The Ultimate Dota 2 Guide Part 1: How To get Started With Dota 2
While there are plenty of guides centered around teaching you how to play Dota 2, this is unlike any of them.
This article is made to introduce you to the wondrous world surrounding the game; the community, the memes, the esports scene and much, much more.
Perhaps you’ve heard about Dota 2 in passing, or from someone you know who plays the game, but were too afraid to try it yourself. Maybe you got discouraged by a piece of gossip, or just didn’t have someone there to explain to you what we’re all about. Well, your worries end here!
Through this guide, you will get a better understanding of what kind of a game Dota 2 is, why you should play it, how to get the most fun out of it, and also get more informed on things like working in the industry. Plus, you will learn about how to keep yourself educated on several things like the game’s updates, tournaments and learning material.
This is a four-part guide so watch out for part two!
Dota 2 is a successor to a mod in the game Warcraft III called Defense of the Ancients. This mod was based on the map Aeon of Strife in Starcraft, and was ported to Warcraft III by the developer “Eul”.
It went through many changes over several years and saw a number of developers working on it. The mod was a massive success, attracting a large number of players and became the feature of many tournaments. To this day, it is considered to be the most significant inspiration for games in its genre.
One of the developers of the mod was named “IceFrog”. In 2005, IceFrog took over as the lead developer, and worked on it for many years. In 2009, he was hired by Valve to create its sequel, which is known today as Dota 2. It was announced in 2010 and released in a closed beta in 2011.
Since then, Valve have hosted a tournament for the game called the International every year, but we’ll talk about that in more detail later. Dota 2 received a full release in 2013, and since then, has attracted millions of passionate and dedicated players around the world.
To play the game, you simply need to download and install Steam, a video game distribution service by Valve. It is free to download and use, and also allows you to purchase and play thousands of other games. The procedure is fairly simple and the software doesn’t take up too much hard disk space. You will need to create an account to log-in and use it.
Then, you just need to search for the game on the Steam store and download and install it. It is ‘free-to-play’, which means, you don’t need to pay anything in order to play the game.
It is also ‘free-to-win’, which means you don’t need to pay anything to unlock heroes or other gameplay content that are relevant to playing the game. Therefore, a person who decides to spend money to purchase content in the game does not have an advantage that could help them win. This makes Dota 2’s monetary system one of the most attractive and fair in the video game industry.
A few things you need to keep in mind. One, is that Dota 2 takes upwards of 35 GBs of hard disk space. And, it receives frequent updates, without which you cannot play the game. Furthermore, the minimum system requirements of the game as listed on Steam are outdated.
Over the years, the game has become increasingly resource intensive. It was ported to the Source 2 engine in 2015 and has received a ton of content updates ever since its release. However, a mid-range system in 2021 should be sufficient to play the game at low or medium graphics.
The type of game
In common parlance, the game is considered a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), which is also used to refer to a host of different games similar in nature, and which took inspiration from the original Dota mod.
This genre usually refers to a more ‘brawler’ type of game, where heroes are engaging in chaotic fights quite often and the skill is largely micro-focused, requiring quick reactions and mechanical accuracy.
However, Valve themselves describe Dota 2 as an ARTS (Action Role-Playing Strategy) game. It is a derivation from the classic RTS genre, which features games in the Age of Empires, Starcraft and Warcraft series.
This is because Dota 2 is considered to be a slightly slower but more tactical and strategic game, where skill is more macro-focused, requiring in-depth game knowledge and predictive outplay. To be fair, the game has become more fast-paced over the years, and now has a good balance between micro and macro gameplay, suitable for both young and old players.
Dota 2 has a very gradual learning curve, requiring years of play to be proficient at, and one that can arguably never be mastered. It has an immense amount of depth, an ever-evolving ‘meta’ and highly rewarding gameplay. It is also quite faithful to its predecessor and is praised for its production quality and artistic design. This is why it is considered to be one of the greatest games ever made, and despite its infamous reputation for being very difficult, is one of the most popular PC games in the world.
Why should you play?
