Dota 2 Diretide impressions - does Valve's new game mode trick or treat?

Duncan Geere at

Undying is slaughtering zombies, Phantom Lancer is tearing through ghosts, and Roshan is ramping around the map carrying a big bucket of sweets. What the hell has happened to Dota 2?

Diretide is what. It's a newly-added game mode which asks the opposing teams to compete over candy. And it's insane.

Your first game will be enormously confusing, so allow me a moment to explain it to you. A game of Diretide is split into three parts on a specially-redesigned version of the standard Dota map. The map has a bucket of sweets where your side's ancients normally spawn, severed hands wandering around in place of the usual wildlife, and each side's creeps come with Roshlings in place of siege units. Don't be fooled by the name - they're not cute and cuddly. They're huge, stompy, and almost as tough as their paternal namesake.

When a Roshling dies, it drops candy. The aim of the first part of the game is to collect as much of that candy as you can by grabbing it and dropping it in your bucket. When you do that, your team gets gold and xp. But there's a caveat -- carrying candy reduces your health. Holding more than a few bits at once means that you're be splatted into the ground with one hit once the enemy team reach you, and you can be sure they'll reach you. If you die, all the candy you were carrying spills out onto the ground.

No-one's home

After 10 minutes, Roshan awakes. And he's hungry. He'll chase down individual heroes one after another, only changing targets if he kills someone or if he's fed a bit of that candy. From this point on, you'll want to keep hold of at least one bit of candy at all times to feed to him and get him off your back.

After another 10 minutes, whoever has the most candy in their basket wins and gets an item. Then phase three starts. Roshan grabs all the candy, and settles down in the forest on either the Radiant or Dire side to eat it. Your task is now to team up with the other side to take him down as fast as possible. When you manage it, you'll get a second item.

Diretide isn't as strategically balanced as regular Dota -- certain heroes dominate over others. Riki's ability to go invisible is powerful, and saves him from ganks when carrying a lot of candy. Any hero with the ability to move through terrain - like Storm Spirit or Batrider - is useful too. Nature's Prophet, with his teleport, can dominate.

Trick or treat!

I'd love to see some of the professional teams battle it out in a friendly Diretide tournament, but even for casual players, the shower of loot that Diretide brings should be welcome - you'll get at least one item for every game you play, and if you win the first part, you'll get two.

But what's impressive beyond that is how much fun it is to play. If Valve's goal was to create a new game with the same heroes on roughly the same map that's almost as entertaining as regular Dota 2 and much quicker, then they've succeeded.