Why I like DotA2 better than LoL: Lane dynamic and phase
This editorial will be part of a series of editorials that will cover the key differences between DotA 2 and LoL. It will also talk about why I personally prefer DotA 2. Please keep in mind that this is all opinion and the information regarding gameplay mechanics are explained from a general perspective.
Being a DotA player for about 5 years now, I’ve gotten into numerous arguments with friends who are hardcore League of Legends players. Recently, after being nagged to death by a friend, I decided to pick up LoL to find out why it’s currently claimed to the most played MOBA in the world. Though I can understand why LoL is currently one of the most played and watched eSports title, no matter how I hard I try, the game itself really doesn’t appeal to me much.
LoL and DotA have a shared history. The original Warcraft 3 mod was created by Eul and was later on passed down to IceFrog. Eul eventually joined Riot Games to aid in the development of LoL while IceFrog went under Valve to become the lead designer of DotA 2. Naturally, both games share some very common ground. They’re both major eSports titles, they’re both arena based games and they both share striking similarities with the original Aeon of Strife maps that started the MOBA game in the first place.
Hero/Champion roles work very differently in the two games. DotA 2 heroes tend to be a lot more versatile when it comes to roles than their LoL counterparts. This, in turn affects initial lane composition. In LoL, there is a strict conventional lane composition that majority of games, including (but not always) those played by professionals, stick to.
Top lane is usually taken by the Tank.
Mid lane is usually taken by what they call in LoL AP (ability power) casters. They are Champions that rely heavily on mana or energy. Their primary mode of damage is their skills rather than their auto-attack. They are considered the carries of the game.
Bottom lane is usually comprised of and AD (attack dmg) range and a support. The AD range relies on DPS as well as their skills depending on the Champion. This Champion will most likely be in the lane along with a Support type Champion whose skills include healing abilities or positive buffs/auras.
Very much unlike DotA2, LoL games will almost always have a Champion wandering the jungles getting buffs from neutral creeps. The jungler will farm their respective jungles and will once in awhile gank bottom lane usually at Lvl2. They are permanent roamers but area also required to participate in team clashes.
What’s the problem?
Of course, this metagame generally applies to ranked and tournament games. Normal public games can sometimes tend to mix things up a bit more. However, my problem with this lane dynamic is that each game is almost a mirror match. If you like playing tank Champions, then you will always be used to dealing with tanks early in the game; the same goes with every other Champion class except for the jungler. It doesn’t leave much room for gameplay variety. In normal public games, LoL allows duplicate heroes. So in the off chance that you just so happen to pick the same AP caster as the other team, you’ll have two of the same Champions going against each other in the same lane. Where’s the fun in going against an either better or worse version of yourself?
Another thing that bothers me is how this affects the Champion picking phase. Say, you would like to play an AP caster but another player has already chosen one. Technically, you can still pick another AP caster. However, due to the fact that this lane dynamic is wholly enforced in public games, straying away from this convention will probably have your whole team screaming racial slurs at you and possibly your mother.
However, it is important to note that the top LoL players in the world do not necessarily follow this dynamic. It is merely a general consensus.
As mentioned above, there is neither a strict lane dynamic DotA 2 players stick to nor is there one that gameplay mechanics might suggest. There are, however, some Heroes that tend to do well in certain lanes/jungle. There are some factors that play into which lane would suit best to whichever Hero.
Personal skill level
It is preferable that the Hero that takes mid lane is one that profits better from early game gold and XP. XP points are a shared feature in DotA 2, meaning the less Heroes present around a killed creep that more XP is awarded to nearby Heroes. Mid lane is usually a solo lane so whoever takes it will progress a lot faster in early game than their teammates. Top and bottom lane will depend on mid lane for ganks when their Hero is at around LVL6. Ganks from mid are technically optional but do help in setting the enemy back earlier in the game. If you are not at all confident at your skill level then mid lane is not for you.
The same applies to the jungler who is often expected to heavily support late game and gank once in awhile.
