Dota 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game in which two teams of five players compete to collectively destroy a large structure defended by the opposing team known as the “Ancient”, whilst defending their own. As in Defense of the Ancients, the game is controlled using standard real-time strategy controls, and is presented on a single map in a three-dimensional isometric perspective. Ten players each control one of the game’s 115 playable characters, known as “heroes”, with each having their own design, benefits, and weaknesses.
Heroes are divided into two primary roles, known as the “carry” and “support”. Carries, which are also called “cores”, begin each match as weak and vulnerable, but are able to become more powerful later in the game, thus becoming able to “carry” their team to victory. Supports generally lack abilities that deal heavy damage, instead having ones with more functionality and utility that provide assistance for their carries. Players select their hero during a pre-game drafting phase, where they can also discuss potential strategies and hero matchups with their teammates. Multiple game types in the game exist, which mainly alter the way hero selection is handled; such as “All Pick”, which offer no restrictions on hero selection, “All Random”, which randomly assigns a hero for each player, and “Captain’s Mode”, where a single player on each team selects heroes for their entire team, which is primarily used for professional play.
All heroes have a basic damage-dealing attack, in addition to powerful abilities. Each hero has at least four abilities, all of which are unique, which are the primary method of fighting. Heroes begin each game with an experience level of one, only having access to one of their abilities, but are able to level up and become more powerful during the course of the game, up to a maximum level of 25. Whenever a hero gains an experience level, the player is able to unlock another of their abilities or improve one already learned. The most powerful ability for each hero is known as their “ultimate”, which requires them to have an experience level of six in order to use.
In order to prevent abilities from being used without consequence, a magic system in the game exists. Activating an ability costs a hero some of their “mana points”, which slowly regenerates over time. Using an ability will also cause it to enter a cooldown phase, in which the ability can not be used again until a timer counts down to zero. All heroes have three attributes: strength, intelligence, and agility, which affect health points, mana points, and attack speed, respectively. Each hero has one primary attribute out of the three, which adds to their non-ability basic damage output when increased. Heroes also have an ability augmentation system known as “Talent Trees”, which allow players further choices on how to develop their hero. If a hero runs out of health points and dies, they are removed from active play until a respawn timer counts down to zero, where they are then respawned in their base.
The two teams—known as the Radiant and Dire—occupy fortified bases in opposite corners of the map, which is divided in half by a crossable river and connected by three paths, which are referred to as “lanes”. The lanes are guarded by defensive towers that attack any opposing unit who gets within its line of sight. A small group of weak computer-controlled creatures called “creeps” travel predefined paths along the lanes and attempt to attack any opposing heroes, creeps, and buildings in their way. Creeps periodically spawn throughout the game in groups from two buildings, called the “barracks”, that exist in each lane and are located within the team’s bases.
The map is also permanently covered for both teams in fog of war, which prevents a team from seeing the opposing team’s heroes and creeps if they are not directly in sight of themselves or an allied unit. The map also features a day-night cycle, with some hero abilities and other game mechanics being altered depending on the time of the cycle. Also present on the map are “neutral creeps” that are hostile to both teams, and reside in marked locations on the map known as “camps”. Camps are located in the area between the lanes known as the “jungle”, which both sides of the map have. Neutral creeps do not attack unless provoked, and will respawn over time if killed. The most powerful neutral creep is named “Roshan”, who is a unique boss that may be defeated by either team to obtain an single-use item that allows near instant resurrection if the hero that holds it is killed. Roshan will respawn around ten minutes after being killed, and becomes progressively harder to kill as the match progresses over time.“Runes”, which are special items that spawn in set positions on the map every two minutes, offer heroes various powerful, but temporary power-ups when collected.
In addition to having abilities becoming stronger during the game, players are able to buy items that provide their own special abilities. Items are not limited to specific heroes, and can be bought by anyone. In order to obtain an item, players must be able to afford it with gold at shops located on the map, which is primarily obtained by killing enemy heroes, destroying enemy structures, and killing creeps, with the latter being an act called “farming”. Only the hero that lands the killing blow on a creep obtains gold from it, an act called “last hitting”, but all allies receive a share of gold when an enemy hero dies close to them. Players are also able to “deny” allied units and structures by last hitting them, which then prevents their opponents from getting full experience from them. Gold can not be shared between teammates, with each player having their own independent stash. Players also receive a continuous, but small stream of gold over the course of a match. Matches usually last between 20 minutes to an hour, although they can theoretically last forever as long as both Ancients remain standing.
Dota 2 also occasionally features seasonal events that present players with alternative game modes that do not follow the game’s standard rules. Some of these included the Halloween-themed Diretide event, the Christmas-themed Frostivus event, and the New Bloom Festival, which celebrated the coming of spring. In October 2015, a Halloween-themed “capture point” game mode was released, titled “Colosseum”. The move to the Source 2 engine in 2015 also saw the addition of community-created custom game modes, known as the “Arcade”, with the more popular ones having dedicated server hosting by Valve. In 2017, a story-driven cooperative campaign mode, titled “Siltbreaker”, was released as a part of that year’s International Battle Pass.