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Beginner’s Guide to Dota 2: Heroes and Items

In my previous article, I explained the basic premise of the game, as well as our first fundamental game concept: the “push”. Today we will be looking at Heroes and some of the basic mechanics surrounding them.

In Dota 2, you take control over a single entity known as a Hero. The control scheme is fundamentally identical to that of an RTS: left-click on the unit you wish to control, and right-click to move it around the battlefield or attack a target. You can issue specific orders using keyboard commands, such as “S” to stop. You view a portion of the battlefield from above via a top-down camera, and you can move the camera by moving the cursor to the edges of the screen. So far so good: if you’ve played any RTS such as Command & Conquer or Warcraft 3 you will be at least somewhat familiar with the fundamentals of controlling your Hero.

Here we start to deviate from traditional RTS: each hero has several spells or abilities they can use to have various effects on the game. To use them, you press the relevant hotkey (default Q, W, E and R), select an appropriate target with your cursor, and left-click to execute. There are several categories of target: no target, single-target, area-of-effect. No target abilities will trigger on button press without a target needing to be selected, and take effect on a location relative to your Hero. This can be a circle centered on your Hero, or a specific point situated at a specific distance and angle relative to your Hero’s current position. Single-target abilities require you to click on the target to execute the ability. This target can be an enemy Hero, an enemy unit or tower, an allied Hero or unit, or even yourself. Area-of-effect abilities, as their name suggests, take effect in a specific area and effect all units within that area. This area can be a radius around the cursor, or a radius around the target point, or a specific shape around the target point, and so on. Luckily, abilities are accompanied by in-game text which explain quite clearly how the targeting specifics of each ability function. There are also passive abilities which do not require activation at all, and provide passive bonuses or triggered effects.

Heroes also possess three attributes or statistics which determine how powerful they are in various ways: these are Strength, Agility, and Intelligence. Strength affects your Hero’s hit points or “HP”, as well the rate at which your Hero regenerates HP (HP reflects the amount of damage your Hero can take before dying). Agility affects your Hero’s attack speed and armour, while Intelligence affects your Hero’s mana pool and rate of mana regeneration. Also, Heroes are linked to one ‘primary’ attribute, which provides bonus attack damage for your Hero on top of the bonuses listed above (for example, if your Hero is a Strength Hero ie. Strength is your Hero’s primary attribute; your Hero gains HP, HP regen and attack damage upon increasing his/her Strength. If your Hero increases his/her Agility, the only gain will be attack speed and armour).

The next point to cover is items. Items play a massive role in Dota 2, and require a lot more reading to sufficiently address their importance. For now, we will skim the basics: items are purchased using gold earned in-game, and each Hero can carry 6 items. Items provide bonuses to the following: attributes (Strength/Agility/Intelligence), statistics linked to attributes (HP, mana, damage, HP/mana regen, armour, attack speed), and other bonuses (critical hit chance, critical hit damage, life-steal, chance to bash/mini-bash, evasion, physical damage immunity, magic resist/immunity, movement speed, cleave). Items can also provide access to special abilities, for example the “Scythe of Vyse” grants the ability to “Hex” an enemy Hero and briefly transform him/her into a harmless critter unable to use abilities.

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