Tuesday, June 26, 2012
From Legends to Ancients
I have returned time and again to the topic of League of Legends, and its no surprise - I have been playing the game consistently for the past three years. While the time I spent in World of Warcraft is still my biggest achievement/shame, I am quickly amassing an impressive amount of time in this competitive environment. While all of this practice certainly gives me an edge in LoL, my expectations and play patterns are severely hampering my exploration of DotA 2. When making the move from one game to the other, I find it hard to tell the difference between personal taste and poor game design.
This biggest difference I have seen thus far between the two games is readability. Trying to glean information quickly and efficiently in this new game system is instantly frustrating. Character health bars seem to fade into that of minions, making it difficult to spot heroes in the bunch. The detail and size of the minions make this differentiation no easier. DotA 2 uses a relatively dark and mellow color pallet as well. While League of Legends is flashy, giving characters bright clothing and flashy ability effects, DotA 2 is dim, even in daylight, and character abilities seem to blend in with your own.
I want to immediately criticize DotA 2 for obfuscating their game, as though they intentionally hid important elements from new players to sharpen their difficulty curve. But then again, have my eyes simply adjusted to to League of Legends? When DotA players first play League of Legends, are the colors blinding and chaotic? Does the game suffer the same readability issues?
These same questions arise around core gameplay features. DotA 2 is a game of extreme punishment. Make a small error and your enemies will make you pay dearly. It seems as though all characters are incredibly lethal, shattering health bars in seconds. As a result, stuns are far more deadly. If you get caught behind enemy lines, there is little hope for escape. This might make the game feel more "competitive", "serious", or "hardcore" to some players. To me it seems unnecessarily unforgiving. The feels like it moves from a game of tag to a game of Russian roulette twenty minutes in.
If this sounds like the complaint of a "noob", its because it is. While my MOBA proficiency gives me some advantages, my intimate familiarity with League of Legends cripples my ability to look at this game free to bias, at least for now. Instead of enjoying the opportunity to play an exciting new game, I find myself trudging up a steep hill in a strange land far from home.