Blizzard DOTA Hands-On

We check out Blizzard’s own take on the popular Defense of the Ancients mod.

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One of the many surprises at this year’s BlizzCon was the unveiling of Blizzard DOTA--Blizzard’s own Starcraft II mod based on the Defense of the Ancients mod that was originally developed by the Warcraft III community. First, let us provide a little gameplay background on DOTA. The mod lets you take direct control of a hero character as you try to infiltrate an enemy’s base and destroy its ancient--in this case, a huge tower structure. To accomplish this, you’ll be assisted by constantly respawning AI allies that will take different paths that lead into the enemy base--one group goes left, another goes right, and the third goes up the middle. You can move along with these units, kill enemies, and gain levels in the process. When you level, you can add more special skills to your hero’s repertoire, some of which can aid your AI allies by healing them while others might give you additional attacks.

Defend those ancients!
Defend those ancients!

There’s also some light resource management in Blizzard DOTA. Resources aren’t used to build structures and units as they typically are in real-time strategy games. Instead, you can use resources to buy various upgrades and items for your hero. These include things like weapon and armor upgrades, as well as items like health packs, but the trick is that you have a limited number of slots to equip these upgrades and items. You can take some out of your skill bar to make room for another upgrade, but the key is really finding a combination of items and upgrades that work for you and against your enemy.

Death doesn’t mean that you lose the match, but your hero will respawn back into your base, which may or may not be far from where you were killed. However, this is good thing because the only time you can purchase items and upgrades is if you’re inside a specific zone in your base. Once you’re outside that zone, you’re out of luck.

Your overall strategy in Blizzard DOTA depends largely on the skills of your hero, and there are 12 of them in the mod. Naturally, they’re all based on popular characters from various Blizzard games, so you’ll see Starcraft favorites like Jim Raynor and Kerrigan or Sylvanas from World of Warcraft. There are even a few more wacky characters like Grunty the murloc space marine, as well as L80ETC (also known as Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain). Because Raynor has incredibly effective sniping skills, we found it useful to stay near the rear of the groups of AI characters where he could deal quite a bit of damage without taking hits. Conversely, a character like Grunty is better taking an even greater support role because many of his attacks and skills are designed for that.

A lot of familiar faces appear in Blizzard DOTA.
A lot of familiar faces appear in Blizzard DOTA.

Unfortunately, there was just one map available at BlizzCon, and it took us on average about 20 or so minutes to get all the way through and destroy the enemy base. If you’ve never played DOTA before, you can think of it like a reverse tower defense game where you’re the one running the gauntlet trying to destroy the towers as opposed to building them. When you throw some Blizzard characters into the mix, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

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