Ah, DotA, I missed you so… How long has it been? What have you been up to? New clothes you say? Oh, well, wanna come over, get them off and study your body?
Excellent. Another rehash (because “copypasta” seems to offend some people, and I am nothing less than a gentleman) of the five versus five mechanics on three corridors. We’ve got towers, waves of monsters that constantly want to push the front, assassins hidden in forests, neutral monsters, the whole shebang. With the fundamental difference… nah, I’m kidding, there’s no difference from an objective format standpoint.
Different hero roster, other abilities – sure thing, other items – no doubt. But it’s basically the same game, plus an over-the-top cartoonish façade. The rules that were bent were bent to lower the difficulty, and what sets LoL apart from the rest of the clones is the easing out of many occupations in order to attract newcomers / people who consider Heroes of Newerth or DotA too fast / hardcore.
That and the fact that League of Legends is more or less free. I say more or less because it uses that typical free-to-play system through which you can pay in order to have access to elements and heroes for which the rest of us have to farm for a while. Plus the alternative skins for the champions you own.
To be fair though, League of Legends didn’t copy anyone. The concept of having a standalone DotA is out there for over 4-5 years and it was to be expected for it to be materialized into one or more titles that can snatch a buck or two. And I think it’s also the first such title I heard would be made.
League of Legends’ merit rests on one hand on Guinsoo’s contribution (the guy who handled DotA before passing the torch to IceFrog) and on the other in its fairly more softcore nature compared to that of the competition (HoN). And the fact that you can play League of Legends without paying a dime matters quite a lot too. Moreover, what items to buy and how to combine them is only a challenge to high-end players – up until a pretty gritty level, most people use the recommended items, obtainable through nothing more than a click in the in-game shop. The learning curve is very tolerant and even without going through the game’s tutorial, your teammates can explain everything you need to know in about five phrases.
On the other hand, this soft approach through a slower, simpler and (sadly) slightly unbalanced game has its disadvantages. First of all, there’s no fixed roster. If, say, you didn’t pay any money for the all-hero version, you’ll have to farm points until you can buy every type you need. So when you haven’t bought (or gained) any heroes , you have to settle for the handful of random champions unlocked for free every week.
Then there’s the simplified tactical aspect. In DotA (and later in HoN), the teams built their own hero patterns depending on the contribution of each of them, the need to have initiators, disablers, carry, „forestmunchers”, a certain spell in a certain moment etc. In LoL, on the other hand, you won’t see these formats. Well, yeah, sure, the competition isn’t that tight and League of Legends may not even need this administrative dimension for the team. But when it’s totally lacking, individual play is encouraged, the matches become somewhat chaotic and the rewards are slimmer – which is pretty problematic in a team game.
Whoever has a vague idea about what micromanagement, distributive attention or controlling more than one unit at any given time will ask: „How can you make DotA easier?”.
Simple. First of all, take out denying. In League of Legends you’re no longer busy ruining your enemies’ experience and income flow for the plain reason that you can’t attack your own creeps anymore. The effort put into this activity will thus be divided between holding or pushing the front and developing your own hero. That’s because there are a lot of heroes and cumulative abilities that raise your healthpool, damage and other important stuff exponentially.
Let’s take Veigar, the midget wizard, as an example. His first ability, Baleful Strike, offers a permanent bonus to Ability Power, League of Legend’s equivalent for the Spellpower in other games. Basically, every time he kills an opponent, be it a computer-controlled monster or one of the heroes belonging to the other team, he gets one and five points, respectively.
Obviously, the bonus exists only in the abstract and will adapt to each spell depending on the mana cost / base damage / cooldown period, but the principle is always the same: if you let it run freely, this kind of hero will ruin anyone’s day in two spells and a wand wave in the latter parts of a match.
The balance, if we may call it that, is generated by the fact that a lot of heroes have stackable spells and stats. Personally, I think it’s a pretty frail equilibrium at that, similar in concept to those Warcraft III maps where you could buy bonuses infinitely for Strength, Agility or Intelligence with the money you’d farm on the map. At the same time though, this bonus race drives you to organise ambushes, keep your adversaries in check and to generally put a lot more pressure on champions who grew larger than common sense dictates.