Dota 2 veterans with thousands of games under their belt often still call themselves noobs. Why? Because Dota 2 might just be the hardest MOBA to play, and one of the hardest competitive games overall.
Esports fans love discussing which game is the most difficult to play. Some argue that a game’s difficulty should be judged by how long it takes to learn. Others say that pro-level gameplay should be used to decide. Either metric still points to Dota 2 as the hardest esport and one of the toughest in all of online gaming. Here’s why Valve’s MOBA beats out Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, StarCraft 2, League of Legends, and many other games as the most difficult esport and MOBA.
Complexity and depth are two different things, but Dota 2 has a lot of both. Among esports, it’s the hardest. Between heroes, items, neutral items, the jungle, and Roshan, Dota 2 has endless potential for interactions and synergy. There are dozens of potential combos still being discovered every day in Dota 2. With literally thousands of different mechanics available to its players, Dota 2 is almost indisputably the hardest esport of all.
Compare that to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Players of all skill levels can always improve their aim and utility usage, but there are few mechanics that need to be learned compared to Dota 2. CSGO doesn’t get many balance changes or meta-shaking updates, and when it does they are sometimes rolled right back. Dota 2’s constant changes and sheer variety make it the more complicated of Valve’s two big esports titles.
Dota 2 has several mechanical quirks that make it difficult but rewarding to master. Players can extend Blink Dagger’s range by clicking on the edge of the maximum distance. Savvy carries can dodge spells with an appropriately timed Manta Style activation. If the player has enough mechanical skill, Eul’s Scepter can set up perfect stuns with heroes like Lina and Leshrac. Dota 2 also has several micro-intensive heroes including Meepo, Broodmother, Chen, Brewmaster, and more. Even on solo heroes, the courier requires every player to learn at least the basic concepts of micro.
Since Dota 2 is a top-down strategy game, the most obvious comparison for a mechanically intense esport is StarCraft 2. Pro players for Blizzard’s RTS have peak actions-per-minute well beyond Dota 2 players. Individually, StarCraft players must have better mechanical skills than in any other esports. However, Dota 2 is a team game. All five players on a Dota 2 team have to adjust their mechanical skills and decision-making based on their allies. Dota 2 players might not be as fast, but they have to time and communicate their actions in a way that StarCraft players do not.
Many of the arguments stated above also apply to Riot’s MOBA, League of Legends, but Dota 2 beats out LoL for a few reasons.
The biggest is power level. Dota 2 and League of Legends have tons of similar abilities, but Dota’s version is almost always more extreme. The easiest comparison is Flash and Blink Dagger. Flash is a relatively short distance leap across a section of the map with a five-minute cooldown. Blink heroes in Dota 2 go far enough to cross the river every 15 seconds.
Stuns are longer, slows are stronger, and items are way more impactful in Dota 2 compared to LoL. While LoL items tend to enhance a champion’s existing strengths, many of Dota 2’s items completely change the way a hero is played.
Difficulty is always subjective, and each esport is hard in its own unique way. Games not mentioned here like Rocket League, Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite, and more all have a ton of complexity and depth to them. With that said, the complexity and mechanical demands of Dota 2 make it the most difficult esport to learn and play, and it’s the hardest MOBA too.