Dota 2 vs League of Legends | Which one should you play?

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Since the dawn of time, two things have not been able to exist in the same genre without being compared to one another. Think CS: GO vs Valorant, World of Warcraft vs Final Fantasy XIV, Pokemon vs Tem Tem… Dota 2 vs League of Legends.

In the world of multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, it’s quite hard to break through. It’s not that the market is all that saturated, it’s just about the same as any other genre. However, it’s hard to push through in popularity when you consider the scale and history of League of Legends and Dota 2.

Dota has largely contributed to the establishment and popularization of the MOBA genre, although League of Legends was the first game to officially become branded as such. Both games have a long and complicated history of development and changes behind them, making them the two most legendary MOBAs out there.

If you’re looking to get into the interesting world of MOBA gaming, you may have heard some recommendations from your gamer friends. Play Dota 2, they say! Forget that, League of Legends is better, others contest! You may be left wondering which game is actually better, and why.

Lucky for you, we’re here to explain everything! In this article, we’ll be outlining the differences and similarities between Dota 2 and League of Legends. Finally, we’ll settle the debate of Dota 2 vs League of Legends: which game is better?

ahri league of legends

About the Games

Before getting straight into the similarities and differences of the two games, it’s important that we learn about them and how they came to be, first.

About Dota 2

It’s important to mention that Dota 2 is actually the successor to Defense of the Ancients, a 2003 mod for the Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos game and its expansion, The Frozen Throne. Although it started out as a mod, DotA soon became popular enough to essentially become a franchise of its own.

With Valve acquiring the intellectual property rights to DotA in 2009, the game’s future as a standalone started coming into reality. Just 4 years later, Dota 2 was released.

The concept of Dota 2 is very similar to the original DotA. However, Dota 2 introduced more heroes, matchmaking, ranking features, and more. All this was possible thanks to the game breaking away from Warcraft III’s limited engine. Dota 2 currently uses the Source 2 engine which was developed by Valve in 2015. Prior to this, Dota 2 used the original Source engine.

About League of Legends

League of Legends saw its release in 2009 thanks to Riot Games, an independent developer and publisher at the time. It was their first project and it took a lot of inspiration from the original DotA. In fact, Steve “Guinsoo” Feak, a modder for DotA, had a huge role in designing the game initially. 

The game has been free-to-play from day one, with players being able to purchase cosmetics for their champions. Since 2009, the game has grown into a franchise and has spawned several forms of spin-off media:

  • League of Legends: Wild Rift, a mobile game
  • Legends of Runeterra, a digital collectible card game
  • Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, a turn-based role-playing game
  • Teamfight Tactics, an auto-battler
  • Arcane, an animated series
  • Several music videos, comic books, and short stories

League of Legends, like Dota 2, has commonly been referred to as one of the greatest games of all time.

Rengar League of Legends


Gameplay is one aspect where League of Legends and Dota 2 are nearly identical. In both games, the player controls a character with certain abilities in a team of five players. The goal is to gain XP, kill enemies, and destroy their base. At the same time, the players must defend their own base, as losing the base means you lose the game.

With all these similarities, we can find the first key difference in the Dota 2 vs League of Legends debate: the terminology.


Communicating with your teammates is the key to having a successful game, and the terminology players have developed supports that idea.

While League of Legends and Dota 2 have similar concepts in their games, they refer to them by different names. Here are the most popular differences, with Dota 2 terms versus League of Legends terms:

  • Hero vs Champion
  • Ancient vs Nexus
  • Barracks vs Inhibitor
  • Tower vs Turret
  • Creep vs Minion
  • MMR vs ELO

Of course, other terminology differences lie in the specific names given to character positions or classes, maps, and more. We’ll touch on those later.


Both Dota 2 and League of Legends feature very similar map styles for their main game modes. However, while the League of Legends map has a name (Summoner’s Rift), the Dota 2 map has no name.

The maps are split into two sides. For League of Legends, they are the blue side and red side. However, Dota 2 calls them the Radiant side and Dire side. The map consists of three lanes; top, mid, and bottom. In between the lanes is the jungle, which provides alternate paths to get to each lane and the base itself. 

Both games have neutral creatures that spawn in the jungle. Usually, one player has the task of killing these creatures to gain gold and XP. 

The biggest contrast between the two maps is the fact that Summoner’s Rift only has 2 shops; one for each base. However, Dota 2’s map has 4 shops; two base shops and two secret shops for each side. The secret shop sells more expensive items that act as components of late-game items. 


Both games require the players to acquire items to augment their characters’ stats and abilities and give them additional attributes. All of the same items are available to both teams in both games.

Players can purchase lower-tier items as components to higher-tier items which give them better attributes and stats. Each item costs gold which, as we’ve mentioned, you can get from killing creeps and other players, as well as completing objectives.

However, Dota 2 expands on the items system a little bit more than League. For example, creeps can drop certain items during the game. Additionally, Dota 2 heroes have six item slots in their inventory, just like League of Legends champions. But they also have three slots in their backpack, and six more in their stash, a concept which does not exist in League of Legends.

