Dota is hard. It demands moment to moment skill, collective coordination, and a vast amount of learning. Despite being the most popular game on Steam by an order of magnitude, it’s an acquired taste—and one that, despite years of listening to Chris drone on about it, the rest of the PC Gamer team has yet to acquire. Over the course of a week, we set out to see if that might be changed.
In the first case, our goal was to determine just how difficult Dota 2 really is to pick up. Is it possible for newcomers to have fun straight away, or will those first hours always be punishing? What can more experienced players do to lower the barrier to entry, and how do you best go about matching characters and roles to players with a diverse gaming background? How do you introduce Dota as an action game, a strategy game, a sport and a social experience all at once?
More to the point: why make the effort? For some of the team, gaining a new hobby was not incentive enough to pour hours into the game. We needed a goal—something to fight for. We found one. Concurrent with our own efforts, our longtime friends, rivals and (in several cases) former colleagues at Rock, Paper, Shotgun began training their own Dota novices. The stage was set for a showdown that would pitch veteran against veteran, newbie against newbie. We really, really wanted to win.
That meant training. With Chris as our guide, we set about getting our hands on the bottom rung of Dota 2’s daunting ladder. Over the following pages you’ll discover what sunk in, what didn’t, and how we fared when exposed to public matchmaking. Spoilers: Dota is hard.