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DotA Underlords looks to combine the popular auto-battler genre with the team building and itemization of DotA 2 to create a hybrid experience for both mobile and PC. So how well does it hold up, and is it worth installing? Let’s find out.

Dota Underlords is an auto-battler first and foremost, which means it’s a game whose central combat plays out on its own. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have any control over the match itself, however. Matches in DotA Underlords test your ability to build a team from a random pool of heroes that you and each of your 7 other opponents will be purchasing heroes from and playing them on the board. Each player begins the game with 100 health and as you win skirmishes against other players you’ll do damage to them based on the stage of the game and how badly either of you won or lost the given round.

At set intervals you’ll fight against minions and other familiar NPC mobs from DotA for the chance to win items for your units to use. These items range from actual DotA items like Claymores and Blade Mails to passive buffs that reduce the costs of additional heroes or grant certain types of units additional bonuses based on their keywords which will be essential to achieve victory.

You see, building teams in this game is not as simple as slapping together units you like and hoping for the best. Each unit has a few keywords that define their character type. Matching up unique units who share keywords grants you special bonuses that make them more effective. For example, Witch Doctor and Troll Warlord feature the Troll keyword. Having at least two trolls on the field grants all trolls additional attack speed. Having four trolls further increases this buff. Pair this with the Coordinated Assault tier 2 item and the trolls will grant their attack speed bonuses to any adjacent units regardless of their typing.

It’ll take more than a good composition to win though. Units positions on the board matter for their abilities, so how you place your units on the board makes a good deal of difference in the outcome of battles. With the Troll-Knight composition I’ve been using, I found it’s easy to form your trolls on the middle of the board and surround them with the Knights to keep assassins off your back line. Items like Force Staff for casters also help with this since they allow you to move an enemy unit up to 6 cells away from the equipped character.

This kind of strategizing is the crux of the gameplay for Dota Underlords. You’ll earn gold each round that you must manage between spending it on more heroes, buying XP to raise your level which allows you to deploy more units at once, and re-rolling your pool of heroes when you’re given a set you can’t do anything with. You’ll earn additional gold for winning streaks and a smaller amount of extra gold if you’re on a losing streak to try and help you claw your way back. Being on a losing streak can still leave you starved for gold, however, so you’ll have to be extra careful if things don’t go your way in the early rounds.

This is one of the things I didn’t really care for in DotA Underlords. A lot of the game is reliant on RNG. It’s very possible to get super bad draws on heroes and be put at a disadvantage from the get-go. Poor starting units can mean being unable to beat minion waves, which means you won’t have access to items like other players with better draws will have. The game tries to compensate for this by introducing low tier characters to start with and building up to higher tier, more expensive characters in the late game, but with the balance the wa0y it is right now it can be hard to come back from a series of bad draws.

With that said, the game has been receiving updates rapidly to address balance issues so that more compositions and playstyles can be viable so that’s to Valve’s credit. Their team is working hard to make sure the game is as good as it can be as quickly as possible. It’s also worth mentioning that the game is also available on Mobile and features cross platform play, so you can take it with you anywhere.

DotA Underlords, at time of writing, doesn’t feature any kind of monetization, but a battle pass of sorts was just introduced for free. Playing and leveling up your account will earn you rewards like banners, post-fight fanfare effects, and even a new board skin once it’s released. I imagine monetization will be added in the form of skins for heroes at some point down the line, but I can only speculate as that section of the game is currently completely empty.

Honestly, I feel like DotA Underlords isn’t a bad game if you like auto-battlers, but I personally won’t be spending anymore time with it. Matches take around 40 minutes on average, and a lot of it is spent waiting for timers to tick down between battles. Sure, there’s a lot of that time spent buying units and working on your team comp, but for all the time invested, I’d rather play actual DotA. If, however, you’re hardcore into auto-battlers and idle games, and want to play one with a heavy strategy focus, DotA Underlords may just be the game for you.

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