Confession: A Dota Player Admits League of Legends is Better

By Dave Bast

I didn’t come to this admission lightly.

I have no way of telling you how many games of Dota (Defense of the Ancients) I have played. I started playing in 2005 as a way of killing time in between World of Warcraft raids. Slowly I began to hope for longer and longer breaks to squeeze in more Dota. It didn’t take long for me to realize which game I was having more fun playing, and eventually I stopped playing WoW all together. Dota became the most fun I’ve ever had playing games, once I got past the ridiculously steep learning curve. For five years Dota became the game I played in between all my other games, it was my “go-to” game. This was my mindset as I approached my first game of League of Legends.

I didn’t really sit down to play League of Legends (LoL), willingly – well I did, but it was only to make fun of it. A bunch of my friends were playing and I was invited to join them. I immediately used the opportunity to mention my Dota record and how much of a pro I was. I remember calling it “Disney Dota,” complaining about how watered-down it felt;” they don’t even let me deny creeps in the lane, how dumb.” I think I spent the first five games just complaining about how slow the characters moved. The next ten about how you didn’t lose any gold when you died. Maybe another fifteen about how jungling worked. It was typical elitist crap. I disagreed feverishly about how the game was designed, but I kept playing anyways.

It went on like this for a while. I would play LoL with my friends while reminding them how everything in Dota was better. I didn’t even play Dota anymore, yet the hypocrisy continued. I would get ganked in the lane and tell everyone I was going to quit and start playing Heroes of Newerth, which is essentially a Dota remake with better matchmaking. I did for a while too, but it didn’t stick. I was clearly beginning to show a preference for LoL over Dota, which I didn’t want to admit.

Dota may be the OG, but Riot Games has done some very specific and smart things to make League of Legends more accessible for new players and returning elitists like myself. To someone who doesn’t play these games it seems as if there are no differences, to those who do the differences are night and day.

Dota requires a very specific skill-set; it takes a long time to learn and an even longer time to master. Admitting you played Dota was like bragging that you knew how to play it. LoL on the other hand was much easier to learn, especially with a Dota background. While it’s nice to take pride in my hard-earned Dota skill-set, the damn thing was old and archaic, filled with useless skills that weren’t particularly fun – micromanaging the courier or excessive amounts of last hitting come to mind. There were a lot of skills in Dota that felt like chores, things I had to do to get to the fun part of the gameplay. It doesn’t feel like that with League of Legends, they choose to focus on the more active components of the core gameplay like team fighting or ganking. I was willing, slowly, to readapt my skill-set, even though I was initially resistant to the idea.

As with any multiplayer game the ability to play with your friends is important. This was inappropriately difficult with Dota, and not because the original Blizzard matchmaking was horrible, but that didn’t help. While it is easy to blame better matchmaking for an increase in users, I’m pretty sure that isn’t the entire story. The extremely high difficultly cap and elitist attitude that kept me enamored with Dota was actually having the opposite effect on other people, it was keeping them away. Once Riot streamlined the core gameplay experience they lowered the learning curve, making it more accessible for new users. Many nights I tried to get my friends to play Dota, or Heroes of Newerth, only to hear the same complaint, “It’s much more effort with much less fun.” I agreed, begrudgingly.

The Disney-like art style that I had originally poked fun at began to grow on me, Riot even spent time and energy updating older character models and portraits in order to keep them all relevant, and they still do. In fact, all of the art in LoL is managed much in the same way the gameplay is; nothing unnecessary with a strong focus on gameplay. There is little use of frivolous explosions or particle effects; each piece of art gives me some piece of tangible in-game feedback. This was definitely something that was lacking in Dota, as it was made using the Warcraft 3 editor. It looked as if every character and object from the Warcraft universe was thrown into a box, shaken, and then dumped onto the screen. It’s not just about artistic continuity. In an intensely competitive game like this, visual feedback is critical. The more efficient the game is at sending me information, the better I’ll be at processing it. This is something that Riot has perfected.

