Concerns/Impressions - Please Tell Me I'm Wrong
LONG POST (Looks Longer Than It Is [Okay Maybe Not]):
As a person who has never played the original DOTA (Warcraft 3 wasn't one of my most played games back then), and having played a number of DOTA type games in the past half decade (Heroes of Newerth, League of Legends, the frankly horrible Rise of Immortals, etc.), there are several things that don't make sense to me from a basic game flow / design standpoint, along with things I do like very much, which while not a long list, it's often true there's more to explain about what is disliked than what is liked.
What I Like:
1.) The courier.
I like it, it makes getting items from the store a snap and you don't have to leave the battle.
2.) The map. It has verticality, destructibility, a giant river in the middle which slows progress which can be strategically jumped over. I love the map, it is excellent.
3.) The UI and Voice Callouts.
The top portion of the UI is great, showing all the hero faces, colors, and death timers, and hearing each hero callout what they're doing, and reporting about battle situations is great and other MOBAs could learn from this.
4.) The Heroes
Great variety, some really cool choices, very different than the rest of the DOTA-likes out there.
What I Don't Like (and this unfortunately overpowers the things I do):
1.) The secret store.
I really don't like this at all. It's like the real store, only with more expensive stuff and positioned right next to Grandmother's House! It's busywork for no discernible reason other than A.) it puts heroes in danger by entering the jungle to do their shopping and much more importantly B.) the original DOTA had secret shops.
2.) The stash.
First, the stash is a great idea. Second, when at the store itself, buying items sometimes results in them being put in your stash and not your inventory despite having the required space. Don't forget!
3.) Minion denials.
Again, this is busywork. Rather than focus on wiping out the enemy, added to a hero's to-do list is the slaughter of friendly troops. First, what kind of commander slays their own soldiers, and second, why ask a player to waste time on this? The activity comes off as purely spiteful and was no doubt devised by original DOTA players making use of WC3's attack target function and was never removed.
4.) The UI.
League of Legends did something really cool in that they put hero faces on the Minimap. They also, instead of just saying so-and-so killed so-and-so for X gold, will show a popup in green or red, showing a successful friendly or enemy kill and against whom. Easy, instant information.
5.) Hero visibility.
Namely, they aren't visible. Some are more visible than others, big horses stamping around, etcetera, but the reason they aren't as visible as they could be is not only due to their comparatively diminutive size (Sniper is tiny, unobtrusive, yet extremely deadly), but DOTA 2's rather excellent graphics. Games like LoL and Newerth very deliberately use Warcraft 3 graphical stylings, which puzzlingly is something DOTA 2 decided not to. Heroes are larger in these games, minions are not the muddy brown and green we get in DOTA, and they are often colored to contrast strikingly with the background. These games also show enemy mana bars below their health, which is something no minion possesses, making it easy to pick a hero from a swarm of minions. Even in other MOBAs you can lose track of events in the chaos of big battles, but events conspire in DOTA 2 to make this even easier to do. Worse, most weapon impacts lack audible punch, making it less instantly recognizable that you've pulled off your move. Probably, to call on League again, some of the most recognizable sounds are Garen's charge, which bathes him in a golden glow with the loud SHIIIING sound of a drawn sword, with a huge magic sword falling from the sky to explode on the enemy when it hits, and Tryndamere's rage ability, similar to the warrior class in World of Warcraft, which causes him to emanate a dangerous red aura which thrums a low vrrrrrmmmmm sound. Very visible, unmistakeable. Even Tryndamere's sword makes a unique impact, an extremely heavy slashing sound when he brings it down for repeated critical hits. You can hear it, you can see it, and you can see he has a red rage bar below his health which sets him apart from the minions.
6.) The announcer.
Lots of initially humorous voices call out information, like Unreal Tournament's announcer (why?) shouting First Blood! Double Kill! And Portal's GLADOS saying “silenced” when you can't cast a spell. At first took me repeated presses of the button to even figure out what it was saying.
7.) Hero movement.
Excuse me while I turn around. One moment. Almost there. This certainly stems from DOTA's RTS roots, most similar to how the rickshaw unit (on wheels and with a guy pulling it) in Total Annihilation: Kingdoms had to wheel around, and is worlds apart from standard aRPG gameplay where the hero moves when and where you tell them to. Which has been around since Diablo I and copied thousands of times because it's _worth copying_.
8.) Unit selection.
It is entirely possible to select the courier or the dangerously incoming Sand King, and realize you can't move because you haven't selected your character. In a game where the only character you can control is your hero. Back we go to Warcraft 3's dated mechanics. Easy to avoid, but it doesn't make sense. Similarly, to use a potion you must click it twice, alternatively clicking it and then clicking yourself. Why? Can you use a potion on someone else? No? Well then does that not warrant this item being an exception to the point and click rule?
9.) Quickslot items.
Items are placed on hotbars, which are traditionally accessed in games A through Z by pressing the number keys, but DOTA has decided to link these not only to an arbitrary string of letters which begins with Z and ends with N, but you'd better be sure you've actually pressed Enter to chat before pressing any of those letters lest you activate an item accidentally. Considering the function keys still select heroes and the number keys are still free, I don't know why they did this except Warcraft 3 did it to make room for unit group commands.
It feels to me like DOTA 2 may have forgotten some of the things that made Warcraft 3 great in the first place while not realizing the RTS and MOBA genres in general have made dozens of advancements it failed to pick up on. It has way too many callbacks to the older portions of Warcraft, from the lack of information in the UI to dated gameplay features. These can certainly be gotten used to and help set it apart from similar titles (being the sequel to the one, the original, MOBA). I like how it looks, how dynamic the world is, the freshness of it, in theory.
In practice, battle becomes a muddled mess of samey colors and underwhelming spell effects that typically can't touch Arthas' distinctive beam of holy light which issued whenever he healed a unit, first seen in _2002_. Doing simple tasks involves needless micromanagement, the courier is missing a much needed “Just Do It” button to replace the six it already has. You try to buy an item from the secret shop and it says Requires Secret Shop. Well go to the secret shop you ridiculous flying donkey; you're not going to find that sword under my bed.
To me, this isn't the same kind of satisfaction at playing a suitably complex old-school RPG or roguelike in comparison to the very simplistic titles coming out today, even though I enjoy both in equal measure. It's not like being able to apply a cream pie to your face or turn a medusa to stone by showing it a mirror in Nethack, DOTA 2 seems to incorporate complexity for the sake of it, failing to innovate more thoroughly because to draw inspiration from modern titles would mean to expose itself to even more direct competition with those same games. I don't know how this will change in the future, or what updates DOTA will implement in the coming months, but for now, what is fun about the game is frequently marred by what is frustrating and unnecessary. In short, other MOBA games are about the strategic implications of sending two groups of heroes at each other to see who wins in a direct contest of strength. DOTA 2 feels like it wants you to fight more with your worldly possessions, where you put them and how they're shipped, how your character traverses the battlefield, and the enemy team's purses as you kill your own minions for sport rather than crossing swords with your opponents.
I don't want to feel this way. I learned my friend had 6 beta keys and persistently asked to have one, but this isn't nearly as fun as I thought it couldn't fail to be. I want to be proven wrong and learn how to get past these things, but I'm not sure DOTA is catering to players like me.