Now that you have some idea of what kind of a game Dota 2 is, you need to ask yourself why you should play it. Dota 2 is not for everyone, and it’s possible that you already have some idea why, because its reputation precedes it. But there are some popular misconceptions that may be deterring you for no valid reason. Let’s take a look and clear them up.
If you’ve heard about Dota 2 from players of another game, especially a competing one in the same genre, then chances are you’ve heard that the game is ‘dead’. In fact, you may have heard this term from someone in the Dota 2 community itself, as it is often memed about, usually in jest. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Dota 2 has over 8 million active players each month, with almost half a million playing at any single given point of time. It is almost always in the top 2 of the most played games on Steam, the largest video game distribution service in the world, at any given time. The reason the term ‘dead game’ came into being is because the player-base for Dota 2 has stagnated over the years and isn’t growing as quickly as it did in its early phase.
There are a few good reasons for this. The MOBA/ARTS game genre itself has lost some popularity in recent years, primarily due to the rise of the battle royale genre.
It makes sense, as these games attract younger players more due to their fast-paced gameplay and low barrier of entry. The FPS (first-person shooter) genre itself is and always has been more popular in general.
So, it’s not just Dota 2 that has stagnated in recent years, but every other game in the genre as well. In fact, several other MOBA games have shut down or are no longer being developed.
Dota 2, however, has stayed close to the top among only a handful of other MOBA games that are still being actively developed and have a healthy player-base. If you think about it, it’s a miracle how popular the game is and how much it has achieved in the video game industry, despite its niche nature.
Another talking point that’s brought up whenever Dota 2 is being discussed, is about how it is ‘incredibly hard’ and ‘really complicated’.
To be honest, this is quite exaggerated. Dota 2 players generally like to boast about these things, because it makes them feel like they’re playing a very complex game that requires a high IQ. While it’s true that the game is quite difficult to get into, that process has become much, much easier in recent years.
The game has 121 heroes (all of which are free and do not require being purchased), over 500 items and dozens of mechanics that provide an immense number of combinations and possibilities in each and every game.
This makes Dota 2 an incredibly deep and rich game, where there is always room to learn something new and every single match is unique in its possibilities.
If that scares you, don’t let it! You don’t need to learn what every single hero or item does in order to play the game, just the basics. And all these basics can be learned by playing the tutorials. We will explain this in more detail in the next section. But for now, know that while Dota 2 has a very high skill ceiling, it has a moderate skill floor. There are tons of people who don’t know a lot of things about the game, but still enjoy playing it.
A game like no other
The experience of playing Dota 2 is probably the most difficult thing to describe. It’s something you can only truly understand by doing it yourself. And even then, your perception and understanding of the game will change and evolve over time.
To give you some perspective, the first exposure I had to Dota 2 was the sound of a hero’s voice. It sounded mysterious and demonic and immersive.
Every hero has certain voice lines that they say when given certain commands. The sound design in the game is top tier, as is the case with every single Valve game ever made. It instantly made me want to know more about the game, and eventually, I started playing it myself.
A large part of playing the game is to listen to sound queues and react to them.
Every sound has a unique signature to it and gets etched into your memory, so even if you hear it off-hand in a place where you don’t expect, you will recognize it. And this is just one aspect of Dota 2, but like we mentioned before, the production and art design of the game is top tier. And that’s what makes it a game like no other in existence.
Learning the game
For most of Dota 2’s history, learning how to play the game has been quite annoying. The tutorials in both the old client and the new Reborn client (Source 2 port) were mediocre and barely covered any necessary topics that a player should be expected to know before jumping into a match. However, all that changed in 2021 when Valve introduced an update with a host of new features, including updated tutorials.
Now, all you have to do is start the game and hop into the tutorials in order to learn the basics of the game. But, that’s just the technical part. There are other challenges that you will face. Things that you may not even realize are holding you back, and sometimes, even hold back veteran players. Here’s some advice about Dota 2 to help ease the process of learning to play the game.
Your early struggles will probably be centered around mechanical knowledge and skill.
