I’ve spent over 1,000 hours playing Dota 2 and reading through the game’s latest set of patch notes is breaking my brain.
The game’s Outlander’s update went live today, adding not just two more heroes but upending massive aspects of the game, including item delivery, teleportation, late game advantages, and item progressions. The base game remains the same – you still kill computer-controlled monsters to earn gold and experience to get strong enough to kill human opponents and eventually destroy their Ancient – but the larger questions and problems that occupy the player’s mind will be completely different.
Real quick, here’s a rundown of some of the major changes:
- Every player now starts with their own courier to transport items for them instead of the entire team sharing one..
- Couriers can now place wards that give vision over parts of the map shrouded by fog of war once you reach level 15.
- Observer wards are now free.
- You start the game with three town portal scrolls.
- Heroes can now level past 25 to 30, unlocking their entire talent tree when they do.
- The side shops are gone and replaced with outposts, a new type of building that provides bonus XP, gold, and can be teleported to by whoever controls it.
- Computer-controlled enemies (Neutrals) now randomly drop one of 62 items, including the new Phoenix Ash, which keeps a player alive for five extra seconds after dying.
- A bunch of existing items and heroes were reworked.
- Stout shield has been removed from the game (RIP).
Beyond the basics of using your hero’s abilities to kill other players, Dota 2 is largely based around managing economies and map control. There’s only so much experience and gold that can be earned at any given time, and getting as much of it as possible to the right players at the right moment is what wins games. Doing that requires knowing where the other team is on the map. The new update fundamentally upends the current approaches to both of those things by making some items drop from monsters and making it easier to manoeuvre around the map and gain vision.
Dota 2 teams consist of five people, at least a few of which are designated as “supports.” One of the main jobs of a support is placing wards that grant vision over particular areas of the map so that the rest of the team knows where they can safely go to farm gold and experience points and where they can position themselves to try and ambush the opposing team. Now that Observer Wards are free and can eventually be placed by couriers, that role has been fundamentally changed.
Similarly, players in charge of efficiently levelling up their character and gaining more powerful items in order to become unstoppable killing machines will now have to contend with an entirely new economy of monster loot driven in part by chance. The longer the game goes on, the more likely you will be to receive certain drops, but there’s a tonne more unpredictability in game overall now.
Dota 2 officially launched in 2013. Since then it’s received dozens of updates, both big and small, some of which occasionally reshaped the game’s underlying meta and forced players to adapt to new strategies and tactics. I’m not sure that any of those updates have looked as transformative as this one does, at least on paper.
It should tell you something that I haven’t even mentioned the game’s two new heroes yet, the melee carry Void Spirit and ranged support Snapfire. While both look interesting and getting two new heroes in one update is unusual, it still somehow doesn’t feel as mind-bending as a courier that can place wards for free.
Dota 2 has always excelled at making hundreds of hours of experience with the game feel like a drop in the bucket, and the latest update will be, in a lot of ways, like starting all over again.