Michael has been an online writer for more than six years. His interests include video games, technology, and men's fashion.
Dota 2 or League of Legends?
That's the big question that every MOBA/ARTS enthusiast loves to argue over. In this article, I will dissect the different mechanics that define the solid gameplay each game offers. Although they share the same genre, once we start the look at the finer details, we can see that these two are completely different games.
So I guess I'll start off small with the comparisons.
Both the Dota 2 and LoL map share the basic principles of a MOBA map, that is, 3 lanes consisting of top, middle and bottom. The jungle (although quite different in both games) can also be utilized in play.
The two sides lanes in Dota 2 do not share the same length, bottom (top for Dire) is closer to the base and tower, while top (bottom for Dire) further away from both base and tower. While in LoL, the lanes are equal in length. An advantage is that it creates a mutual balance to the laning phase. In LoL, you know your opponent has no advantage just because he/she is in a certain lane. This means whoever makes the bigger plays will win the lane. Although some may say this is the same case for Dota 2, I feel as though it isn't at the at the level League of Legends is. However, Dota 2's lanes creates complexity and flexibility on lineups. Rarely will you see the same lineup of lanes in matches in Dota 2.
Both games share the same mechanic of fog of war. To the addition of this, League has brushes which allows players to manipulate vision to their advantage. In Dota 2, there is the mechanic of high ground, which provides players with more vision if they are on higher ground. Dota 2 also has environmental intractability. Trees can be destroyed to provide greater vision or be manipulated to hide from (juke) enemy players. On top of this, Dota 2 also has the mechanic of day and night cycle, which limits the vision during the night.
In League of Legends, champions will always have 1 passive and 4 active (sometimes with passive components) abilities with an additional 2 summoner spells. This consistency does not exist in Dota 2. Heroes only have 4 abilities that vary from active and passive.
Having had experience from both games, I have noticed the early game/laning stage is much more exciting in LoL because there is simply MORE to do. Because there are so many active abilities with low mana costs, the early laning stage is a lot more fun. But because of this, LoL players need to be fast with their abilities to be skillful. While in Dota 2, timing and positioning with abilities (which comes from knowledge) is key to being a great Dota player.
Champions in LoL are much more balanced. This is a fact. Anyone that has had the slightest experience in both game will tell you that. But what Dota 2 offers is balance towards competitive play. This means you can't expect to pick a hero to counter another certain hero, but rather, have a team build a strategy around it. This is one of the many reasons why Dota 2 offers more complexity. There is simply more room for bold and surprising team tactics to still be viable.
In terms of the competitive aspect, and to my surprise, hero/champion roles and farm priorities are quite similar. Top for instance, in LoL, would be the team's tank or bruiser (or assassin that is able to sustain, has an escape, or has both). In terms of Dota 2, this would be the 3—the offlaner.
Now, in terms of the availability of heroes/champions, we all know which one is better. Free vs limited? I think we know the winner here. Though, some may argue that the constant grind is adds to the enjoyment. Well, to each their own.
League has a lot more to offer in their shop. And in my opinion, items are sorted lot better in the shop. Dota 2's shop can be very confusing to newer players. I find it quite unorganized and hard to find specific items because you can't sort by specific stat, only by specific category. For example, if I wanted items that provide Strength (for some extra HP), I can't do that in Dota 2.
Items in LoL add more to the game in terms of stats. I noticed items provide more stats such as damage, HP, etc. and are much cheaper. This creates a greater emphasis on the early stages of the game. There is also a lack of active components to items. In Dota 2, items provide less, but offer more. An item such as a blink dagger offers nothing in stats, but grants you the ability to blink (flash) a great distance.
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Graphics and Aesthetics
So I've searched far and wide for a reputable source of the engine of League of Legends. I have yet to find one. But from what I've seen, LoL's engine is underestimated. Some of League's newer champs and skins have a lot of detail in them. But I feel as though some of their older champs and map terrain (trees, brush, etc) needs a polish.
Dota 2 runs on the Valve developed Source engine (Team Fortress 2, Titan Fall), so we know what the game can offer graphically and the limitations. But because we don't know what engine LoL runs on, we can't compare the two.
