The MOBA Dilemma

The MOBA Dilemma

One of the first chats I ever posted was my ‘Confessions of a DotA-holic‘ post back in July 2013. The post was a love letter describing my passion for the game. While I’m still passionate about DotA, I haven’t played it for months. Instead, Blizzard’s “Heroes of the Storm” has replaced that void. While I believe HotS is a very well-made MOBA, I still believe that DotA is the better game. So, why am I playing HotS exclusively over DotA?

I’ve put a lot of thought into the “why” of it all. I wasn’t even sure of the “why” for a while– it took a long time to realize the real reason I found myself playing HotS over DotA.   Simply put, HotS is easier to play.  It’s easier to learn, has shorter games, and is far more friendly for any would-be new players. While I’m not one to be intimidated by the difficulty of a game, it’s not much fun to constantly play a team-based game with random delinquents on the internet.  That’s what it really comes down to for me.

Attempting to find friends to pick up or play HotS is a far easier sell than trying to get a new person into DotA. DotA is almost impenetrable for a new player – having a mentor to ease you into it is almost required. I’ve found while playing HotS that I actually have friends I can play with.  With DotA, however, it typically came down to me being a masochist and playing by myself, with a team of randoms, being abused by two out of four teammates each game. Playing games with friends is always a more enjoyable experience!

The newest addition to the HotS roster; the Butcher from Diablo!

Thus, I find myself torn. On one hand, there are some mechanics in HotS that I absolutely abhor, but on the other, I find myself enjoying it far more than DotA. Aside from the availability of friends to play with, HotS is a lot less of an investment than DotA. Game sessions run far shorter, with games ranging from a quick ten minutes to prolonged bouts that last about 30 minutes. DotA, on the other hand, is a guaranteed 30 minute minimum.  Heck, I’ve had DotA games that have lasted well over an hour before!

HotS isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, though.  The HotS community is a tad better than DotA’s, but you still run into the ever prevalent know-it-all that will harass you all game.  I’ve always found it best to never engage with these people (but I still do occasionally!).

Additionally, HotS puts their heroes behind a pay wall, or time wall as I like to put it. When you first start, the only heroes available to you are whichever heroes are free that week.

Many of Blizzard’s characters make an appearance, even the Lost Vikings from one of Blizzard’s first games!

You will need to unlock these heroes with real money or gold that you earn from doing daily quests, leveling up, and just playing matches. This is an unfortunate free-to-play style of micro-transactions – I believe that putting heroes behind this wall creates a ‘pay to win’ atmosphere in the MOBA scene, as counter-picking heroes in draft mode is an important strategy that is not possible unless you’re willing to pay a lot of money or time to unlock all heroes. The pricing for said heroes isn’t great, either.

However, besides my hatred of the gated hero system, the overall game is a masterpiece. The graphics and animation are colorful and attractive. Each hero’s voice-over sounds genuine and fits with the theme of each character. Plus, I love playing some of my favorite characters from Blizzard’s games. The simplified cosmetic system gives you something to look forward to as you level up your characters, though the pricing on the cosmetics seems to be a bit steep.  Keep in mind, though, cosmetics are entirely optional. Besides, the master skins are good enough if you manage to unlock them!

Fans of DotA would argue that HotS isn’t as complex. I’ll agree– you definitely lose some depth without an item system or independent leveling system. However, it can be argued that the lack of these features allows one to focus more on positioning and team fighting, and less on the nit-picky item meta-game. As a fan of both games, I see the advantages of both systems.

DotA 2 has more heroes than HotS and they’re free!

Fortunately for the consumer, both of these games are free to play. HotS just recently came out of its closed beta phase and is now officially released! Just keep in mind that, unlike Dota, where every hero is available from the start, not all HotS characters will be available when you first start playing.

There has also some exciting news recently regarding DotA 2, with Valve announcing Dota 2 Reborn.  Valve is completely revamping the Dota 2 engine, with a new UI framework and even custom games! If you recall, the MOBA genre was created in the custom game environment for Warcraft 3. I’m excited to see what kind of custom games the community will come up with this new revamp (well, besides tons of footman frenzy and tower defense maps).

I have found that I prefer HotS’ shorter games and minimized complexity over DotA, for the primary reason that it has created a situation where it is far easier for myself, individually, to find other friends to play with. The MOBA genre is extremely team-centric, and playing with friends makes the game far more enjoyable. For this reason, despite my reservations of the game, I find HotS to be a more enjoyable game.

Which MOBA do you prefer?

The wife will understand if I queue for one more game, right?

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