hands on the hero Hoodwink and the aforementioned Aghanim’s Shard. With each hero getting a new tweak with the Shard, you’re bound to get lost when, for example, a Lich player suddenly unleashes an icicle out of nowhere.

While the patches are adding new content and gameplay for fans and pro players, I feel that casual players who are still trying to learn everything are left with another game to lose and another patch update to mindlessly read.

In my case, I may have a solid history of playing the MOBA, but whenever I occasionally return to the nonstop grind of defending the ancients, I always ask if it’s worth learning a game that’ll inevitably change in the next six months.

Teamwork is essential to the Dota 2 experience

Tundra Esports wins TI11
Credit: Valve

To end things on a more sentimental note, the quintessential reward of Dota 2 and its brain-breaking difficulty is the satisfaction of good ol’ teamwork. While I wouldn’t recommend Dota 2 as a standalone game that you pick up and learn by yourself, I do recommend it to players who are looking to drag their friends into a worthwhile experience.

Since Filipinos grew up in internet cafes with the original DotA, Dota 2 was an upgrade that allowed young local teenagers to venture into a deeper, more fleshed-out game that fulfilled that need for a neverending expansion, and I’ve been lucky to be a part of it.

Even with new online friends that I made throughout the COVID epidemic, Dota 2 was a standout topic that had us queuing together and even organizing private lobbies against other acquaintances. Though only a few of us were actually good, Dota 2 makes you feel like a pro when you learn from your more knowledgeable teammates and apply it to your immediate gameplay.

Despite all the hardships of smurfs, updates, and micro-mechanics, everything feels worth the effort when you claim a simple victory that felt like The International for you and your teammates.

In the end, I don’t think I’ll ever end up being as good as Aliwi “w33” Omar or Topias “Topson” Taavitsainen and that’s honestly fine with me.

My main objective for Dota 2 is not the clout of being a high-ranked player with 10K+ MMR, but the instant joy that I get from powering through an unknown game space with a few of my closest buds.

Dota 2 holds a special place in my Steam library as the one game that will always deliver a heartbreaking loss or a heartwarming victory on any given day.

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