Technically speaking, both game's graphics CAN be on the same level as each other. But as of now, Valve's level of polish in each hero (low health walking animations, voice lines between enemy and ally heroes, cosmetics for different parts of the hero) and overall graphics is by far superior to Riot's level of design. Even comparing minions/creeps we can see the different levels of graphics each game offers.
Example "Dota 2" Clip Made Using the Source Engine
Store and Cosmetics
In my opinion, Dota 2's store offers more in quantity and quality. There is so much more room for customization, such as custom HUDs, announcers, cosmetic parts. There is also a community workshop that allows players to create their own cosmetics and have it be approved by Valve to be sold in the Dota 2 store. Players will also receive 70% of the earnings.
What LoL offers, is an MMO feel to the game. Aspects outside of the game such as masteries, runes, and a summer level system creates this MMO feel which a lot of players (such as myself) find, to some extent, addicting.
Apart from this, the LoL skin store can be very misleading. Skins in League are displayed as artwork and don't represent what it looks like in game.
Which Is better?
Dota 2 is simply more complex. It has more layers of gameplay than LoL does, and as such is demonstrably and objectively a more complicated game.
If you took LoL, cloned it, and added creep deny to one version and left it like it is now for the other version, which would be more complicated? Obviously the one with creep deny.
But does this make it a better game? No. Yes, it makes it a harder game, but the question is subjective to what YOU enjoy in a game. So play the game YOU enjoy and ignore what everyone else thinks.
© 2013 Michael
So what do you think? Dota2 or LoL?
Joe on May 22, 2018:
I'm a huge Heroes of Newerth fan. I think HoN is above Dota in terms of graphics, rhythm, fluidity.
Eric Farmer from Rockford Illinois on February 21, 2018:
I have also preferred to play DOTA 2 myself but it is the game I learned to play first. I stick to what I know I guess.
Primitus on October 20, 2017:
I played Dota from 2006-2015 and I started LoL in 2016 and currently. I tried valve's Dota 2 and felt that is still the same with Dota essentially. Maybe what makes LoL intellectually superioir to Dota/2, for me, is the Mastery and Runes MMO feel. They made LoL not just "mechanical" or microtic but very cerebral.
Emotionally, what Guinsoo and Pendragon (DotA developers and predecessors of Icefrog) could not alter with Dota's engine (warcraft 3), they are doing it freely with LoL's own engine.
Dota is Old Testament for me. Dota 2 is New Testament. Well, LoL is the Post-Pentecost experience.
Bs on August 07, 2017:
*ahem* Lol is balanced O.o..... You get buffs from picking certain heroes and pay to have an advantage outside of the game.... But its balanced
Enki on July 05, 2017:
I played both games and played waaaaaaay more LoL but there are some points I don't agree with. For example, you say that LoL champions are more balanced. This not necessarily true. For example, if they are all on the same level, why different prices for them? It's not solely about cosmetics. Dota heroes definitely seem imbalanced to a LOL player because the latter is not used to stuffs like 4 seconds stuns. However, all abilities are extreme in Dota. If all of them are extreme, therefore it's balanced. Moreover, if a hero has lots of disables/cc, it will usually be slow and/or have no escape ability. If one has strong single target spells it won't have any teamfight presence. This therefore leads to room for counters as no matter how impressive their strengths might seem, they have some very awful weaknesses to balance that off. This means that you are picking a characteristic at the cost of another. Heroes can also be countered with items. For example, Phantom Assassin's crits might appear imbalanced too but you only have to get a ghost blade and she suddenly becomes useless. Another argument for why champions are not really balanced is the fact that you end up seeing more or less the same champions in every game. Why do everyone pick these particular champs? Because they are stronger in one way or another(either intricately or due to the current meta).
Then, you say that LoL offers way more items. It's true, but how many do you really end up buying/using? The meta really limits everything you do in LOL.
