League of Legends VS Defence of the Ancients 2

Disclaimer: I am aware that I am risking my life by writing this post. If you are a hard-core fan of DotA 2, take note that this post favors League of Legends. If you want to argue why DotA 2 is more suitable for you, please write your own post (I play one DotA 2 session for every three League of Legends sessions. For me both games are great, but one is better than the other)

League of Legends (gameplay-video) and Defence of the Ancients II (gameplay-video ) are undoubtedly the most popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games (link). There are myriad of non-stop arguments on the internet about which game is the best. Both player communities have their own opinions why the game they play is better than the other. I have played both games for a considerable amount of time (each > 4 years if DotA I is considered). Having played both games, I believe I am in a prime position to share my opinion on how both games hold up to each other

For the benefit of the inexperienced, I will briefly describe the gameplay of both games. Both games – LoL and DotA 2 – need each player to control a character in a 5 VS 5 game. The characters spawn (and revive) on their base, and their goal is to destroy the opponent’s base. There are several rewarding tasks that must be done by every character to achieve the goal:

  • Creeping – killing enemy computer-controlled troops to gain money (money is used to buy equipment to further strengthen the characters) and experience (characters can gain level from experience and learn abilities/ get stronger)
  • Killing – killing enemy player-controlled characters to gain money, experience, and to punish them (loss of gold in DotA, and absence from the game field for several seconds in both games)
  • Pushing – destroying enemy defensive structure to allow troops to further attack their base
  • Customization – learning abilities and buying items are two main means of getting stronger

Among these two games, statistics has declared that League of Legends is more popular and commercially successful compared to DotA 2 (link1; link2 ). DotA 2 did indeed experience a rapid growth during its opening, but it was due to burst of players who are familiar with DotA 1; however, League of Legends player statistics has been proven to be growing for four years.

While a portion of DotA 2 supporters argue the reason of LoL’s popularity is due to it is an “easy game”, I have my legitimate arguments that probably will be easily dismissed by them if they have not played both games for at least a year.

The Lens of Simplicity/Complexity

DotA 2 supporters often claim that DotA 2 offers more “complexities” than League of Legends. I cannot argue with that. However, it does not imply at the slightest that to excel in DotA 2 is harder than to be good at LoL.

There is a fallacy that DotA 2 complexity makes it more competitive and in-depth. This is totally untrue as the complexities are innate – they are not the products of game dynamics. These innate complexities make it extremely hard for a new player to learn DotA 2, as they carry the burden of knowledge – that is – to win a game, knowledge is more important than skill. Even mechanically speaking, these innate complexities are not intentional in the first place; it is the legacy of limitation/presets of Warcraft III on which DotA 1 stands on.

Here are some examples of innate complexities that are epitome of burden of knowledge for DotA 2 beginners (Note: this section may interest ONLY experienced reader):

  • Orb effects – whether an attack modifier item work together with another attack modifier is totally arbitrary as it is originated from Warcraft III.
  • Black King Bar Spell Immunity – it repels damage from all abilities, but does not make your characters immune to other characters’ ultimate abilities’ effect (another Warcraft legacy)
  • Imbalanced distribution of complexity – some characters are totally easy to play such as Skeleton King which only has an active ability, while some others are really complex such as Chen which has five abilities, and needs to control other characters (neutral creeps) with their own abilities. Beginners who are oblivious of this fact can accidentally choose a very complex character.
  • Damage type – normal, pierced, siege, hero, spell, chaos, pure, composite, etc. each damage type is reduced by different resistance and is very confusing for new player (compared to normal, spell, and pure damage in LoL).
  • Thundergod’s Wrath – deal damage to all enemy characters and reveal them, but stealth characters are only revealed, not damaged. A failed programming attempt made into innate complexity.

In comparison to DotA 2, League of Legends does not have these so-called complexities. Complexities in League of Legends arise from dynamic action of the characters. A good example will be “denying”. In DotA it is possible to deny (kill) your own troops to prevent enemy from getting experience and gold. It is not possible in League of Legends. Some argue that this make DotA 2 more complex, however the reality dictates otherwise. In DotA 2, a player will try to monotonously deny his/her creep while in League of Legends a player will devise a complex way to prevent their opponent from creeping such as nuking and zoning. Ingenuity on usage of abilities and items is needed to compete in League of Legends.

The Lens of Pleasure

Another thing that makes League of Legends more popular than DotA 2 is the pleasure it guarantees to its players.

In DotA 2, when you kill a player’s character, you will gain gold and experience while the killed player will lose gold. This makes early kill really game-changing in DotA 2. If a team manage to secure its dominance in the early game (first 10-15 minutes of a 45 minutes game), it is very likely to win the game. This is because the team whose players are killed frequently will not be able to gain level/ buy better equips while the dominating team will keep getting stronger from the kills. Moreover, if a character dies he can immediately be revived by paying. Winning team can confirm their victory, since a blunder – that allows other team to win – can be redeemed.

The experience of a common DotA 2 public game is described as follow: 10-15 minutes of anticipation and excitement, another 30 minutes of bullying/ or being bullied. This will make a game slightly fun, and later either it becomes boring since a win is guaranteed, or it becomes depressing since a loss is imminent. Although this does not apply to every game, this commonly applies to general public games. (Note that professional competitive scene in DotA 2 is very different from public games)

Meanwhile, League of Legends do not penalize killed player by reducing their gold. This way, early kills do not assure victory since the opposing team has a chance to strike back. League of Legends also disallows instant reviving. The suspense never ceases even until the end of the game since a mistake from either the winning or losing team can be the end for them (eg. The winning team players’ characters are all killed in a teamfight, and the losing team rushes to destroy the base). League of Legends still reward early dominance but it introduces negative feedback to the winning team.


It is clear to us now why League of Legends is more commercially successful compared to DotA 2. Firstly, it is because League of Legends does not have a lot of innate complexities as in DotA 2. This makes the game easier to learn by beginners. Secondly, in public scene, League of Legends provides more pleasure to both the winning and losing players by creating continuous suspense; while DotA 2 aims only to please the winner.

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