Let the games begin.
Okay. Firstly, a disclaimer.
This is a vastly overdone topic. The comparison between these two games – and the fanboy-ism – has been rampant ever since the League came out in ’09. Most comparisons have been heavily biased. Nevertheless, after seeing, playing, reading, discussing and generally poring over these two games, I’m going to compare them. I do not claim to be a veteran Summoner or Dota player: I’m just a guy out to have fun. Part of this comparison is written to help me pick between the two games myself. I’m going to be as fair as I can. The League of Legends Season 3 brought on some changes, which I’m going to integrate into an honest opinion. I don’t differentiate between Dota and Dota 2, because Dota 2 is a very faithful remake of the original.
This is also going to be thorough. i.e: a bit lengthy. Nevermind.
General theme and concept. Riot calls the genre “MOBA”, and the term is catching on – though personally I find “Defense of the Ancients” a much more accurate term. You have champion characters, controlled by players, trying to defend their own base and towers while breaking through the enemies’.
1) The gameplay
On the surface, the gameplay is very similar across all MOBAs. Similar concepts…similar controls, right?
Wrong. On a deeper examination, the differences between DOTA and LOL are huge and have significant impact on gameplay.
DOTA is based around unique heroes with very unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses. It’s entirely about situations. Every hero has a weakness, and often a “counterpick” (another hero) who can exploit that weakness and wreak terrible havoc. Every hero also has a situation where they are absolutely powerful. In Dota there are “right” picks for the situations and “wrong” picks. Every hero has a situation where they will shine and a situation where they will be completely and utterly raped. This leads to a very wide array of heroes, skills, playstyles and gameplay situations. This also leads to the fairly common phenomenon of one good player dominating the opposite team – if the situations are right, one particular hero in his/her element can wipe the floor. Picking the right hero (and knowing how to play it) is a major part of a Dota match.
League of Legends is based around a completely different philosophy: that every hero is as valid as another at any given time. There are no hard-and-fast wrong picks or right picks or counterpicks. Every hero is approximately as valid as the other, assuming you can play them well. Most heroes also can use entirely different builds to gain the advantage. The pwnage phenomenon is much rarer in the League than in Dota. Winning streaks can often be reversed, though not if the enemy is so overfed the difference is too high to catch up. Therefore, the responsibility for wins lies not on a single superpowered hero, but on the entire team as a whole.
This means that, within reasonable limits, you can wade into a battle with any hero and nab a victory.
Dota imposes harsh penalties for failing. Character death is punished with gold loss, widening the gap between hunter and the hunted, eventually leading to large margins between character power levels and fierce competitiveness. The League does not punish actively, which leads to more opportunities to turn the tables on a fed team. Dota punishes more, rewards more, which leads to individual players shining and single-handedly murdering the opposition or bringing disaster down on the whole teem by feeding.
This “viability” concept puts the League and Dota on different paths. Most League champions and playstyles share closee similarities and playstyles than their Dota counterparts, and generally seem to fit squarely into certain basic categories – tank, mage, carry, support, jungler. The viability also means that players are more free to pick their favourite hero compared to Dota, where the wide differences between heroes indicate that a team needs a properly balanced lineup to succeed predictably (this is not always the case). The downside is that this leads to certain heroes with similar effects on the battlefield. Eg: Darius and Garen, or Master Yi and Fiora. Then again, you have wild deviations from the norm – like Syndra and Karma.
In Dota the situation is reversed.Characters are too widely varied to be solidly cast into stereotypes. The most common clear-cut distinctions are terms like “early game hero” or “mid to lategame”. Take Razor (the Lightening Revenant) versus the Faceless Void. One shines as an earlygame bruiser, with a very powerful first skill, and after level 9-10 tends to taper off. Endgame, you mostly deal with stopping creeps and pushes and occasionally nuking heroes on low health. The Void grows slowly and moves into usefulness lategame, becoming one of the most dominant champions of the lategame. Earlygame Razor vs Void – if both players are of equal skill levels – is a very predictable outcome. Razor will win.
Lategame, Razor stands no chance.
This is an important distinction, because in the League there is no real “early game hero” or “late game hero”. All heroes, depending on build, can scale approximately as effectively as the other guy. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s there. League of Legends is based around heroes filling their spot in this metagame. Players fit squarely into certain roles – tank, support, etc – which they carry out to the best of their ability. This structure is put to good use in Riot in game balancing. Riot uses a metagame concept to balance gameplay at all levels – basically, a meta is a rough roadmap on what each role is expected to do. Winning, therefore, or getting a kill, boils down mostly to teamwork between heroes in League of Legends. Dota is more freeform in comparison, based around hard counters – individual heroes who can steamroll the opposition – leading to “wilder” games – i.e: godlike wins and humiliating losses.