Another thing I've noticed in LOL is that there is not really the sense of late/super late game and there are several reasons for that. In LoL, late game kicks in at around the 20 minute mark. In Dota, at this stage, mid game just began. In LoL, even the most expensive item is cheap, compared to Dota, which means that you get to full build way faster and that's the point where it's almost game over. When that happens, there's nothing much left to do except waiting for dragon/baron to respawn(if it hasn't been killed yet) in order to get the lead for the final push. In Dota, it takes a really long time to get to full build and even when you do, you can sell the items to buy even more expensive/luxury item if the game drags on. Added to that is the backpack, which allows you to carry 2 more items, for a total of 9. This gives you the feeling that you will get stronger and stronger no matter how long the game gets. Last but not least, in LoL, the max level per champion is 18. In Dota, it's 25.
To conclude I'd say that the two games target different markets. LoL is easier and more about fun. It does not really punish you for being dumb/doing dumb stuffs. Also, it's more about reflex. On the other side, Dota is more about using your brain. You have to think a lot before every move as you'll get penalised for doing dumb things. It really pushes you to know how good you can get. The two are like snake & ladders vs chess: they are both fun in their own way.
haha on May 21, 2017:
I lost you at "Lol is more balanced"... Look at World Championships. Compare different heroes pick rate. Thx for bullshit :)
Julius on May 02, 2017:
those cool videos are from dota 2. ill vote for dota 2.
my mum on April 19, 2017:
'the characters of league are very balanced'
oh well, i guess you've never ever seen a 14/6 rengar before. i know nobody has commented since years, but who cares?
Tyler on January 05, 2016:
Yeah, for the wisest man that ever lived, that was the dumbest comment ever. So instead of COD, Halo and all of those online games played professionally, we should call them "Counterstrike Clones" or whatever game you want to argue was the first to market depending on your concept of online gaming (pc vs system)? No. They call these games First-Person Shooters and use that label the same way we use MOBA to describe the rest. Should every racing game be called a "Taito's Speed Race" clone? No.
The Wisest Man That Ever Lived on July 09, 2015:
LoL is casual garbage cloned from original DotA Allstars, they even had to invent bullshit therm MOBA (that makes no sense, as CoD, CS, TF2 Chivalry, Tribes Ascend, DayZ or 100+ other games can be described as multiplayer online battle arena). Call it what it is - DotA clone game.
jj watt on April 22, 2015:
league is 50 times better than dota this is a fact
Captain Obvious on January 06, 2015:
Is there even a need to be "better"? Maybe different kinds of players enjoy different kind of games.
junkmail on August 16, 2014:
I like your analysis, but I think you are wrong on balance. Even at a low level, the viable hero pool is much better in dota. In high level play, the difference becomes obvious.
Sarah Forester from Australia on August 09, 2014:
I think they both have their own merits. I've given up on both of them though for newer and more interesting takes on the MOBA genre.
m on July 07, 2014:
In my opinion i like dota 2 more and i don't agree that lol is more balanced .In the slightest in fact i think dota 2 is more balanced than lol.But that's just my opinion.
The Wowzer on June 24, 2014:
Wow this is amazing. Another game to play other then LoL!
Michael (author) from Australia on October 26, 2013:
Being internationally played as an esport (Dota also has the international , 2.87m total prize pool) is not a valid argument for the difficulty of the game. Popularity does not equal difficulty.
That is like saying call of duty is harder than counter strike because it has a bigger esport following.
Alex on October 26, 2013:
If Dota is harder then why is LoL internationally played as an E-sport, where the best players compete? Real question.
Michael (author) from Australia on August 27, 2013:
I think you took that comment out of context. I was simply using it as an example of game mechanics.
Noname on August 25, 2013:
"If you took LoL, cloned it, and added creep deny to one version and left it like it is now for the other version"
So Dota 2 is now a LoL clone. I'm surprised.
Michael (author) from Australia on July 14, 2013:
you should definitely give both of them another try! MOBAs are genres that are more enjoyable the more you play. LoL is a bit easier and casual compared to Dota 2. So if you want a bigger challenge, consider Dota 2.
LoL is easy to learn, hard to master.
Dota 2 is hard to learn, hard to master.
John Roberts from South Yorkshire, England on July 13, 2013:
Very good list, and I'll be sure to play both at some point! I didn't play LoL all that much when I first had it simply because it wasn't my thing but now I'm not so sure, so I guess it deserves revisiting.
A great, unbiased battle that deserves a vote up, Useful, Interesting and Awesome! Also, you've got a new follower! ^^