Choose My MOBA: LoL vs. Dota 2 vs. SMITE

And it's gone.

A while back I became a fledgling MOBA fan thanks to Infinite Crisis. Unfortunately for me, Turbine decided to kill its DC universe battler just as I was getting into it. I’m currently looking for my next lane-based addiction, and I’ve boiled my choices down to League of Legends, Dota 2, and SMITE. The easy answer is “play all three,” and I have, to the point that I can talk semi-intelligently about their strengths and weaknesses from a newbish perspective.

I need to pick one, though, because all of them are free time blackholes and I do enough game-hopping as it is in the MMO space. Join me after the cut to discuss some pros and cons, and let me know which you think I should choose!

Ashe_1League of Legends

League is of course the genre granddaddy, and even though it wasn’t the first MOBA — nor is it necessarily the best — it’s undeniably the most popular. This is a game that has so many players in so many locations around the globe that developer Riot felt compelled to build its own large-scale network solely to combat lag, ping issues, and the like. Riot doesn’t often talk about its otherworldly population numbers, probably because it’s too busy rolling around in the piles of money that result from 27 million daily players and 67 million monthly players.

In a nutshell, I’ll never see queue times in LoL like I saw in Infinite Crisis, so, yay!

In terms of gameplay and accessibility, my research thus far shows that LoL features a dizzying array of champions to master, nearly a dozen more than Dota 2 and nearly twice as many as SMITE as of press timeThat kind of depth will keep me playing for a while, with the caveat that grinding to unlock additional heroes beyond the 10 weekly freebies will likely impede my progress at some point. Then again, I can just skip the grind by unlocking the champions I want with real money.

slark_dota_2-wallpaper-1152x720Dota 2

Dota 2, on the other hand, gives you its entire champion roster for free right out of the gate. Unlike League, it has only one map, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s easier to master. On the contrary, conventional wisdom holds that Dota 2 is the deepest and most challenging MOBA around, and I’m hard pressed to disagree with that based on my limited experience thus far.

Valve’s tutorial is light-years beyond Riot’s in my opinion, and the basics are straight-forward, particularly if it’s not your first MOBA rodeo. But there seems to be more going on, the matches seem to last a little bit longer (though the few team fights I’ve witnessed happened so quickly that I was unsure of what actually happened!), and the community is far less forgiving than the folks I’ve encountered in League or SMITE.

Aside from being chastened in chat for being ignorant about denying — which is basically a tactic for killing your own minions in order to prevent them from being farmed for experience by the enemy team — I’ve yet to find anyone who’s willing to help a newb out with some solid advice, so I’ve spent most of my Dota 2 matches hanging back, watching what my teammates do, and trying not to feed kills to the enemy squad.

I’ve also experienced more waiting times in Dota 2 than in League of Legends, and it can be frustrating to see your match queue stuck on 9/10 when you’ve got limited play time. This isn’t particularly surprising given that Dota 2’s population lags far behind League’s (nearly 8 million per month in May of 2015 as opposed to LoL’s 67 million per month in 2014), but it’s definitely going to factor into my decision.


I have several friends playing SMITE, and Hi-Rez’s use of mythology is quite appetizing in the absence of an IP-based game like Infinite Crisis that sucked me in by pushing my favorite character buttons.

Strangely, though, the game’s third-person perspective is somewhat bothersome. Everyone else seems to love it, but part of my attraction to MOBAs is the isometric look and the feelings of both order and quasi-nostalgia that gazing down on my character and his environment provides. I love the detached god’s eye feeling combined with the need to micromanage items and abilities, whereas in SMITE, I have a tendency to focus on aiming my attacks and to lose track of the larger battle due to the game’s in-the-thick-of-it view. If you’ll permit me an MMORPG analogy, it’s like going from EverQuest II‘s combat to TERA‘s combat, which some people will no doubt love. I, on the other hand, prefer the traditional approach instead of the action combat revolution.

Why no HotS?

You may be wondering why I didn’t include Heroes of the Storm on my list of possible MOBAs, and the reasons are two-fold. One, I’m simply not a Blizzard fan. Two, and more importantly, I prefer the slow-paced tactics and character-building gameplay found in League and Dota 2 as opposed to HotS’s instant action. I hesitate to use the phrase “dumbing down” since it’s likely to start a comment war, but it is what it is, and the fact that HotS does away with individual XP, items, and last-hitting is personally unappealing.

The winner?

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m leaning toward League of Legends as my MOBA of choice. Its huge champion roster, huge playerbase, and what seems like a reasonable learning curve are tipping the scales in its favor thus far.

I’m open to suggestions, though, so if you MOBA experts feel like talking me into Dota 2 or possibly even SMITE via some information that I haven’t considered yet, I’m all ears!

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