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Dota Underlords Review: Is it any good?

Is Dota Underlords Any Good

Valve has recently launched its standalone Auto Chess game, so we’re asking the important question, is Dota Underlords any good?

While the answer to this question is largely subjective, we can still look at the game and judge it by its merits. Join us as we take a look at Valve’s latest offering and decide if it’s really worth your time.

What is Dota Underlords?

For those who don’t know, Dota Underlords is the result of the discussion that occurred between Valve and Drodo devs. Drodo Studios are the makers of the phenomenally popular Dota Auto Chess. They have since announced that both they and Valve will be making their own versions of the game. Dota Underlords is Valve’s offering.

Is Dota Underlords Any Good
Image courtesy of Valve

Now, Valve obviously owns all of the intellectual property associated with the Dota 2 heroes. This makes the game immediately more recognizable than it’s third party alternative. As we speculated in our previous article on Auto Chess, the UI has received a major overhaul and now feels a lot smoother to play.

Valve recently launched an open Beta available to all Dota Battle Pass holders. Luckily, we happen to have just such a Battle Pass, so what did we think?

Is Dota Underlords Any Good?

We’re taking a look at several key categories that should help you decide if Dota Underlords is worth your time. While these aren’t the only contributing factors in determining a good game, they are certainly up there with the most important.

Price – 10/10 (TBC)

In its current state, we can definitely say Dota Underlords is worth the money… since it’s free…

So, there’s a big tick in the box so far. Whether it will stay free remains to be seen. We speculated previously that in order to finance a free-to-play business model for Underlords, Valve would need to include some form of micro-transaction.

There’s no sign of that in the Beta so far, but then again there probably wouldn’t be. Watch this space to see how things develop from a pricing/payment standpoint.

UI – 7/10

If you’ve got experience playing the Auto Chess mod, then the UI for Underlords will feel immediately intuitive. It shares enough similarities with the original mod to be comfortable to use. But at the same time, it is different enough to feel like a fresh and much-needed upgrade.

Is Dota Underlords Any Good
Image courtesy of Valve

If you don’t have any experience with Auto Chess at all then the lack of tutorial might be confusing. The UI is simple enough to navigate and the improvements made to chess piece sorting is a much-needed upgrade. Overall the experience feels a lot more polished than the mod, which should be expected given it’s a standalone project.

The addition of a section allowing you to see what each combination or ‘Alliance’ does is a nice inclusion. Also, the function allowing you to view other chess boards with one click is great. Overall, the UI improvements are just that – improvements.

Gameplay – 8/10

The gameplay is almost identical to the mod. The heroes ported over have identical abilities, with one or two notable exceptions. Several heroes and combinations have been added, which adds further depth to the strategic element of the game.

Is Dota Underlords Any Good
Image courtesy of Valve

It’s still just as frustrating as ever, however. When you get caught up in a losing streak because of the in-built RNG, it’s laptop-throwingly annoyingly. Waiting an eternity for that one hero you need, while hearing the noise that’s broadcast as other players upgrade their heroes just makes a guy sad.

It does have that incredibly addictive ‘just one more game’ quality about it though. No matter how comprehensively you lose, you still want to dive right back into another game. “Perhaps this time, I’ll get the hero I need? Or maybe I’ll try a totally new combination?” It’s addictive gameplay at its finest.

With that said, the difficulty of bouncing back and the amount of downtime in between rounds does knock a couple of points off the gameplay score here.

Graphics – 7/10

It’s not a AAA title. That much should be obvious given its humble originals and the speed with which it’s hit the Steam store.

That being said, the graphics work perfectly well for the medium. They’ve opted for a low-key, almost cel-shaded approach and it fits the genre perfectly. Seeing familiar heroes depicted in a new graphical style is very appealing.

The graphics aren’t perfect, but there’s nothing about them that should turn players away.

Final Score 8/10

Is Dota Underlords any good? Yes. It is.

If you’re a fan of the mod – heck, even if you aren’t – you should definitely check this little gem out.  We’ve already lost a lot of hours playing this game. It’s a great procrastination tool and a really enjoyable little time-sink.

We’d love to see more progression-related gameplay mechanics added further down the line. Right now, the time investment offers very little payback. But assuming that’s on the horizon, we’re looking forward to losing countless more hours playing Dota Underlords.

What do you think about Dota Underlords? Is it better than the Auto Chess mod/standalone game? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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