If you have been out of the loop in the gaming world since the days of Command and Conquer, then you may not be aware of the multiplayer online battle arena genre, or MOBA for short. Let me fill you in on the phenomenon that has forever changed the competitive gaming landscape.
The MOBA genre originally stemmed from the StarCraft custom map Aeon of Strife where players picked a character from a roster and fought computer-controlled forces in three lanes, with the destruction of the enemy team’s primary structure as the primary goal. Players earned minerals from defeating enemies which then are used to upgrade the character and make it more powerful. However the map was not a hit, and did not manage to attract a lot of players.
With the release of Warcraft III, fans of Aeon of Strife sought to recreate their favourite custom map on this new and better engine. Eul, a modder, worked on the map’s new incarnation named Defense of the Ancients and it was wildly different than Aeon of Strife. Characters now levelled up and can unlock abilities as the game goes on, and the money earned for killing enemy units can be used to purchase beneficial items.
Warcraft III’s expansion The Frozen Throne was released a year later along with a much more powerful map editor. Many other modders made their own versions of DotA, and Eul took some time off on his own version. A pair of modders named Meian and Ragn0r gathered all the heroes from the other DotA versions and made the map DotA Allstars. A player named Steve “Guinsoo” Feak made his own modifications to the said map to make it more refined and balanced, including a focus on fighting actual human players instead of AI. The map became the most successful DotA version of all, and eventually Blizzard held a DotA tournament in 2005 during their first BlizzCon event. Guinsoo later on passed the map to the modder Icefrog, and DotA’s popularity soared as new versions with more content were released.
As it was just a mod, DotA was confined to the engines of Warcraft III. Players wanted additional features that were impossible to put at the mod such as matchmaking, penalty systems, etc. With this in mind, and the explosive fame of the MOBA genre, companies sought to make their own games. Among these is Valve Software’s DotA 2 and Riot Games’ League of Legends.
DotA 2 is the stand-alone sequel to the original Warcraft III custom map Defense of the Ancients (DotA). Released on July 09, 2013 with 46 heroes initially, the game now boasts 111 heroes ported from DotA’s 112 hero roster, plus all the items with new additions with a few changes to avoid copyright issues.
League of Legends, or LoL / League, was released on October 27, 2009 and also inspired by DotA. In fact Guinsoo was among their designers. Their initial champion roster of 40 is now 128. It has the largest number of players worldwide, amassing more than 65 million (and beating other popular online games.) changes we discussed.
Both games have a layout similar to many real-time strategy games, an overhead view in the bottom right with a horizontal HUD which displays information about the selected hero / unit, the minimap, inventory, and other commands. The hotkeys for the four abilities are the same (Q,W,E,R), with a choice of changing controls in the settings.
As they are both MOBA games, the objective of each match is to destroy a primary structure in the opponent’s base (Nexus in League, Ancient in DotA 2). Heroes in DotA 2, or champions in League, have to fight alongside allies in three lanes defended by towers / turrets and where creeps / minions, or computer-controlled units, engage the opposing wave of enemy units, earn money to buy items, and clash with their human opponents. Teamwork is of utmost importance in these kind of games, as strategies like ganking (ambushing) and pushing are vital, and achieving victory
Now for their differences:
DotA & League – Heroes / Champions
- There are 10 free champions in League for everyone to use, with a rotation on a weekly basis. Playerscan purchase champions, their alternate skins, and boosts (increases gain of Influence Points) using either Influence Points which are obtained after a match, or Riot Points which are topped up using real money.
League’s champion selection screen
- In DotA 2, all heroes are available, and players have the option of using real money to buy cosmetic items for heroes and other customizations. There is also a chance to obtain said items after a match, although the chances are quite low and sometimes may require a paid key. Some sites also provide a way for players to bet on tournaments using items.
DotA 2 hero selection screen
- League champions reach a maximum level of 18 while in DotA 2 it is 25.
- DotA 2 heroes have attributes namely strength, agility, and intelligence. Each of them has a primary attribute which increases attack damage along with the other bonuses brought by the specific attribute. Some abilities and items also provide attribute increments. League does not have an attribute system, instead champions are focused on directly building up attack damage, ability power, armor, movespeed, etc. The term “attribute in this game” refers to a champion’s role (assassin, support, etc.), just like the hero roles in DotA 2.
- League champion abilities have smaller mana costs compared to DotA 2. The former encourages frequent use of skills and aggressive play in the laning phase, while in the latter you have to be mindful of your resources and utilize abilities strategically unless your hero has a way to regain used mana fast. League champions also have five abilities, DotA 2 heroes have four (with the exception of the hero Invoker who has 14) with an attribute bonus serving as a passive “fifth ability” of sorts.
League & DotA Map(s)
- DotA 2 only has one map, but supports custom maps created by players that have wildly different
DotA 2 Map
game modes reminiscent of the old Warcraft III custom map days. There are also special event game modes released only during certain holidays. League offers two game modes namely Classic and Dominion. Classic is the usual MOBA game, with three different maps that cater to different game styles (Summoner’s Rift is the name of the map that resembles DotA 2’s, and is smaller), while Dominion only has one map and focuses on faster matches and capturing important areas to damage the enemy Nexus. For this comparison, we will be talking about the Summoner’s Rift.
