Daniel’s Game of the Year 2013 – not what you’d expect

Every year there’s a handful of games which overcrowd the shelf of masterful achievements in gaming, and it’s usually the same few games every year. Of course The Last of Us was going to be up there, and it’d be a shock if Grand Theft Auto V and Tomb Raider weren’t in everyone’s top five games of the year, but that’s all I ever see. If you’ve read one gamer’s top five list then you’ve read them all. In years to come when we look back at 2013 we’re gonna remember the incredibly powerful story telling and visually groundbreaking graphics of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. We’re gonna delve in the nostalgia of engrossing ourselves in San Andreas all over again with Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V, and we’ll think back to when being an immigration inspector in Papers, Please was an invigorating, rewarding and honestly joyous puzzler.  So while the aforementioned games are amazing, and I logged several hours into their worlds, I wanted to share with you a game I’m yet to see in anyone’s favorite games of 2013.

Dota 2 (Defense of the Ancients)

dota 2Dota 2 is the most life-absorbing, anger-inducing video game I’ve ever played in my life; and I absolutely love it!

While Dota 2 has been out for a number of years, the beta only just finished this year so it manages to slide into nominations for 2013.

I’ve never been a fan of multiplayer games, let alone MOBAs, since I bathe in the insecurity that every online player is most likely a regional gaming champion. However, I broke the single-player mold in January when my friend promised a fun and competitive online game which was, at the time, still in beta. He sent over the beta key, I installed it and we began our Dota 2 experience with trepidation and a dash of excitement.

How to play

The game’s objective pits two teams of five player-controlled heroes against each other to destroy the other team’s Ancient, a large and heavily guarded building directly in the centre of each teams base.

The map is split into three lanes – middle, bottom and top, and a typical game sees one hero from each team in middle, and two each in the others. Each lane has a continuous production of creatures called Creeps which rush through their lane with a single minded objective of attacking anything in their line of sight. They’ll clash with the opposing teams’ Creeps in the middle of each lane and it’s your job to level up and collect gold by killing these critters so you’re strong enough to take on enemy heroes and buildings.

Every level gives you the option to invest in new abilities for your hero, and lets you upgrade each skill once the experience begins to escalate. Gold is used to buy items from the store which adds attributes to your heroes and gives you more passive or activated abilities. Each hero can hold up to six items which can be sold whenever the player has the chance to make room. Clever items will boost your hero’s overall attributes but be wary as some items can tip the scales and throw you into a very harsh loss.

“I’ve stopped playing Dota” is shortly followed by “I had the best Dota sesh today” and the allurement of triple-A titles are simply minor distractions.


This gameplay set isn’t concrete so players can set up strategic plays by mixing it up a little. For example, rather than have two in both top and bottom lane, you can leave one in middle, one in bottom or top, and three in the other lane to throw the opposing team off their play. This often lets the players in lanes on their own get more ‘farm,’ a term to describe the collection of experience points and gold from Creeps and Heroes. Each lane has two towers defending your path to their Ancient which will put a massive dent in your health bar if you’re near them. It’s wise to stand behind Creeps when attacking these towers so they take the brunt of the force.

Middle is singled-out for one person so they’re not sharing experience points with any other hero but themselves, thus leveling them up faster and giving the opportunity to slide into other lanes for easy low-level kills. This mode of slipping out of middle and jumping into other lanes is called ‘ganking’ and is a fairly common strategic play.

My first play through

The first thing I noticed about this free-to-play title were the visuals. They weren’t revolutionary however I wasn’t expecting The Witcher 2. The environment bursted with vibrant colours and was full of lively creatures which glide through water and slither in grass.  Heroes paddle along the ground seamlessly, and swish around with majestic grace while Creeps joyously bounce with tiny swords.

In my first game I chose to carry the team with Luna which means I assigned myself to get the most kills and become an unstoppable snowball of force while my team supported or picked up the scraps .We sped through a few bot games and we were secured enough to take on other players. While not particularly great at first, we persevered and delayed several university assignments just for the satisfaction of winning online. There are over one-hundred heroes to choose from and, depending on which game mode you chose, you can be whichever character you wish. Be it you’re trying to fine tune your experience with a new hero or just want to reap havoc with your favourite character, Dota 2 gives you the option to create the perfect team.

My mood swings during a session are record-breaking; I can go from forgiving saint to a devilish rageaholic in a matter of seconds. There’s always threats to uninstall the game when I’m cursed by a horribly long losing streak, but it quickly fades once I get back onto the winning spectrum. “I’ve stopped playing Dota” is shortly followed by “I had the best Dota sesh today” and the allurement of triple-A titles are simply minor distractions.

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There’s an unassailable euphoric feeling when you meet a Dota player from work or university and they brag about their best plays and favourite heroes. You have an instant connection with this person when they complain about horrible teammates and the universally hated Drow Ranger and Riki. I’ve made several new mates just by playing this game with friends-of-friends and we’re always itching to go home and play it once we’ve exhausted our hangs.

Like any other online game it’s always better to play with mates. If you’re riding solo in a public game then you’re making a risky choice. It’s safe to say everyone loves to be a carry, because you’re the one the team cheers on when you’re raking in the dough and tipping that kill ratio, however not everyone can be the person who drives the team home. Good teams need a mixture of someone to heal you and buy wards, someone to tank all the damage while the carry cleans up, and someone who can push lanes and destroy towers fast. However, public matchmaking can often set you up with players who don’t want the underestimated job of a support or tank and opt for the carry. If your whole team consists of carries then there’s no one to heal you, no way to see when you’re getting ganked and you’ll all be under leveled. Not to mention the brutal bashing you’ll get from the opposing team when they point out your teams rookie mistake. At least when you’re with friends you can cooperate with one another and assign each other roles. You’ll also be able to take or dish out commands to players for ultimate team play.


Dota 2 is not a particularly easy game to play. Easy to learn but difficult to master. If you’re plagued with stubborn teammates then you’re gonna have a bad time. Like most online communities, Dota 2’s society isn’t shy of slashing you with insults. If you’re only just getting the hang of the game, be wary of online. Play a few bot games first before heading into the fray so you can protect yourself from the insults about your skill and the classically lame  ‘your mamma’ slurs.

I highly recommend Dota 2 to everyone, even those who are unfamiliar with MOBAs or online gaming. Dota 2 isn’t the League of Legends killer some might have been expecting, but the two titles are amazing games and it really comes down to personal preference. I’ve played LoL and, while it’s good, it’s just not convincing enough to pull me away from Valve’s original Warcraft III mod.

It’s free so why not download it here now?