Every Saturday, we’ll highlight a Dota 2 custom game that is fun, playable, and relatively bug-free. To find a custom game, go to the ‘Custom Games’ tab in Dota 2 and enter the name as we’ve provided it in the search box in the top right—in this case, Roshpit Champions: Survival.
Roshpit Champions: Survival is a strange name for a hugely impressive custom game. It doesn't have much to do with Roshan (or his pit) but it has everything to do with a team of four heroes ('champions', in this case: hi Riot!) taking on waves of increasingly tough NPC monsters. There are plenty of custom games of this kind, but what makes Roshpit Champions stand out is the number of new features on display, the relatively high level of polish on show across the board, and the clever design work that has gone into creating lots of new characters and enemies.
Each character has access to burst damage, movement, and crowd control of some kind, but these operate very differently in each case. The party isn't expected to fulfil traditional healer-damage-tank roles per se: this is a little more like co-op Diablo, all about chaining together massive area attacks to wipe out waves of enemies as efficiently as possible. I liked playing as The Red General, an analogue for Axe capable of flinging himself around the map as a whirling engine of destruction. One of his abilities fires backwards: an unusual choice, perhaps, but one that acknowledges how much time players spend kiting enemies in a game like this and something that interacts well with Dota 2's existing turn rate mechanic.
A completely bespoke World of Warcraft-style talent system has been bolted onto Dota 2's existing levelling mechanics, allowing you to spend points to customise your character's abilities to match your playstyle. You also earn item drops as you slay monsters, and Dota 2's inventory system is treated like a backpack: your gear is now slotted into a completely new 'paper doll'-style equipment panel, another impressive bit of custom engineering.
There's a village area with shops where gold can be exchanged for items, a set of sprawling, intricate maps with custom enemies and bosses, and even a handful of dungeon instances accessed through the overworld. Approach one of these portals and a voting interface flashes up to ensure that your entire team is ready: I have no idea how you go about achieving this in a Dota 2 custom game, but I’m glad somebody did. Of all of the mods that I've played, Roshpit Champions is the single most impressive demonstration of what Dota 2's scripting engine can do.
Unlike the online RPGs it takes after, Roshpit Champions is session-based rather than persistent, and this is key to its charm. It's more like a roguelike in that regard: if the entire party dies it's all over, so runs can feel very different based on the composition of your party and how lucky you're getting with the loot RNG. It's capable of scratching your cooperative RPG itch without demanding any kind of long-term commitment, and deserves a place in your custom game library simply on that basis.
It's not perfectly balanced or bug-free however: this is very much a work-in-progress, impressive as it can be. There are encounters that are too difficult or too easy, some items, abilities and stats are more essential than others, and those custom interfaces can sometimes wig out. It's also a weaker experience if you play with strangers, because it has been balanced for four players and a sudden drop-out can ruin the time investment you've made into a particular run. Although this is true of all custom games to a degree, Roshpit Champions is something to play when you're one person short of a proper game of Dota and your friends feel like trying something new. That said, this is a sufficiently well-executed idea that I can imagine it breaking out of the Dota 2 client entirely, some day.
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