The MOBA, or multiplayer online battle arena, is the biggest genre in PC gaaming, if not the biggest genre in gaming as a whole right now. The most popular competitive video games in the world (namely, Dota 2 and League of Legends) are both MOBAs, and with MOBAs continuing to grow, people who want to enter the scene may be wondering where to start.
That’s what this article is for!
The OG. Defense of the Ancients started out as a mod for Warcraft III, and birthed the MOBA genre. Dota later spawned DotA, or Dota Allstars. That’s what we’ll be talking about here, as it was the most influential. DotA has since inspired a number of other titles, including an official, Valve-funded sequel and the other games in this article. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of this old mod.
- Pure MOBA. As the founder of the genre, you aren’t going to get anything “purer” than DotA.
- Completed. DotA hasn’t been updated for quite some time, since its developers went on to Dota 2, League and other titles. This means that you don’t need to worry about any big changes to the meta- other games in this list are still being updated and changed, but DotA will always be DotA.
- Will run on a potato. MOBAs are flexible, performance-wise, but on the oldest of the old PCs, DotA will run where the others won’t.
- No more support. While this is good for competitive players who don’t want the meta to change, you aren’t going to get new heroes or content updates anytime soon.
- Overshadowed by its legacy. Some loyalists remain playing DotA, but not nearly as many as the ones playing the newer titles. Coming into this one now might not be the best idea.
- Costly. You’ll need to purchase Warcraft III for this mod, since it runs from that game. It isn’t standalone or free-to-play, which can be a barrier of entry for some people.
The original DotA’s second lead developer, IceFrog, was hired by Valve to make this new game once they took a liking to the original mod. League of Legends released a bit before this (with support from other DotA devs) making these two games the fiercest competitors for DotA’s legacy.
- Free-to-play done right– all microtransactions are for cosmetic items that don’t effect gameplay. No purchasing heroes here.
- A massive competitive scene. The International is notable for regularly breaking all previous records in terms of size and funding, with the most recent breaking $18 million, becoming the largest-funded eSports prize pool of all time as of mid 2016.
- Regular updates and developer support. Valve is known for taking care of their games in the long-term, and with Dota 2, this shows.
- Fairly dense. A common issue with MOBAs is that they can be hard to get into for beginners, and compared to its contemporaries, Dota 2 is easily the most difficult.
- Slow-paced vs League and other titles.
- Smaller overall community. Dota 2 is much more focused on competitive vs casual play, and it shows.
League of Legends is a title developed by RIOT Games. The original Dota mod was created by Eul, but Dota: Allstars became the popular version created by Feak. While Feak later passed on his work to Icefrog, he also later became a part of RIOT Games, and now helps develop League of Legends.
- Fast-paced gameplay. Some like it slow, some like it fast. League games are typically not suffering from the slow pace Dotas 1 and 2 are accused of.
- Great character design, and lots of them to choose from. With the largest roster of “champions”, League has its competitors beat on this front.
- Easier for newcomers to get into.
- Free to play done badly- heroes rotate out of playability every week unless you pay up. Compared to Dota 2, this means League can be more expensive to play. Significantly, if you want to unlock everyone: with $2-7 per hero and 116 heroes unavailable at any given time, you could end up spending a lot of cash…
- Lacks competitive depth. While easier gameplay has its perks, League suffers from being less complex than Dota. Because of this, Dota 2’s competitive audience remains the biggest. Most of League is occupied by casual players.
Smite is an interesting game developed by Hi-Rez Studios. Played as a third-person action title where you control various gods, Smite has simplified, action-oriented gameplay that prioritizes reflexes, aiming and mechanical skill a lot more than other titles in the genre.
- Playable with a controller. Due to Smite’s simpler control scheme, it works just fine on controllers and is finding itself coming to consoles, which can expand the audience for MOBAs significantly.
- Well-supported and updated by its developers.
- Simplistic gameplay means you’re missing a lot of depth.
- Free to play done wrong, with a similar model to League.
- Competitive exists, but is nowhere near the size of League’s scene, much less Dota’s.
Heroes Of The Storm is Blizzard’s own attempt at a MOBA title, bringing together stars from its various properties into one game.
- Basically Blizzard Smash Bros. If you’re a big fan of Blizzard games, you’ll feel at home here.
- Super-simplified and fast-paced gameplay compared to other MOBAs.
- Blizzard keeps the game well-supported and updated.
- Competitive suffers yet again.
- Free to play done worse, with even less heroes to choose from.
Overall, what game is right for you ultimately depends on your preferences. If you want to be a bigtime pro, Dota 2 is your best bet, with League coming in a close second. These two are also the most complex. If, however, you don’t want to spend as much time learning how to play this new genre, simpler titles like Smite and Heroes of the Storm might be more to your fancy.
Finally, you might just want to play the original DotA Allstars. That’s a little bit strange in this day and age, but you do you, man.