Bitch please, I’m immortal – Troll Warlord, late game.
Conclusion: The League seems to promote balance and thrives on positioning and teamwork, whereas Dota thrives on imbalance and creating situations to tip the balance in your (individual) favor.
2) Items and builds
Items in the two games cannot be directly compared. Of course, there are similar items – almost everything increases either your attack, regen, movement speed etc. One thing I’ve noticed is that more Dota items tend to have active skills. Again, this add to the variety of the game. Certain items also go very well with hero abilities, often amplifying them.
3) Learning curve
There’s a major argument among players that “LoL is easy, Dota is hard”. This invariably devolves into calling League of Legends a noob game.
The learning curve in the League is indeed far less steeper than in Dota. The widely variant emergent gameplay of Dota and the active punishment seems to create a steep barrier to entry. Entry levels for the League are much lower. The absence of active punishment for death, the metagame, the viability of most heroes most of the time, means that League of Legends is easier on the individual level for beginners.
The absence of the deny mechanic in League of Legends means that play is slightly less focused on minions and more on PvP. The presence of denying in Dota makes it so that strong timing skills are neccesary to play competitively. Both games use the last hitting mechanic. The gameplay in Dota is slightly faster-paced, item-and hero-oriented, and considerably harder to pick up. The League is slower, team-oriented, easier to pick up and play.
Complexity is still there. Ganking and jungling in the two games are different. LoL has it’s bushes, which enables gankers to hide in plain sight. Literally. Dota has a complex maze of jungle paths that are ideal for popping up behind your enemy and wiping him out.
At higher levels of skill both games are about as difficult. It’s like baseball and cricket. Both involve hitting a ball with a bat. Cricket players run up and down to score runs. Baseball players use a more complicated system of bases. This doesn’t make it any easier in actual play, because whatever advantages and disadvantages you have, your opponents have them too. It’s not player-vs-game: it’s player-vs-player using the game as a platform. Dota has you denying creeps and tower kills. Your opponent has to do that, too. Take out the deny mechanic and a fight between you won’t be easier – you’ll just have more time to spend hitting each other. In both games you have heroes with murderous ulti’s – like Death Prophet, Faceless Void, Lux and Karthus – but only in Dota are they completely game-changing. As stated before, it’s easier to turn the tables in the League.
Lux and Ezreal: two ultis, focus-fire
Conclusion: The League is faster, easier to pick up – note the word “pick up” – and play. Both games require considerable skill to master due to the different gameplay mechanics. The League is more team-oriented: Dota is more centered on the single hero.
PcGamer did an article (see below). With all due respect, I don’t agree with that question at all. There’s some valid points in there, but neither are better games than each other. They’re both MOBAs on the surface, different on the inside. You can look at paper stats, but both games are just as fun to their players and a random player from Dota, say, dropping into a diehard LoL tournament will get his ass handed to him on a silver platter. And vice versa.
It’s very easy for Dota players to diss LoL for cartoonish graphics and call it “simpified Dota”, or for LoL players to mock Dota 2 for it’s unfriendly interfaces and call it stagnant gameplay. The truth is that both games are too different to be directly thrown at each other – and that players can easily enjoy both games without detracting from the experience of one.
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Thoughts on design
Defense of the Ancients, DOTA, Dota 2, Dota vs League of Legends, Dota vs LoL, game, Games, gaming, honest opinion, League, League of Legends, LOL, LoL vs Dota, MOBA, Multiplayer online battle arena, Player versus player, Riot, Riot Games, two games, videogames, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos
MOBA games have been around for a long time, but Dota 2 and League of Legends are the first to regularly pull numbers like the 329,977 concurrent users on Dota 2 and the " over 500,000 peak concurrent players every day on just the EU West" League of Legends server.
You'd think that with the sheer popularity of MOBA games, they'd be easy to break into, but that's usually not the case. Fortunately, this guide is here to help! This article should help you understand the basic concepts that are common to both games as well as the overarching differences.
Already a veteran, but looking to make the switch to LoL or Dota? Find out just what makes the two games so incredibly different.
Both Riot's LoL and Valve's Dota 2 are free-to-play games. League of Legends is available here and Dota 2 is available here .
Be warned, both of these games have pretty steep learning curves, but it shouldn't take long to grasp the basics.
- MOBA : Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, a mix between RTS and action with players controlling a single, main character.
- Creep or Minion : AI-controlled monsters that are regularly spawned to push down the various lanes.
- Farm : The act of killing minions to collect gold; also refers to the number of minions you've killed.
- Lane : The paths that run along the top, middle and bottom of the map; also refers to the minion waves in the lane.
- Laning Phase : The part of the game where players stay in their respective lanes to farm.
- Pushing : Autoattacking and using abilities to kill enemy minions more quickly which causes the lane to literally push towards the enemy turrets.
