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Now that the de facto sequel to Defense of the Ancients has finally been released, it’s time to decide which of the many multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games is the true successor to Dota.
When it was first released in 2003 by Mapmaker Eul, Dota was little more than a Warcraft III translation of the Aeon of Strife StarCraft map. Created with Blizzard’s official world editor, Defense of the Ancients quickly gained popularity and reached a crossroad—the launch of The Frozen Throne expansion. When Eul discontinued development of the map, other modders took his place by creating their own variants. The most popular version, DotA Allstars, is what most people now recognize as Defense of the Ancients.
Characterized by a map with three main paths—lanes—MOBA games feature never-ending waves of AI-controlled creeps that march across the map. Players usually control a single unit and kill minions, towers, neutral monsters, and other players for gold to buy items that strengthen their hero. The game ends when a team’s main base is destroyed.
Many of the original contributors to Dota have since moved on to work on games that have been inspired by the mod. Steve ‘Guinsoo’ Feak, the creator of DotA Allstars, joined Dota-Allstars.com. Creator Steve ‘Pendragon’ Mescon at Riot Games to create League of Legends. IceFrog, the mod’s final superstar developer was the driving force behind Valve’s Dota 2.
When a few quick spells can mean your death, posturing and positioning is incredibly important.
Dota 2 isn’t just a sequel to the original in name. Its hero list, map design, items, and more are all pulled directly from Dota. After a prolonged trademark battle between Valve and Blizzard, IceFrog’s Dota 2 has become what many players see as the true sequel to Dota.
The ability to deny creeps is a key mechanic in Dota and Dota 2.
It has also gained a reputation for being an unabashedly hardcore game. Mechanics like creep denial—killing a friendly minion to deny your opponent gold—are carryovers from the mod. In fact, many of Dota’s defining mechanics, which existed only because of the limitations of the WarCraft III mapmaking tool, are still a large part of Dota 2.
That’s not to say that this is just a port of the mod, because it isn’t. Dota 2 is Valve’s attempt to modernize Dota. Gone are the dated graphics, makeshift hero selection menus, and all of the random quirks that come with being a mod to a game that’s over a decade old.
Detailed tutorials, user created cosmetic items, and an amazing replay and spectate function are just some of the reasons that Dota 2 has a huge fan base. Amazing developer support in the form of official tournaments and constant updates doesn’t hurt things either.
League of Legends
League of Legends is one of the most successful PC games of all time. With Riot reporting over 500,000 peak concurrent users in North America and Europe alone, the game has taken the industry by storm. Personal streamers regularly draw tens of thousands of views whereas tournament streams can stretch past a million unique viewers.
Team fights are usually messy and long.
Despite being based on the original Dota, Riot has made some major tweaks to the standard MOBA formula. Opting to remove many of the mechanics that make Dota and Dota 2 so difficult—namely creep denial—has made LoL a game that people have flocked to.
With simpler gameplay that makes the game easier to learn, League of Legends provides an alternate experience to Dota 2. Manually targeted spells—skill shots—are the highlight and many champions are able to fill multiple roles. Pushing buttons is encouraged by larger mana pools with lower mana costs.
This flashy ultimate shows off the particle effects in LoL.
The overall League of Legends experience is less punishing and more casual. With a rotating roster of free champions and a store filled with items available for purchase with in-game currency or a real-world equivalent, you’ll start the game with only a small slice of the larger pie.
We honestly don’t think there’s any way to definitively state that either game is better than the other, but we do know that if you’re looking for the complete MOBA experience, League of Legends and Dota 2 are your best bets.
League of Legends is a modern adaption of Defense of the Ancients whereas Dota 2 is the original game polished to a blinding shine. If you’re looking for the most authentic experience then stick with Dota 2. If however, you’re fine dealing with a champion roster locked behind a paywall—with your choice of time or money—then League of Legends is probably the better choice for beginners and more casual players.
Aside from the difference in appearance and monetization, both of these free-to-play games are worth playing. Both have the same underlying gameplay with a few tweaks that change how the games feel. Dota 2 matches are usually more frantic with battles ending in mere seconds. League of Legends matches usually start slow and escalate as the game continues.
LoL and Dota 2 aren’t the only MOBAs in town. There are an incredible array of games that weren’t really in the running for the title of true successor to Dota, but are still enjoyed by thousands of players around the world.
Heroes of Newerth was quick to try and replace the original DOTA
Heroes of Newerth is another MOBA built in part by DotA Allstars contributors. Released in 2010, it acted as a stepping stone for the MOBA community which quickly abandoned the game for League of Legends and Dota 2. Initially available as a retail product, it went free-to-play in 2011. At its core the game is Dota with some slight modifications. Dated graphics, confusing menu systems, and a diminishing community are some of the reasons that HoN isn’t popular today.
Smite is a third-person MOBA
Smite is a unique take on the genre with the traditional RTS-style birds-eye view removed in favor of a third-person perspective. Basic attacks and spells require precise aim which makes Smite play more like a shooter than most MOBAs. It’s one of the more radical evolutions of Dota, but it just hasn’t had as much of an impact as Dota 2 and LoL have. Hi-Rez Studios is still actively developing Smite and moving the game in the right direction.
One of the more obscure veins of the MOBA genre is represented by Bloodline Champions which removes the lanes, creep waves, towers, and minions to opt for a World of Warcraft arena-style PvP. You control a champion with spells that need to be manually targeted and fight in 3-on-3 battles. It’s a significant departure from Dota and lacks the depth of most MOBA games.
But these games are only the tip of the MOBA iceberg. The original Dota has inspired many other MOBAs such as the Lord of the Rings-based Guardians of Middle-earth, the upcoming DC universe-themed Infinite Crisis, and more.
Do you have a favorite MOBA? Let us know in the comments below!