‘DotA 2’ rebounds with new patch


Photo Courtesy of DotA 2

The Defense of the Ancient All-Stars 2 game has a new patch 6.84 update arriving just in time for the professional gaming tournament called The International in Seattle.

By Colin McInerney

“DotA 2” is one of the most intricate video games on the planet. Originally conceived as a modification of Blizzard’s “WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne” as “Defense of the Ancients All-Stars,” Valve Corporation eventually bought the rights to the “DotA” name and hired the modification’s active designer, IceFrog. The game continuously receives balance updates and tweaks, and with the International 2015 tournament in August, the 6.84 patch breathes some much-needed life back into the metagame.

The original “DotA,” which came out in 2003, inspired the entire Action Real-Time Strategy genre, spawning similar titles “League of Legends” and “Heroes of Newerth.” In an effort to promote the new game, Valve announced the beta of “DotA 2,” a perfect remake of “DotA All-Stars,” alongside a new tournament called The International. The International was intended to legitimize “DotA 2” as an e-sport, bringing organizations from across the world to compete for a $1.6 million prize pool, with $1 million going to the first-place recipient.

The International has since become a yearly event, with last year’s tournament drawing a prize pool of approximately $10.9 million, and the majority being contributed by users via in-game purchases in the otherwise free game. The prize pool for the International 2015 is at $6 million, as of press time, with the tournament’s grand final on August 8. Stretch goals have been announced for up to $15 million.

With the International growing near, the release of the 6.84 patch on April 30 gives professional players time to familiarize themselves with the changes to the patch. However, before the changes can be covered, new readers will need a crash course in “DotA 2.”

This is where players come in. Players pick from a pool of 110 heroes, with five on each team fulfilling different roles. The general idea is to kill enemy Creeps to earn gold and experience, push the Creeps forward, destroy buildings and eventually the enemy’s Ancient. Throw on at least four abilities per hero, more than 100 different items and different play styles between players and heroes, and suddenly the game becomes enormously complex. A professional DotA player tends to have at least 10,000 hours logged in-game.

The meta-game of “DotA 2”—the active heroes and items picked—changes very frequently, especially when new patches occur. This can be for better or worse. In the case of 6.84, it was easily the latter. Professional games tend to consist of heroes picked in the “pub” or public meta due to their raw power. These include Juggernaut, Troll Warlord and Sniper, all of whom have abilities that augment their normal attack, making them generally uninteresting to watch and play.

Update 6.84 adds a plethora of new items, many of them spell-based heroes, seemingly in an effort to pull those heroes to the forefront of the damage-dealing heroes. This has been reflected in the professional games of late with heroes Earthshaker, Winter Wyvern and Zeus—who are all spell-oriented—being picked more frequently.

If there were a time to get into “DotA 2,” the time is now. The professional scene is more interesting than it has been in months, and the new items and hero changes leave plenty of room for experimentation. However, new players should be cautious for a few reasons.

The primary concern for new “DotA 2” players should be the game’s complexity, with a steeper learning curve than anything most gamers have faced. The community can also be toxic, and though Valve has a robust reporting system in place, many players may find themselves ostracized simply for trying to learn to play. 

Getting past the learning curve and successfully playing “DotA 2” is potentially the most satisfying game-playing experience for any gaming fan. 

Each hero and play style allows players to express themselves differently. Some players will find themselves supporting their team with healing items, whereas other players will adopt a lone-wolf playing style, finding solo kills on enemy heroes and initiate team fights. These are only a few possible roles in “DotA 2,” and the rest are even more engaging and varied. “DotA 2” requires gamers to invest a lot of time—most players need to practice for thousands of hours to be considered “good.”