The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (or MOBA) genre has seen a meteoric rise in popularity in the last few years. One immediately thinks of League of Legends which is currently the most played game on the planet with a reported 32 million monthly players. DOTA 2, based off the same original map, is Valve’s offering into the MOBA scene and has been met with great enthusiasm.

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DOTA 2 was available in beta for two years before its full release as a free to play over the summer. Its popularity was unprecedented and became huge on the competitive gaming scene, the apex of which was this summer at The International 3 where the prize pool was nearly $2.9m. DOTA 2 is now the most played game on Steam with over 500,000 regular players. To put that into perspective, the second highest rarely reaches 60,000.

The success of MOBAs is attributable almost entirely to the free to play model. LoL is financed through champion rotations and players must pay to use all of the champions. In DOTA 2, however, one can achieve the maximum gaming experience for free and revenue is generated through aesthetic item purchases and tickets to competitive streams. This is certainly DOTA 2’s strength over LoL and undoubtedly attracts many to the game as well as the competitive scene, although it hasn’t quite hit the same popularity levels.

One major issue new players find with DOTA 2 is the insurmountable learning curve. Players must invest a great deal of time in playing the game and becoming proficient at many of the 102 heroes before they can become successful.

This is helped somewhat by the level system which tries to rank players and match them with similar opponents, although this does not always work properly. Furthermore, players must also learn and understand the complex meta-game which governs tactics and teams. Even after hundreds of hours playing, the surface is barely scratched.

A game so rich with content and features undoubtedly requires immeasurable commitment in order for players to improve, but even at with no game knowledge at lower levels buying crazy items and misusing abilities, it is unbelievably enjoyable. The feeling when you land that one epic hook, catch five heroes in a black hole, or bring the game back from the brink of defeat with a backdoor, DOTA 2 is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding games on the market. And being free to play, there’s no excuse not to try it.