You probably heard at least one of these three games. Defense of the Ancients (DOTA), League of Legends (LoL), and Mobile Legends (ML). What is common among these three games, you ask? These are all categorized as MOBA games. MOBA is short for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. This means that players from different places in the world can play at the same time. These are not the only MOBA games that exist right now but, these are the most played and downloaded MOBA games as we speak.
It is very controversial and risky for me to include Mobile Legends. Since the game received lots of hate for being a cheap copy and a combination of the other two games in this list. Nevertheless, I think it is important that we give recognition to one of the reasons why mobile MOBA is popular nowadays. Before we get going with the review and the list, I would like to make a disclaimer that I have spent a casual amount of time playing each game included in this list. And, I have watched major tournaments of each game both live events and on Twitch. So, if I will make comments or remarks that will raise the eyebrows of the professionals then I would like to apologize in advance.
Without further ado, let’s dive deep into the world of gaming and MOBA.
- Defense of the Ancients (DOTA)
First, on the list, we must pay respect to the OG game that heavily influenced the growth of MOBA in the world of gaming. Defense of the Ancients or most commonly known as DOTA. Gamers nowadays play DOTA 2 more than the first version of DOTA. What’s the difference anyway? Well, to understand more about why there is DOTA and DOTA 2, we have to go back in history. Turn the hands of the clock to 20 years ago, in 2003. It all started with Warcraft 3; a game developed by Blizzard. The very first DotA map was released on December 27th, 2002. Originally, DotA is a fan-made mod of Warcraft 3 and due to its popularity, the developers made an extension to the game named “Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne”.
This gave birth to the DotA that we all know and eventually the MOBA genre. Fast forward to 2013, Valve acquired the rights to use the name DOTA from Blizzard. They then rebranded the game as DOTA 2. Valve kept its mechanics and playing style as a 5v5 MOBA. Although they changed some of the alternative names of heroes, they retained the skills and item builds.
DOTA 2 also has better graphics than the original version. Maybe because of the release date where specs are already upgraded, and PCs can handle higher quality graphics. Nevertheless, DOTA 2 was just as big as the previous version.
Non-gamers or DOTA players might ask, what makes DOTA so exciting? For me, as a casual player, it is the thrill that the game brings to the table. One game of DOTA can last a minimum of 45 minutes and can go as far as 100+ minutes. The players are unpredictable, your enemies could be winning the past 30 minutes, but one good play can turn the tables around. Based on experience, the longest game I had was almost 120 minutes or 2 hours. The back-and-forth kill streaks and tower destructions are exciting and really challenging.
To be honest, the game is hard. The unpredictability is a two-edged sword because it makes the game more difficult at the same time it is the fun and entertaining part of the game. DOTA is not for the people who do not have time to waste because a 100+ minute game can either make or break your day/ If you win, it is very satisfying. However, if you lose, you feel like you wasted those minutes for nothing.
Also, the large hero pool makes the game unique since it features 124 heroes with different attributes. Perfect team and hero chemistry is also one of the most satisfying aspects of the game. Aside from all these features, what makes the game the best is the community. The DOTA community is one of the most toxic in existence. Trash talks that will penetrate through your soul, words that will humiliate you, and insults that will go beyond and below the belt. This game is not for the emotionally and mentally weak.
One of the most exciting things about DOTA 2 is the major tournament “The International” or TI. This is arguably the biggest major tournament in the world. The International 2021 holds the record for the biggest prize pool in Esports history which raked up to $40 million. TI is known for having the biggest prize pool in Esports tournaments and this made people dream of making the pro scene.
2. League of Legends
Next contestant, is League of Legends. Released in 2009 by Riot Games, League of Legends became the direct competitor of DotA and DOTA 2. It is believed that the creation of LoL killed the DOTA industry. League of Legends showcases the same MOBA experience as its competitors, but its pace is faster than the former game mentioned. League also features a larger champion/hero pool with 163 champions with different attributes.
I think this is an advantage for League since there are more options for players. Various champions mean versatility and diversity in the game. This brings more to the table of the MOBA genre. Personally, playing league is more relaxed and easier than playing DOTA. The mechanics may be virtually the same but there is something about League that makes it better than other games of the same genre.
