Dota (Defence of the Ancients) is one of the most popular online games currently available, and an astoundingly simple concept. You play as one of a team of five heroes, matched against another team of five. The objective of the game is to destroy the other team’s ‘ancient’ (more or less a base).
The hero pool consists of over 100 distinct characters with their own skills, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. The battle takes place in a fantasy arena split into three paths: a top, middle and bottom lane in which computer controlled units called creeps spawn every minute, fighting to help the players. The two teams spawn at opposing ends of the map, representing the factions of Radiant and Dire respectively. Players are pitted against each other in an intense conflict over the key resources: gold to buy items to aid the fight, and experience in order to level up and learn new abilities.
Optional secondary objectives provide each team chances to get ahead of their opponents. Each also has three towers per lane, which provide protection for the owner, and a gold bonus for the other team if destroyed. In between the three lanes is a dark area of no mans land, the jungle, which spawns neutral creeps killable by either team. Finally, deep within the fog of war lies the pit of Roshan. Roshan is the toughest computer controlled unit in Dota, and can usually only be defeated by several heroes working together. yet yields a large experience and gold boost, as well as the coveted Aegis of the Immortal, an item that provides an extra life for whoever carries it.
It is the struggle over these multiple resources and objectives alongside the overarching plan to destroy the enemy that makes Dota such a compelling, experience for the player. Dota may be a game with a simple ruleset, but the real game is in the complex interaction between heroes and environment. Choices that you make within the first five minutes of a game can impact your whole team’s strategy, and lead to an early win or loss. As such, Dota is often criticized for having not so much a learning curve but a learning cliff. This is something that I can certainly attest to, even after playing nigh on 1,000 games of Dota, I’m still nowhere near being considered a great player, and I learn new tricks every single time I play.
Dota has kept me playing for the last three years simply because it does not get old. Every single game is entirely unique, not only because the heroes played by each team may change, but also the way in which the game plays out can vary wildly. I have played, and been on the receiving end of 15 minute shut-outs, when one team has completely dominated, gained a huge early advantage in both gold and experience and then just pushed it home, obliterating the other team on the way to victory.
On the other hand I have also played in intense, nail-biting matches of well over an hour long. Here the balance of the game can rest upon a single all out brawl with the opposition that can be over within seconds. Dota truly is a game of emotions. Moments of glory such as a perfectly executed gank (killing an enemy player) are matched by the dreadful feeling of helplessness when you end up facing an extremely powerful enemy hero who has just single handedly dismantled your team mates. In addition, it has kept me in regular contact with old friends from school and college, and introduced me to new people with whom I now play and chat almost everyday.
This is one of the best parts of Dota and video games in general for me. Even if I’m not playing with friends, communication and teamwork are so very crucial to winning. As such, it can be incredibly satisfying when you play well, your team plays well, and so you secure a well deserved victory. In conclusion then, Dota is a fantastically complex game that has entertained me and my mates for thousands of hours. Considering the game is free to play, I think I got my money’s worth.