Let’s be real though. With how stubborn and elitist I was about Dota, I was most likely not going to pay a dime for any game I thought was of lesser quality. I didn’t even really want to try LoL, my friends made me. But by making it free, Riot Games absorbed all of my monetary risk as a consumer. So even though it took a few dozen games, I was a loyal fan before I spent a dime on any special features. I was player first and a consumer second. Talk about a win-win. There will always been room in the market for a free game. Being free shields you from your competitors to an extent. Heroes of Newerth experimented with an upfront cost, at least for a while, but now they are free as well. I wonder if someone should tell Valve.

I received my Dota 2 beta key a few weeks ago and sat down to play a few games, I was excited to see what types of gameplay changes had been made, as had been done to LoL. Besides the obvious aesthetic changes, improvements to the in-game shop, and a few bells and whistles, Dota 2 is essentially Dota 1. There wasn’t really any noticeable improvements that I could see, the same chores were there, and the same “this is really difficult and not as rewarding” feeling was there too. And while diehard fans will most likely flock to the game, I think I might have to take a pass. Riot Games has pushed the genre forward. League of Legends feels like a next-gen Dota, while Dota 2 feels like a polished last-gen game.  While I will always look back fondly at my time playing Dota, I have officially moved on. I eagerly await what’s next in a genre that is just getting started.

  • Venro

    LoL and DotA appeal to me in different ways. I started by playing HoN’s beta and liked it enough to buy it. Eventually I tried out LoL as well, but not many of my friends did either. What I found was that games like DotA and Hon are better when you can have at least a couple of friends playing with you to help coordinate things like lanes and ganking. LoL was much easier to play solo, at least at the lower levels. You could kind of do your own thing if you were good enough with minimal communication from the other team.

    Gameplay wise, I don’t think that DotA 2 will bring much new to the table as it’s been stated repeatedly that it’s mostly a direct DotA 1 port. But I do think Valve is going to offer a lot of ways for new players to get involved and not get steamrolled by someone who’s been playing it for years. Though we’ll have to see since DotA 2 is still in beta and the only features available are matchmaking and practice games.

  • I had the title wrong, not Dave. He knows what he’s talking about, whereas I do not.

  • Tim

    People really love clicking widely at the screen with no real control over their player while looking past 50 inventory and text boxes populating their screen. Gaming!

  • Stefanos

    Hehe i see what you are saying but lets be realistic, if i wanted to play an easy in the eys and in general game i would buy a wii. When i play i want it to be challenging not only by the other players but by the game itself too! Think about it and rememer how far ahead you could get in dota just by a couple of deaths and many, many, many denies. Also a challenging and difficult game pushes you to go further and further. Watch some lol and some dota or hon replays. Lol -> funny, hon->O_OAwesome, ->DotA peeing your pants from awesomeness :P. Joking, but still i play hon until dota 2 comes out and i have a lot of friends who play LOL. Every single one of them who had not played dota but tried hon, coming from lol said that Hon was MUCH harder, died all the time and left after 10 or 20 games. Yes maybe it is more fun but to be honest i want to see myself improve and try something challenging than something relaxing and easy going. Just sharing my thoughts

    • Bahida

      everyone has his preferences. Some play for the challenging aspect in the game, others like me play to relax.

  • Drester

    Hey Paul, there’s nothing wrong with making and admitting a mistake, but why would you delete those comments? They where not only about the title.

  • @Drester

    One was only about it and I edited another and left the rest. I don’t normally do that ever on my own posts, but I didn’t think it was fair for people to be yelling at Dave for something I screwed up.

  • Wermine

    People are always defending “their own game”. It is very difficult to try to convince someone that game A is better than B, if that someone is solely playing B. What I wish is that people would take facts as facts and really give chance to new (and old) games.

    Now I play LoL, I started with DotA and played HoN in between. I simply switched to LoL when HoN became non-free (out of beta). At first I too thought that LoL was “kids DotA” and a joke. Not anymore. I still think HoN is ok game but I now prefer LoL. There are some things I dislike in HoN, but I have to say it looks prettier. At the same time it looks messier since I have always had hard time figuring out, what exactly is going on. That’s not as severe problem in LoL.

  • Drester


    My apologies. I thought you also deleted the first comment. Didn`t know you could also edit comments.

