I played League of Legends for the first time yesterday. And I enjoyed it. As someone who was raised on DotA and then DotA2, this is considered a form of high treason, punishable by death or permanent low priority. Nevertheless, it happened. League was fun, and there are many differences between League and DotA2, and I thought I’d share the ones that struck me the most: the good, the bad, and the plain weird. I have only played about six games against actual humans, so this is by no means a comprehensive, in-depth comparison between the two games. These simply some of one guy’s first impressions on a game quite similar to a game that he has put thousands of hours into.
Firstly, the things I liked about League. The process from first signing up, picking an appropriate (or inappropriate) summoner name to playing against real live humans took only a couple of games against computer-controlled characters. DotA2 has an extensive tutorial that needs to be completed, and then bot games, and then only can one try to defeat prepubescent boys who speak a different language than you. To a new player, this may be a detracting factor from starting to play DotA2.
The reason that League can do this is the second reason I enjoyed jumping into League: it has a lower overall skill requirement. I am not saying that it is easier overall, or that there is no difference between skilled players and people who have never played a game in their life before, but the amount of skill required to go into a game and not single-handedly lose the game for your team is far lower in League than it is in DotA2. Sure, you may not win the game for your team, but you will not cause your first games to be hour-long visits to the house of feed and pain for your teammates.
Thirdly, League seems more whimsical. From ridiculous character skins to the more cartoony art style, League takes itself far less seriously than DotA2 does. While this may not be to my liking in the long run, there is something cool about playing a slightly insane teenage girl wielding a machine gun and rocket launcher, and this put a smile on my face in my first few hours of play.
Next, those things that I am currently ambivalent about, undecided, or haven’t encountered enough to make an informed judgement call on. In League, as you play more games, you level up and gain certain in-game benefits that would be inaccessible to new players. While this may allow for you to more intricately tweak your heroes (sorry, champions) into a bastard child of your own designing, it also means that there is some grinding necessary to unlock these. Coming from DotA2, where no matter how many games you have played, the only bonuses you get are shiny hats and more honed skills, this seems both intriguing and problematic.
The fact that there are over one hundred heroes (sorry, champions) in League, combined with a whole host of items, and then all of the summoner bonuses, I feel that it may make certain strategies or heroes imbalanced. Even in DotA2, without summoner abilities, the metagame (which heroes and strategies are played most consistently) is ever-changing.
This need for grinding encourages people to develop scripts with the sole purpose of sitting completely away from your computer and doing something else, meeting the minimum requirement to not be kicked from the game, simply to gain levels. This ruins games, and it happened to me a couple of times in my time playing League. Finally, the minimap is on the wrong side of the screen (for me). I’m sure I can easily change it, but what’s up with that?
Now, that which I disliked. Linked to the grinding above is the fact that not all of the heroes (can we just accept that I’m not going to get the terminology correct?) are available to all players at all times. There is a list of heroes which are available to everyone who plays League. The list changes regularly, so all heroes will go on the free rotation at some point. The rest being available in a store, purchasable with either in-game gold (gained by playing games) or real money. At first, I thought it was a good idea, allowing players to make tangible gains in the game simply from playing and doing well. Like a hero? You buy them, using the gold you earned while playing them during their free rotation. Also, having a limited pool of heroes forces you out of your comfort zone occasionally, which can help you improve your skills.
But then I thought about how certain heroes might be able to completely unchallenged by the free heroes, and stomp the games where people had not purchased the heroes that countered them. This kind of imbalance worried me, but not too much. It seemed like a little inconvenience. Sure, one day, you might be able to play most of the heroes every game. But not for a long time.
I disliked the fact that there is no in-game support for voice chat, only text input. Voice chat is so much quicker and more concise, and promotes greater communication. Sure, a good ping and a message can be great, but a simple ‘Careful.’ muttered by a teammate can more effectively prevent feeding. Not having support for it seems silly. We ended up Skyping a friend we were playing with in order to accomplish the same task as a feature built into DotA2.
However, the feature of League that I liked the least is the surrender option. In League, if 4 out of 5 players on the team (correct me if I’m wrong, League friends) vote to end the game, your ancient (sorry, nexus) will blow up and you will lose. The aim of this is to put you out of your misery if the enemy is using your team’s collective face as a doormat, and the game is not even close. In my experience, however, it was more often used when players had a poor early game experience, and simply wanted the game to end in order to move on to their next one. In DotA2, there is no surrender. Until an ancient explodes, it will continue. And you can continue to fight. And it is possible to come back. Comebacks from major deficits are some of my favourite memories in DotA2. With a surrender button, these are far less likely to happen. Stop voting for surrender and simply play the game.
Looking back, I see that I have only just touched the surface of the different experiences. I will undoubtedly play League more, and have more to say as I gain insight and experience. Do I prefer it to DotA2? Nope. It is a nice change, and being able to play with those friends in Korea that only play League is something I look forward to doing more. But my heart still lies in the never-ending battle between the Radiant and the Dire. Between Kunkka and Tidehunter. Between all of the heroes who I have spent inordinate amounts of time trying to master. In the words of Rubick, my favourite hero in DotA2: “Quickly! To the next battle!”.