- Split Push : When one or two players split off from the team to push a lane somewhere else on the map.
- b : Back—used to tell someone to be careful, literally move back, or return to base.
- Skillshot : An ability that needs to be aimed.
- Carry : A hero or champion that is farmed or fed and can carry a team to victory.
Basic Gam eplay
If you've ever played any sort of RTS, then the basic layout of LoL and Dota should be at least somewhat familiar. These are top-down games where you control your champion or hero alongside four other players in five-on-five fantasy action.
Left-clicking selects units while right-clicking moves your character or attacks. League of Legends uses Q, W, E and R for your main abilities with D and F reserved for summoner spells. Items are assigned to 1-6 by default. Dota 2 does things a little differently with the number keys reserved for control groups—similarly to StarCraft—and Z, X, C, V, B and N bound to your item slots. Some champions with more than four abilities also require the use of other keys like D and F.
Last hitting—delivering the killing blow to a minion—is likely the most fundamental skill you'll have to learn to play either game. Last-hitting minions is your primary means of accruing gold. Wait until the minion gets low enough for you to kill it with a single attack before you hit it. You'll still earn a slow trickle of gold over time, but killing a few extra minions can be the difference between buying the item that you need or missing out on XP for nothing.
LoL and Dota 2 do differ in how they reward players for killing players. In both games, killing an enemy player grants gold to everyone who participated in the kill. In League of Legends, the amount of gold a player is worth depends on how many times they've died without getting a kill and whether or not they're on a killing spree. Dota 2 adds to this by punishing the dead player by throwing away some of the unreliable gold that they've earned. Reliable gold is awarded for kills while unreliable gold is gained over time and for killing minions.
The distinction between the two types of gold is reason enough to declare that Dota 2 is a far more punishing game. At the same time, getting kills is quite a bit more rewarding than it is in League of Legends because you gain reliable gold while causing an enemy to lose gold. Not only is it easier to make mistakes in Dota 2, but it's also harder to come back from them.
Every single match of Dota 2 or League begins with the laning phase. This generally lasts from the time that minions spawn to anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes into the game. During this time, carry characters spend their time trying to last hit as well as possible. The goal of laning phase is to earn as much gold as possible while harassing your opponent.
Battles are more frequent and abrupt in Dota 2. Once a team commits to a fight, enemies will be stunned and spells will be unleashed. It usually only takes a second or two for the first casualty in a fight. During a game, it's not uncommon to see first blood claimed only a few minutes in. Fights in Dota 2 are quite a bit like food fights—you look around to make sure no one's watching, then let loose a few cups of pudding or an Arcane Bolt or two.
League of Legends is a little less chaotic. The first kill might take place 10 minutes into a match, but that isn't to say that the game is any slower paced. You'll be casting your spells far more often than you do in Dota 2 because of LoL's emphasis on skillshots and low mana costs. Laning is usually a matter of last hitting while throwing out a spell or two to try and push your opponent out of lane.
The later section of both games is reserved for team fighting and coordinated pushes to try and reach the enemy base. As the end of the game approaches, teams usually start to stick together to knock down towers and eventually the base structures—the melee and ranged barracks in Dota 2 and the inhibitors in LoL which strengthens creep waves. Destroying the nexus or ancient is the only way to end the game without forcing a surrender vote.
Although you're given control over a single character in both Dota 2 and LoL, the two games have different ideas of what constitutes a hero or champion.
Champions in League of Legends are more likely to have skillshots and spells that can be spammed. As a result, LoL focuses not only on traditional, attack damage (AD) carries, but also on ability power (AP) carries. Unlike in Dota 2, you can buy items that increase the damage output of your abilities in LoL. The laning phase in League games usually involve quite a bit more ability-based harass. Poking your opponent with a skillshot or target spell is reasonable because of the low mana costs that accompany most spells. Every single champion in this game has four main, character-specific spells along with room for two summoner spells; Flash is one spell that you'll see all the time because it lets you jump a short distance in the direction of your cursor.
The comparatively lesser emphasis on skillshots doesn't mean that Dota 2 isn't a skill-driven game. It makes up for it by having a diverse pool of heroes that are able to build items to satisfy different roles. Dota heroes have much more explosive power with the ability to execute combos that usually leads to battles that last only a few seconds. These powerful spells come at a cost—the mana required to cast these spells is usually high—which prevents them from being used constantly. Another distinguishing factor of Dota 2's hero pool is the Invoker—playable proof of the wide variety of heroes available in the game. With a total of 14 abilities at his disposal, the Invoker is considered by many to be the most complex character in any MOBA game. Mixing and matching reagents to invoke new spells demonstrates just how versatile and varied Dota 2 heroes can be.
Next page: A quick peek at the map, metagame and itemization options in both games.
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