Having a good level of comfort in controlling both the camera and your hero will take some time. This is especially the case if you don’t play video games in general, or are unfamiliar with the controls of RTS and MOBA games.
One way to ease the pain is to play mechanically simple heroes. These can be found by toggling the lowest option on the complexity filter in the ‘Heroes’ section of the game.
It is also a good idea to play only a handful of heroes many times instead of widening your pool too much. Once you understand what a certain hero does, you can allow yourself to focus on other things like camera movement and positioning.
This is useful during the later stages when you’re learning advanced mechanics and climbing up the matchmaking ranks as well. Spamming a handful of heroes allows you to learn things outside the scope of your knowledge, as your fundamentals are grounded and strong.
When going through the tutorials, make sure that you go to the Settings and change the hotkeys and other options to your comfort level. Try different things and see what works best for you. Also, there may be certain commands that don’t have keybinds set to them. You will have to add these manually as you see fit.
Knowing your goals
This is something that all Dota 2 players need to figure out, not just new ones. You need to ask yourself, “What do I want from this game? What are my goals? What is the peak that I want to reach?”. If the answer to this is simply “I want to have fun”, that’s fine! In fact, it’s good if you realize this early on and play accordingly.
Most players would generally agree that they want to improve at the game, climb up the matchmaking ranks and be worthy of playing at a certain skill level. However, this is an amorphous idea that isn’t really fleshed out and understood by many.
A lot of players just start playing the game, get inspired by watching tournaments and hope that they can make it as a professional player someday. But that kind of a goal can be pretty damaging to your morale, especially if you’re not very good and struggling to even get out of low ranks.
Therefore, it is good to know your potential. Even if you seriously want to become a professional player one day, you need to put that long-term goal in your subconscious and set practical, short-term goals to improve little by little over time. But, since becoming a professional player is not everyone’s bread and butter, it is okay to just enjoy the game while you’re playing it and have fun.
Once you’ve completed the tutorials and understood the basics of the game, you will start to face greater challenges and mysteries in the game. There are so many interactions, mechanics, macro and micro secrets about Dota 2 that even long-time players don’t know about.
The game itself can only give you so much information, but beyond that, you will be forced to figure things out on your own. Although, you don’t necessarily need to.
There are tons of players who spend years being stuck in the same skill bracket, unable to understand what they’re missing and what mistakes they’re making. They get bogged down trying the same ideas and failing, never learning from their mistakes or using their observation skills. Gamerzclass can help you figure these things out. If you’re reading this guide, you probably already know about Gamerzclass and the host of learning content we provide.
In order to get the right answer, you need to first know how to ask the right question. Players in the lower brackets often ask very generic and basic questions that are too broad to specify and can generally be answered by saying “it depends”.
It’s like asking the question, “How do you win at Dota 2?”, to which the only appropriate answer is, “You destroy the enemy’s ancient before they destroy yours”. This doesn’t help anyone! What’s special about Gamerzclass is that we take very specific, important questions, and then answer them via some of the best professional Dota 2 players in the world.
In order to make your journey through Dota 2 easier, there are a number of useful features in the game that you will come across. These are basically guaranteed to help you in some way or the other, especially if you’re struggling in the early stages of learning. You may discover some of these on your own, but knowing what to look out for can speed up the process instead of leaving you lost.
None of these features were present during the original version of Dota 2, and have been added over the years, some of them quite recently. Most of them are free to use, except one that requires a monthly subscription, but we talk about that in more detail below. Take note, that all these features provide a lot of information combined, so it’s best to go through them one by one and take your time with each, so as to not get overwhelmed.
Like we mentioned before, the tutorials in the game were quite mediocre for the longest time. They didn’t really encompass the essence of what you need to know to play Dota 2 and missed several key aspects that beginners should be aware of. The good news is, that is no longer the case.
The new tutorials can be found in the ‘Learn’ tab. When you launch the game for the first time, you will be asked a handful of questions about your previous experience in similar games. If you answer like a beginner to the genre, you will be directed to the Learn tab automatically.
