Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blizzard DOTA according to a DOTA virgin

I’ve never played WarCraft III DOTA. I’ve never played Heroes of Newerth. I’ve never played League of Legends. I’ve had friends tell me how fun and exciting the genre is, but as someone who’s never been enticed by the RTS genre, I didn’t feel compelled to jump in. So when I sat down to play Blizzard DOTA at BlizzCon 2011, it was my first foray into the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre.

Keep in mind I’ve not played League of Legends or other similar games, so if I note something here present in other games, this is why

Blizzard’s variation of DOTA offers four different types of characters to play: tanks, damage-dealers, support, and siege. Having no familiarity with how each of the roles played (beyond the laymen’s definition of a tank absorbs damage, damage-dealer deals damage), I chose a tank character, Stitches. To be honest, I chose Stitches because I liked his character model, and he was featured in the trailer for Blizzard DOTA at BlizzCon 2010.

Stitches had four abilities. Hook, a chain and hook ability that pulled enemies to towards him. Slam, a cone-shaped shockwave of damage. Devour, an enemy-consuming ability that heals Stitches. Lastly, putrid bile, which leaves a trail of slime behind Stitches that slows and damages enemies.

The gameplay itself is similar to other MOBA games; pick a lane, defeat the stream of enemies coming to destroy your base, and eventually storm your enemy’s base to destroy it. However, I did find a few things that stood out to me. Throughout the map were mini-bosses, and when defeated, these units would fight for your team. Think of them as a powered-up version of one of your units. If the enemy team defeats the mini-boss, it resets and becomes capture-able again. You could also capture nodes around the map that provide additional units marching to your enemy’s base.

In the item shop, three stat-enhancing items were available as well as ability-modifying items. An example of such item is the Carrot on a Stick lifted from World of Warcraft. Blizzard DOTA features mounts, allowing each hero to summon a mount and move around the map faster. As it did in World of Warcraft, the Carrot on a Stick allowed you to move faster on your mount, through I’m not sure it’s the same speed increase as it was in World of Warcraft.

The last-hit concept found in other games seems to be phased out in Blizzard DOTA. Instead of receiving gold and experience for dealing the final blow to a unit, you simply have to be near the unit when it dies. This change sped up leveling and thus the game as a whole, reducing match time from 45 minutes to something closer to 20 minutes.

The game is fun, and my team won, but I have objections about the controls and the engine it’s played on. So much of the game’s controls use the mouse. Two of Stitches’s abilities, hook and slam, use directional input with the mouse, which means you can’t move Stitches while aiming either one of these two abilities. I wish there was an option to use the keyboard to move, a la WASD, instead of click to move. I also wish there was different view than isometric, where my only options are far away, or kind of close, but not close enough.

I realize gripes are a limitation of the RTS engine the game is built on, but it’s still my biggest hurdle before jumping into a MOBA. If someone can figure out a way to overcome these nuisances, they’ll pull me in like Stitches’s hook.

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