  • David

    Great post. Just adding my 2 cents. I am not a die hard fanboy of DotA but did play it for 4 years. I had no problem moving over to LoL which I played for 3 years and still play today! I got into Dota 2 recently and all that was good about DotA is good here along with the improvements of matchmacking, stats etc. As it is still in Beta it has some improvements to come but it is entirely apparent that it is a game of wildly more depth than LoL. Don’t get me wrong, I love LoL and still play it regularly, but there is much less fulfillment from LoL. The reason is depth in the game. More risk/reward payoff, WAY more strats within the meta game (seriously, a ton more), and more depth of in game stratagy. The author may enjoy LoL for the same reasons that I did. I must disagree with his final outcome however. LoL is a much simpler and casual friendly game. It is designed not for competitive play in any definition of the word. Still love it and will play it, but not nearly as fulfilling as Dota 2.

  • Luis

    So in other words this guy has problems with dota being harder ?
    he rant on how outdated the graphics of the war3 engine were(obviously since its a 2003 game),
    and how he had problems micro’ing courier and such,
    and he tried dota2 and says nothing has changed ? this really shows how much dota he has played srsly, if you say nothing is changed you haven’t played obviously, cause its almost like a diferent game, even the metagame on both dota1 and dota2 is diferent to some extent and not just because all heroes aren’t in dota2 yet.

    lol is appealing for 12 year olds although, the skill cap to play it properly is alot lower, there is barely depth, strategy and gameplay wise, thats why ppl like it ,casual and easy to get into it.

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  • Peace !

    LoL is for lazy players, typical, dumb and good-for-nothing junkie, I’d say, well, for pubs that is.. just seeing and reading how this guy confessed how LoL is refreshing easy and all, plus how he hates one of the core component of dota, last hitting, micro, and all the thinking-required actions. and by itself, dota is one game that really asks you to think, strategize, and plan, which in a sense, better for those more intellectual players who love to think before acting, not just impulsive actions like ganking all day long like what this poster says LoL is all about. so yeah, LoL for lazy and typical junkie players, and dota for more intellectual players 😀 and I know I’m biased ~

  • Chooba

    Reads like a high school English class comparison piece. I have

    played most all the DotA style games from AOS, TOB, DotA,

    DotA Allstars, HoN and LoL; and yes DotA/DotA2 is much better.

    Anyways, to each their own. First off, how can you honestly say

    LoL is better when its pay to win? This game is supposed to be

    competitive, all riot is doing is milking you sorry saps. It really

    does require more skill to be anywhere decent at DotA, this guy

    claims to be an “elitist gamer” yeah right. Any real gamer who

    wants a challenge should stay away from LoL and spend the

    time to hop on that learning curve for DotA. A larger learning

    curve means the game has more depth and possible strategy

    which should = more fun to an “elite” gamer.

    Anyways, play LoL if you aren’t very good at gaming… or if you

    enjoy depth to your games. Play DotA if you enjoy deep,

    complex, and rewarding games.

    • Bahida

      First off, LoL isn´t pay to win. The only think you buy are aestethic changes. Second, i played Dota2 a couple of times and i have to admit it´s fun but there arent so many ability concepts. It feels the same over and over again just because they polished up Dota1 which was played on the old Warcraft engine so there werent so many possibilities for really awesome spell concepts. The spells in Dota look awesome visually(Giant meteor landing on your head) but that´s it, you get damage maybe some minor bonus effect like a flaming trail that deals dmg a few sec. after but nothing more. The next thing i quite dont understand are the items in Dota. i mean if every champ can buy stealth what makes champs who have stealth in their spells so unique? Why should i pick Lina if i can just pick anything and buy an item that does just the exact think like Lina´s ulti?.
      Anyways, play whatever you want and stop comparing these two games already THEY ARE NOT THE SAME! and saying: “OMG MY GAME IS BETTER SUCK MY D*CK” just confirms that YOU are the d*ck. And I´m very sorry if you don´t like my opinion, but you won´t change it. Peace

  • Chooba

    edit: Anyways, play LoL if you aren’t very good at gaming… or if

    you don’t enjoy depth to your games. Play DotA if you enjoy deep,

    complex, and rewarding games.

  • I also play LoL for some quite time now and I really like it compare to DotA since it has a much active fast phase gameplay. Can you Imagine at level 1 you can dish more skills because of larger mana pool not to mention that some champions are able to cast more skills like Rivens Broken Wings which can be cast in 3 successions, Jayce skills To The Skies! and change form Shock Blast