Here, you will find the tutorials in the form of a total of 32 mini-games, divided across 4 sections. Most of these are quite short and simple to do. You also get rewards for completing 5 out of 8 mini-games in each section. But we recommend that you complete each and every one, as many of the mechanics explained are crucial. As we said before, take your time with these tutorials. There’s no need to do all of them in one sitting.
Then, there is also a separate tutorial in the last section titled ‘Community-Created Objectives’. This tutorial was created by Jake “SirActionSlacks” Kanner, a community figure, and a team of developers in early 2021.
It can serve as an alternative to completing all the other tutorials, however, it does not explain some of the concepts and mechanics. The plus side is that the tutorial is narrated by several community members, professional players and the like. This makes it quite fun to play through, and can be completed in just 45-minutes to an hour. Keep in mind that you may get stuck in some of the sections of the tutorial, as it was not designed to remain functional indefinitely. But you can just skip the sections where that happens.
New Player Mode
After you’re done with the tutorials, you want to start playing matches to put to test what you’ve learned and understand what an actual game of Dota 2 looks like.
However, this process can be quite rough, as you may encounter experienced people who expect more from you than you know, or toxic players who ruin the fun of the game. Thankfully, there is an easy solution to this.
The New Player Mode is a game mode specifically designed for new players.
It doesn’t punish you for leaving the game, matches you with other new players and has a limited pool of mechanically easy heroes to choose from. It also has couriers deliver items to you automatically (a concept you may have learned in the tutorials), a concept which generally needs to be performed manually.
It also makes you anonymous, so as to not be the target of toxicity, and fills the game with bots when there are no other new players to match with.
Bots are much easier to play against, even at the highest difficulty, compared to human players. It is recommended that you play this game mode for at least your first 50 to 100 matches, before jumping into a pub with other players.
You might be confused, but worry not, this is not about the first-person shooter game that you’ve probably heard of.
This is about a system in Dota 2 that allows experienced players to judge the reports that players might give each other, and determine whether they’re valid or not. It allows valid reports to be counted and ignores false reports so as to not punish innocent players.
The toxicity of the Dota 2 community precedes itself, which is what deters many players from trying the game. There are a number of reasons why Dota 2 players tend to be toxic, but that’s a discussion for another day.
In the past, reports were not vetted and players could be reported for no valid reason. What you need to know now is that the Overwatch system is miles better than what we had previously. Plus, reviewers in Overwatch have a high ‘Behaviour Score’, which is a metric of how positively or negatively they act in their games.
This system doesn’t just punish players for being bad, which is great news for beginners! It only punishes those who are intentionally and maliciously ruining the experience of the game for their allies and causing a blatant, detrimental impact on their team’s chances to win.
It also punishes players for using scripts or hacks, which give them an unfair advantage in the game. These actions are punished more severely.
If you face any such players in your games, you can report them via Overwatch by clicking on the rightmost button on the scoreboard, which can be opened using the button in the top-left corner on the screen. Alternatively, you can also click on the third button on the hero’s portrait at the bottom of the screen.
The Overwatch case will be forwarded to a reviewer, and you will get a notification if they receive a guilty verdict. Remember to not use this report just because a player is bad at the game, only if they are intentionally disruptive. Lastly, reports for communication abuse, such as trash talk over the mic or text can be submitted at the end of the game by hovering over a hero’s portrait in the scoreboard.
This is a monthly subscription service that provides you with a variety of useful features in the game. It is especially useful for new players, as it shows you several tips in Dota 2 right from the hero selection phase, such as which hero is best to choose in a particular match.
It also gives you other information, like optimal spots to place wards, stack timings for neutral camps, ability and item build suggestions etc. Furthermore, it gives you a sense of progression in a variety of ways. You can level up your heroes, complete challenges and purchase hero relics.
By doing all these things, you earn an in-game currency called Dota Plus Shards. You can use these shards to purchase the aforementioned hero relics and cosmetic items, like full sets that augment the appearance of your heroes.
Take note that these cosmetics do not give you an advantage over others in a game, only enhance the looks of your hero. This goes for all the features of Dota Plus as well.