For some Heroes, it doesn’t really matter which lane you go to as long as you are confident with your skill level. However, there are some Heroes whose skill set dictates he should stick with the jungle. Again, this is optional but most knowledgeable DotA2 players will take this into consideration. The jungle isn’t just an area where the Hero farms for a couple of minutes before heading out to a lane for a gank. The jungler is also often given the responsibility to pull neutral creeps as well as stack them for himself or another Hero. The neutral creeps aren’t exactly squishy either, most Heroes can’t take on a set of neutral creeps at LVL1. It requires the right items but more importantly the correct set and use of spells.
Gaining XP from creeps in early game lane farming requires the Heroes to be in within a certain proximity. Top and bottom lanes are preferable comprised of at least one ranged hero. If, for example, the enemy team just so happens to have two long ranged Heroes versus, let’s say, two melee strength Heroes then the enemy team will end up pushing them back with auto-attack harassment hindering their farming progress greatly.
During the Hero picking phase, it’s not very wise to choose a Hero on a whim. It’s important to take into account what the other team has picked and then choosing a Hero with skills that can counter them. This also applies to the lane dynamic; if your team believes a certain Hero will take on mid then send a Hero that can counter him in the same lane.
These are strategies that are absolutely non-conventional and are very risky. These tactics are not often used but can either make or break the game. There are several different Hero combos that are known to break the lane conventions.
Why it’s awesome
Every time I play DotA2, I am presented with a lane that is completely different from the previous game I played. It’s highly unlikely to play a game that has exactly the same Heroes on either team. Though it is possible, it is still even more unlikely that these Heroes will end up in exactly the same lanes as they did the last game.
As for the Hero picking stage, teams are technically allowed to have two of the same class, hell, even three of the same sometimes. This is generally frowned upon. However, sometimes people do not really give a shit who you pick or they’ll tell you to prove that your skills are good enough to win the game despite the imbalance caused by your Hero pick. The downside in this is that if the game is lost, they’ll probably blame it on you but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This just shows that Hero compositions in teams cannot dictate the end game. It’s all about the skills, baby.
Due to the fact that the LoL lane dynamic is basically the same for every game, movement from lane to lane is very noticeable. The only Champion that can properly gank is the jungler who starts farming neutral creeps the moment they spawn at the beginning of the game. It is very common for the first kill in LoL to happen at around 5-10 minutes by the jungler. In DotA2, however, getting first blood in the first minute before the creeps even spawn is sometimes expected. This, again, plays into why I do not like the lane dynamics of LoL. It’s the same for every game, it’s predictable. At least with DotA2, when you see them pick Juggernaut, you’re not quite sure whether to go past your tower or not when the game starts.
As for farming the lane, it is definitely a lot more challenging to last hit creeps in DotA2. This is mostly due to the fact that Champion spells in LoL doesn’t cost much mana which, coupled with low cooldowns, makes them spammable. In DotA2, Hero spells often take up more than half the mana bar. Sven or Sandking’s stun, for example, takes up nearly 3/4 of the mana bar during early levels. Major skills like this are simply not used to aid in a Hero’s farming. Their availability almost dictates your survivability within the lane as they can be used either offensively or defensively. You are better off saving your mana for an attempt to gank and though mana can be restored by using mana potions or returning to base, those things still cost time and gold. In LoL, players can spam their skills to either last hit or to harass the enemy which also makes kill attempts a lot more rare but predictable. If, for example, your Champion has a blink ability, it simply won’t cost as much as mana as it would in DotA2. You can spam all the skills you want and still get away when they try to gank you.
LoL perhaps makes up for this by the lack of a courier unit as well as a Teleportation Scroll. The courier in DotA 2 makes it somewhat acceptable for you to fall behind in a lane due to constant gold generation. Stay back, don’t harass, don’t die and you’ll eventually get whatever item you’re saving up for without having to go back to the base to get it. In LoL, there is no such thing as a courier and neither does it have an inventory where you can purchase items while you’re in the lane so you can leave them at the base. However, when you die you do not lose gold. You only lose time as opposed to DotA2 where you lose time and gold. Though dying in the hands of your enemies still does put the enemy team a step ahead, you, as a Champion, don’t really lose much.
Check out PCGmedia in the next following days for the next installment of “Why I like DotA2 better than LoL” which will cover the map, denying, items, teamfights and ganking.