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Why you might like Blizzard DOTA

Fans of Defense of the Ancients, the immensely popular Warcraft III mod that spawned an entirely new genre of gaming, are already conditioned to love Blizzard DOTA. I got to play it this week at BlizzCon 2011 and had a great time getting into the very familiar world. However, many Blizzard fans are not DOTA enthusiasts or even privy to the genre itself. WoW players may not really understand what this Blizzard offering is about or even why they should be interested. Warcraft fan-favorite characters Thrall and Arthas are making appearance in Blizzard DOTA, which means gamers who have ever wanted to pit these monolithic figures against other Blizzard staple characters will get the chance. Here's what you need to know about Blizzard DOTA and why you just might like playing as one of your favorite WoW personalities.

Defense of the Ancients was originally a Warcraft III mod that became so incredibly popular that it spawned the genre know known as MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) or ARTS (action real-time strategy), depending on who you ask. The game consists of three paths that connect two bases with destructible buildings and towers along the path routes. Waves of minions or creeps, NPC characters that spawn endlessly from both bases, meet in the middle of these lanes to do battle. You control a powerful hero who levels up, gains skills and abilities, and can purchase items from a shop. Your goal is to fight these minions and enemy players, destroy the enemy towers and buildings, and win the game.

The formula and map layout is similar from game to game, but each usually involves the three lanes (top, middle, bottom) and an area in between the lanes called the jungle, where players can take detours through from lane to lane or surprise enemies with strategic attacks. Blizzard DOTA is a very familiar experience to DOTA veterans.

Who do you play?

Blizzard DOTA features many characters from Blizzard's universe of games, from Nova the ghost from StarCraft, Sylvanas, Thall, Muradin, and more from WoW, and the witch doctor from Diablo. You can even play as a siege tank, which I got to try my first time playing and had a lot of fun with. Your hero is like a mini-WoW character -- he levels, he has health and mana, and he can learn skills and buy items from a shop with gold that you accumulate by killing creeps and minions, killing players, and destroying objectives.

Characters each have a role that they are best at. Players can take on the role of a beefy tank, damage-oriented DPSer, healer/buffer support roles, or a siege character who attacks from long distance. Thrall, for instance, is a support hero who uses his powers to help his allies on the battlefield as well as control the flow of battle. Arthas is a tanky/DPS character who wades into the fray and puts Frostmourne into people's faces. It is all very familiar to the tank/DPS/healer setup that you already know and love from WoW.

The flow of the game

Each DOTA-esque MOBA game has a certain flow to it. In the beginning, players use some starting gold to purchase an item or two and then head into lane. The enemy team will be getting ready as well, moving characters into lane to defend against your minions. Remember, your goal is to push your minions and destroy towers along the path, eventually destroying the main base. Communication is key, letting your fellow players know what is happening on your side of the map in case the other team is setting up to overwhelm one of your other lanes.

Middle lane is usually left for one hero, with the top and bottom lanes trading off between one or two players per lane. Nothing is set in stone. If top lane is having a hard time, players move about the battlefield, helping and assisting. Putting too many people in one lane means enemies have less resistance as they try to move toward your base. It's a type of meta-game that you pick up quickly.

Blizzard DOTA feels a little more accessible to me than the other ground-up MOBA games out there, considering you already probably know and love StarCraft or you've at least played a real-time strategy game from Blizzard. It is fairly straightforward, to be completely honest. Choose your roll, choose your hero, go have fun. If you've ever played Team Fortress 2, you already know more than you think you do.

Why should you care?

"I'm a WoW player, Mat. Why should I care about Blizzard DOTA?" you ask. Well, there are a few reasons you should pay attention to Blizzard DOTA. First, it appears that Blizzard DOTA will be releasing on a platform called Blizzard Arcade, the new name for what once was the StarCraft map store. Back in the day, Blizzard had wanted to create a marketplace for StarCraft where mod and map makers alike could sell their creations for a tidy little profit, much like the Valve store for TF2 items. This new platform has the potential to be a big piece of Blizzard's future, especially with new or "indie" game distribution. You are going to most likely be interacting with the Blizzard Arcade in some fashion -- so why not grab this free game as well?

Blizzard DOTA also features some of your favorite characters from Warcraft. Sylvanas was in the trailer for the game, with Thrall, Arthas, and Muradin being playable at BlizzCon. You can bet that more famous Warcraft heroes will show up for you to play as, which is pretty cool, all things considered. Plus, Blizzard gets to take liberties with these characters in the goofy, fun setting of the DOTA game, making all sorts of fun stuff possible.

From my time with the game, Blizzard DOTA feels competitive as a MOBA game in a genre where the bar is set pretty high, but is also incredibly accessible because of its connection to StarCraft 2 and the WoW playerbase. You already understand the concepts of the game just by being a WoW or RTS player. Now, you get to take those concepts and try something new with them. Did I mention it's free? Why wouldn't you try it?

The news is out -- we'll be playing Mists of Pandaria! Find out what's in store with an all-new talent system, peek over our shoulder at our Pandaren hands-on, and get ready to battle your companion pets against others. It's all here right at WoW Insider!

Filed under: Blizzard, BlizzCon

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