While there are some features that help you learn the game faster and better, it is only really useful for complete newbies who don’t know what is going on and need a guiding hand.
The great news is that you get two months of Dota Plus subscription for free when you start playing the game. So, you can explore all its features before deciding whether you want to purchase a subscription, which costs $4 every month.
The concept of coaching is quite popular in Dota 2, where players who want to learn and improve request the help of other, more experienced players to teach them.
Some professional players also provide coaching services, however these are generally paid and cost a fair amount. There are other, free coaching services as well, but you need to go out of your way to find them. Luckily, there is a coaching feature in the game, which is quite nifty, and matches you with players more experienced than you to help in your games.
You can find the coaching button at the bottom-left corner of the screen on the main page of the client. It is next to your profile icon.
Here, you can either offer to coach someone, or request a coach for yourself. However, to do the former, you need to gain some experience and have a decent rank in matchmaking. You can also avail these coaching services while in a game by clicking the ‘Headphones’ icon in the top-right corner.
Note, that it is generally a good idea to communicate with your coach over voice chat, and to ask your coach to do the same. This rids you from the inconvenience of typing in the game and lets you focus on the important things. Finally, you can submit feedback for your coach after the session is over, so that unhelpful/rude coaches are not allowed to use the service in the future.
You probably know by now that Dota 2 is an incredibly detailed game with a lot of mechanics to learn about. Not all these mechanics are taught in the tutorials, and it can get too much when you’re bombarded with a lot of information at once. Thankfully, the glossary has all the information you want and need about Dota 2 at your disposal, right in the game itself. It can be found in the ‘Learn’ tab.
The glossary has an encyclopaedical level of information. Every single type of unit, mechanic, item, buff, debuff, building etc. is explained across 7 sections.
There is also a separate tab for Items, which can be accessed in the same Learn tab. Any time you find yourself confused about a particular thing, you can simply use the search function in the glossary and read up about what you don’t know in your free time.
There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained by reading it, and is something veteran players had to figure out on their own when they started playing the game. Once again, remember to take your time with it and not overwhelm yourself with too much information in a short time.
There are a few different ways you can define guides when you’re talking specifically about Dota 2. One type are the guides that tell you which items to buy and how to build your abilities. These can be found in the game when you open the shop.
The default guide is generally selected for you, but you can click on the ‘Browse all guides’ button and select from those created by other players. These guides can help you understand which items are good to buy on heroes in general, and also provide additional information in the tooltips of abilities.
Then, there are Steam guides, which are more comprehensive guides explaining a variety of different mechanics, tricks, combinations and concepts in a detailed manner.
They can be accessed via the community section of Dota 2 on Steam. You will also find the aforementioned Hero Builds here. Some of these guides are made in jest and not meant to be actually informative, so make sure you filter those out and search for the ones that are made to be helpful.
And finally, you can also find a host of guides here at Gamerzclass. Our guides section provides you with frequent lessons over a wide range of topics. Reading our guide posts will make you smarter and more informed, bit by bit, and certainly a better player over a long period of time.
Our guides tackle specific challenges/hurdles that players all across the spectrum face. It doesn’t matter which heroes you play or which position you prefer; you will always find out about some mistakes you might be making or a secret trick that others haven’t discovered yet.
And last, but certainly not the least, are guilds!
This is a feature that was previously removed from the game, but added back recently, and it is certainly something that a large swath of players love to use.
A guild is an association or group of players in the game who join together with the intent to play with other like-minded players. The concept is simple, but makes the experience of playing Dota 2 a whole lot better.
In these guilds, you can party up with other guild members and complete challenges, which gives your guild points. You can also select contracts, which are specific individual challenges that you can complete to earn even more guild points. As your guild earns more points, you climb up the ranks and earn bigger and better rewards.
Guilds truly foster the teamwork aspect of Dota 2, and emphasize the fact that the game is best played with friends. It is great if you have other friends who play Dota 2, so you can create a guild with them to play together.
Alternatively, you can also find guilds by clicking the icon at the bottom-left corner of the screen and joining one. There are tons of friendly players who will openly invite you to their guild, so worry not!