While I grew up playing League of Legends as my main MOBA of choice, I was eventually dragged into the world of Dota 2 by friends in 2015.
After almost six years of trying to learn the game to perfection, I can honestly say that I’ll never be good at Dota 2, and here’s why.
The gameplay is way more than just point and click
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.
With Dota 2 sporting a bigger map with limited teleporting compared to League of Legends, the game becomes a painstaking process of resource and economy management. With 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. With Dota 2’s obsession with ascension, there are trillions of ways to go about besting your opponents.
For essential items, teams can use Black King Bar, Lotus Orb, and Linken’s Sphere to deter any incoming any kind of debuff. As for the heroes, they 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 around three minutes.
In one of the more recent updates, Aghanim’s Shard was another pocket addition that broadened a hero’s skillset just like its more expensive, game-changing big brother, Aghanim’s Scepter.
As for environmental factors, you have bounties, runes, and outposts to capture as well as Roshan who provides the Aegis of the Immortal 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.
Even with my six years of playing the game, I’m still dumbfounded at a lot of things that I see within the game when facing new items and new heroes and it might take another six for me to nail everything down to a tee.
The micro-mechanics are harder than you think
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.
As 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 just 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 both parties to earn EXP and gold, all while you’re keeping a close eye on whether your carry is about to die or not.
While it may be a literal handful at first, it truly becomes a triumph when you’re able to hit off all the checkmarks of being a massive role on the team. You’re giving vision, calling MIAs, grabbing bounties, and essentially taking the game into your control.
With my previous, more primary 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 instinct to be patient with slower-paced micro-mechanics.
Smurfs are ruining the learning experience
With such a complex game at hand, there’s no platform for you to learn the intricacies in the actual game. Sure, it comes down to a standard objective of taking down your opponent’s base, but everything from ward placements and creep control isn’t even taught in the tutorials.
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. Since Dota 2 matches you with similar rankings, you find yourself fighting a similar Immortal player, leaving you in the dust in terms of knowledge and game sense.
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-hero Sniper 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?”
With a limitless skill ceiling and no way to truly climb it without any prior experience to other MOBAs or Dota 1, 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 in new concepts to keep everything fresh, Dota 2 over-delivers with innovative changes that alter the entire game.
With 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 just the recent Mistwoods patch, players got their hands on the new 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 definitely aiding in adding new content and gameplay for fans and even esports pro players, I definitely feel like players who are still trying to learn everything are left with another game to lose and another patch update to mindlessly read.
For my case, I may have a solid history in playing the MOBA, but whenever I try to occasionally return to the nonstop grind of Dota 2, 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
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 just pick up and learn by yourself, I do recommend it to players who are looking to drag their friends into a worthwhile game.
With Filipinos growing up in internet cafes and playing the original Dota, Dota 2 was an upgrade that allowed young teenagers to venture into a deeper, more fleshed-out game that fulfills that need for a neverending expansion. and I’ve been lucky to be a part of it.
Even with new friends that I made in 2020, Dota 2 was a standout topic that had us queuing together and even organizing private lobbies against other acquaintances. Though only a few of my friends are 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 friends.
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.