In terms of the community, it is a bit more lenient than the DOTA community. In my experience of playing League, I played in both SEA and NA servers, and I did not receive the same intensity of trash talk as DOTA. LoL players are more understanding when you are new, and they can really help you if they see the need to do so.
Did I mention the fast-paced games in League? It is indeed faster than DOTA as an average League play time is only 30-40 minutes. In rare occurrences, games can go up to an hour or more, but it is most likely to end in around 40 minutes. This strategy, I think lets players play more games since they have more time to spare after one game than one game in DOTA.
What about the pro scene of League? Believe it or not, the 2022 League of Legends World Championship garnered 5.15 million viewers. The prize pool? It may not match the $40 million of DOTA but it boasts a fair amount of $2.25 – $3 million prize pool. The DOTA pro scene is dominated by the European teams and PSG.LGD (China) but on League of Legends it is dominated by Korean teams mainly T1 and Gen G.
I also forgot to mention the maps. DOTA 2’s map after the major update v7.33 it became a game changer. The usual MOBA map of 3 lanes with jungle areas are now extended with more elements added that made the game more complicated. On the other hand, League of Legends is pretty straightforward with the usual lanes and jungle areas. This feature makes it easier for players both old and new to navigate through the game.
Overall, I think League of Legends is a mild and easier version of the DOTA franchise. This does not mean that we can underestimate the competitiveness that League can offer to the players. Both games are phenomenal and really unique despite the fact that they belong to the same MOBA genre. If you are starting your path to this kind of game, League can be your stepping stone and can be your main.
3. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
Now for the most controversial game on the list, Mobile Legends. Just three years after the release of DOTA 2, a Chinese developer named Moonton released Mobile Legends. ML is not the first mobile MOBA game in the market. But just like DOTA it changed the name of the game. Mobile Legends opened the doors to the larger population who did not own personal computers or even laptops. Based on its name, “Mobile” you will only need your mobile device and a stable internet connection to play the game.
This is such a breakthrough since people found it more accessible and easier to play than the two games on the list. There is a big difference that separates ML from DOTA and LoL, aside from the use of mobile devices, you will only need 2-3 or maybe 4 fingers to play. That is why there is no doubt that this game rose in popularity, especially in countries like the Philippines.
You can have the full MOBA experience on your phone with minimal requirements that even cheap phones can meet. This advantage charmed the people to play Mobile Legends and not long after its popularity, Mobile Legends had its first international major tournament, M1.
Mobile Legends feature a faster-paced game that ranged from 15 to 20+ minutes only6. This gave the players more motivation to play since they can play multiple games in an hour compared to the 2 former games mentioned. Mobile Legends showcase a competitive 121-hero pool
But there’s a catch, Mobile Legends had conflict with League of Legends and it even went to the point where a lawsuit was filed against Moonton. Riot Games filed a copyright infringement against Mobile Legend’s developer. Riot lost eventually, and ML went on its way to enjoying its success.
The Mobile Legends map is similar to League’s straightforward concept. The community however is, in my opinion, the worst. Worst than DOTA 2? I think so. This is because of the accessibility of the game where kids of all ages can play, and all types of people can enjoy the game. This is no different from the pro scene. Competitive ML is dominated by Southeast Asians mainly, Filipinos and Indonesians. Both nationalities are known for trash talks even in major tournaments and are really hyped up because of their rivalry.
Overall, Mobile Legends is not yet on the level of LoL and DOTA 2 but their impact on the MOBA scene is exceptional and game-changing. If you are a newbie to the genre, you can try this game to understand the mechanics of MOBA. If you want a fast-paced game that gives you the full experience, you can try this game but do not expect that you can apply your same skills from ML to LoL and DOTA 2 because they are two different worlds.
For the final word, if you want to jive in the world of MOBA, there is a game for you. It will depend on your resources and personality. Hardcore people will choose DOTA 2 due to its competitiveness. Casual players can opt to play League because it is easier. At the same time gives you the full experience of MOBA gaming. And if you are a beginner to this type of game, learn the mechanics from Mobile Legends. It will also depend on the time you can invest in playing since these three games have different playing times. All in all, playing MOBA enriches your critical thinking, strategy-making, and crucial decision-making. It can also enrich your communication and teamwork with other people.
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