- League only has one item shop per team, and that is in the base where the champions spawn. All items that a player needs for the champion can be purchased there. On the other hand, DotA 2 has one for each base, two secret shops near the map’s center for both teams, and a side lane shop on the top left and bottom right areas of the map. The secret shops contain items that are needed to complete certain recipes, and cannot be purchased from the other two shops.
- Both games have an area called the jungle where neutral creeps / monsters spawn.
Summoner’s Rift in League
These are not affiliated with either team, and can be killed for extra experience and gold. There are also heroes / champions who are supposed to stay in the jungle during the early gaming phase instead of the usual lanes to earn and level up faster thanks to their skillset. In League, there are certain monsters that provide unique bonuses when slain. Also, League monsters only attack when the champion hits first, unlike in DotA 2 where the neutral creeps automatically attack a hero or unit that comes in their vicinity. This kind of neutral creep aggression allows players to perform a technique known as creep stacking and creep pulling.
- DotA 2 has Roshan, a powerful neutral creep that provides the Aegis of the Immortal upon death. This item reincarnates a player upon death, with full health and mana to boot. League has the Dragon and Baron Nashor, with the former providing the entire team the Dragon Slayer buff and the latter providing Hand of Baron. These are quite powerful bonuses which make the slaying of the two large monsters a priority for teams to gain the upper hand.
- League has the brush terrain feature, represented by foliage, which renders champions invisible when entering it. This provides players with many creative advantages to use against the enemy. DotA 2 does not have this, but instead the game allows players to destroy trees and carve out new paths to either ambush the quarry, or flee from pursuers.
- DotA 2 has power-ups that appear on the river at specified times, called runes. When picked up or stored in a bottle, it provides the hero with a limited boost like maximum movement speed, double damage, invisibility, etc., and the right rune at the right time can be quite a game changer.
League Of Legends vs DOTA – Gameplay
- League has faster animations in attacking, turning, moving, and using an ability compared to DotA 2, so a more fast-paced feel and gameplay is obvious on the former. Players who try both games may find the latter a bit lethargic.
DotA 2 laning
- DotA 2 has the concept of “denying” wherein you can slay an allied creep or structure once it is below a certain health threshold, granting the enemy hero only half the experience and of course denying them of gold. League does not allow players to deny creeps or buildings.
- Both games award the player (and the teammates who helped) upon killing an enemy hero / champion. They also keep track on how many heroes / champions the player has slain, and for consecutive kills in a span of seconds. Dying to enemy creeps / minions or towers / turrets only grant enemy heroes / champions experience and not gold, provided that they have not damaged you prior to death. However:
- In League, champions whose levels are lower than the killer, or champions who have a streak in deaths, net a smaller gold reward.
- In DotA 2, gold is split into reliable and unreliable gold. Reliable gold is earned from killing enemy heroes, couriers, and Roshan, upon the destruction of an enemy tower, and using the Hand of Midas item (kills a non-hero enemy unit and converts it into gold).
- Unreliable gold is earned from your creep kills, your starting gold, when you destroy an enemy tower personally, and the income of 1 gold every 0.6 seconds. Dying to an enemy hero costs the player unreliable gold, and the higher the level the greater amount of gold is lost.
- League offers all champions the Recall ability that allows them to teleport back to their base. In DotA 2, players have to purchase certain items, or use abilities that are exclusive to specific heroes, to return to base either instantly or after a short period of time. As it takes time to go back to base and to the lane, DotA 2 has couriers that help transport player items from the base and into the inventory.
- League has a rune system that provides champions with select augmentations. Purchased withInfluence Points, these runes are equipped on a runebook before the beginning of a match. The bonuses provided are numerous, ranging from increased attack damage, to reducing skill cooldowns, and this gives players many possibilities for rune combinations that give the bonus they need for the fight. Players can also equip Summoner Spells that give their champions two extra abilities that can be actively used in battle. Summoner Masteries are another way to provide champions with additional bonuses. Summoner Levels, which are earned after a match, determine how many spells and masteries a player can use, and their potency.
League’s rune system
League of Legends VS DotA – The Recap
DotA 2 has denying, creep pulling / stacking, tree cutting, and other strategies that help your team gain the upper hand. The heroes are mainly reliant on the player’s skills, team composition and teamwork, and the item and ability build, as there is no way to tweak their performance with runes, masteries, or any external changes. Mistakes are punished harshly here, being at the wrong place at the wrong time can cost the player quite dearly.
In League, the absence of the other game’s laning mechanics is meant to encourage aggression, along with some abilities that have low mana costs and cooldowns. The rune and mastery systems allow customization of the champion outside the game, giving way to more possible builds when coupled with in-game items, while the Summoner Spells grant players more tactical options. Of course, coordination with the team is still important. No gold is lost upon death, although waiting to respawn robs precious time that could be spent earning from killing minions. This game is the least harsh, and welcomes new players who would want to try out the waters first.
Play League if you prefer a fast-paced game with champion customization outside of a match, without being too harsh and can be quite friendly to newbies. Play DotA 2 if you want to experience more complex mechanics with no customization apart from cosmetics, albeit being more unforgiving to mistakes and has a higher learning curve.