Items in the backpack are in the player’s inventory, but they are inactive and they can only be moved to the inventory when the player is near a shop. Items in the stash are also inactive and end up there usually as a result of being bought outside of the base or when the player’s inventory is full. However, players can command a courier to bring the items to and from the stash and the heroes.

This system completely eliminates the need to keep buying from the base shop in Dota 2. In contrast, players in League of Legends constantly have to recall to buy items.


Characters are another aspect in which Dota 2 and LoL are pretty similar. They both boast an impressive cast of champions/heroes that can be categorized into different classes.

Dota 2 has 124 heroes in the following classes:

  • Carry
  • Support
  • Nuker
  • Disabler
  • Jungler
  • Durable
  • Escape
  • Pusher
  • Initiator

League of Legends boasts more champions that Dota 2 at an impressive number of 163. However, they also class them differently:

  • Assassin
  • Fighter
  • Mage
  • Marksman
  • Support
  • Tank

To be fair, Dota 2 did come out 4 years after League of Legends. However, it’s undeniable that League of Legends pushes out champions at a far faster rate than Dota 2. Maybe that’s why so many of them aren’t balanced all that well and usually need nerfs after release…

In both games, characters have unique abilities. Dota 2 gives each hero four abilities, just like League of Legends. These are three basic abilities and one ultimate ability. They also have passive abilities, though Dota 2 heroes can get more than one passive ability while League of Legends players only get one passive ability. 

While heroes can reach level 30 in Dota 2, they only reach level 18 in League of Legends. Each level-up gives you an ability point to spend upgrading one of the abilities.


In the Dota 2 vs League of Legends debate, it’s also important to consider how to build the characters. This means choosing what items to buy.

In Dota 2, the way you build your hero largely depends on the role you play in the game and situational differences. This gives every hero a variety of viable builds.

On the flip side, League of Legends has a very linear building system when it comes to champions. Usually, most champions will have core items they need to build based on their class. Unfortunately, this leaves little space for situational builds, meaning players need to get ahead early or sacrifice items to stay alive and be able to kill other champions.


Community is one aspect of gaming no one really talks about. However, the way a community acts in video games is important considering you’ll be spending so much time communicating with teammates.

While it’s hard to say either game has a better community, one thing is very clear. Due to the nature of League of Legends, where champions synergize inward and can carry the game alone, most League players adopt an “I’m the only human on the team” mentality. This usually leads them to belittle and insult other players who are also just trying their best to play the game.

Dota 2 doesn’t really have this problem. The heroes in the game synergize outward, forcing the team to work together to be able to win. Although this doesn’t directly stop players from flaming others, it also doesn’t contribute to their flaming tendencies, either.


Upon hearing that Dota 2 was inspired by Defense of the Ancients and seeing the original game, most League players will expect the game to have an older style compared to League of Legends.

However, upon seeing actual gameplay, they’re surprised to learn that the Dota 2 graphics compare pretty well and are perhaps even better than League of Legends graphics.

Of course, that’s in terms of appearance itself. Many also find that Dota 2’s animations are slightly clunkier and slower. In this sense, League of Legends definitely shows off more fluidity.

Competitive Scene

With these two games being so similar, you would also expect their esports scenes to be similar too, right? Well, that’s not exactly the case.

Riot Games has always been more focused on making the League of Legends esports scene similar to traditional sports. They used to support small tournaments, but now they mainly focus on their regional franchises and leagues. The scene is not so friendly for amateur players, but it definitely supports young and talented players that are good enough for the ranks of the most popular esports teams.

All the different regions in League of Legends come together at the end of the season to compete against one another. Riot Games has named this tournament “Worlds” and though it has a big prize pool, Dota 2 is just a tiny bit better in this aspect.

Dota 2’s big tournament, The International, used to offer a prize pool of around $40,000. However, reports are coming in that state the TI 2023 prize pool will equal around $3 million! This is definitely comparable to the Worlds 2023 supposed prize pool of $2.25m-$3m.

Dota 2 also supports smaller tournaments, allowing the amateur player scene to flourish with big prizes.

Dota 2 vs League of Legends: which one wins?

Now that we’ve reviewed all (or most) of the differences between Dota 2 and League of Legends, it’s time to make a final verdict. Which game should you play?

Well, the answer was clear from the start. It depends on what you want to achieve with the game.

Throughout this article, we’ve definitely established that Dota 2 is a game originating from one of the most legendary MOBAs, the MOBA that inspired the genre, Defense of the Ancients. Because of this, they’ve had a long time to develop the game’s mechanics and small details. 

However, that also makes Dota 2 the harder game to play out of the two. There’s a lot of time to spend on learning and understanding all the different aspects of Dota 2 gameplay. This would be an especially hard task for a League of Legends player who is used to simpler mechanics. 

Neither game is easy to learn from the perspective of a beginner. Both have even managed to turn players away due to their complexity. However, for those who know a bit about MOBAs, League of Legends is definitely the easier game to master. If you want to challenge your brain, though, you should play Dota 2.

On the flip side, if you’re asking which game is more fun to play… Although it’s a subjective answer, it’s one that seems easy enough for us. Even League of Legends pro player sOAZ has spoken on this topic, stating that Dota 2 is more fun because it allows more room for error and creativity. We’ve even gone as far as to say that League of Legends might be a bit overrated.

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