We’ve known it’s been coming for some time now, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for probably the biggest update Valve have shipped to Dota 2 to date. The Three Spirits update brings with it a plethora of new features, along with two new heroes for the community wage into battle. Ember Spirit and Earth Spirit — along with the already existing Storm Spirit — complete the trifecta hero set. Having heard of the distant exploits of their cousin, the former have descended from the Wailing Mountains to join him.
It doesn’t stop there. Valve have added in-game coaching, making it easier for veterans to share their valuable skills to newer players. Crafting has also made its long awaited debut to the game, along with ‘socketing’ which allows users to further customise their items. Showcase view, player items, new treasure chests and of course the sorely missed halloween bonanza: Diretide have also made their way into this update. And we haven’t even gone into the nitty-gritty patch notes yet.
This update is huge. So to help us all out, I’m going to divide each major addition under big bold headers. Strap in.
The Three Spirits
After what seems like an age, Storm Spirit is finally joined by his curious cousins from his home in the Wailing Mountains. Ember Spirit has been with us since the original Warcraft 3 mod, but Earth Spirit is a recent addition to the team. I won’t go over Storm Spirit, because he’s been in the game for years now. But as you can see above, he’s received a nice face-lift to bring him in line with his new family.
Ember Spirit – Xin
A warrior-poet originating from the Fortress of Flares, the Ember Spirit “Xin” is an agility carry hero that can bring a lot to the team fights. He’s typically played very aggressively, expending his mana on his hit-and-run abilities.
Searing Chains is an AoE disable that wraps nearby enemies in up to two fiery bolas. while they take damage over time.
Sleight of Fist enables Xin to quickly slash enemies inside a small AoE while providing him with a small amount of invulnerability during the animation (think of a toned down Juggernaut Omnislash).
Flame Guard surrounds Xin in a molten shield that deals AoE damage around him while absorbing incoming magic damage.
Finally his ultimate, Fire Remnant, allows Xin to place a doppelganger of himself up to three times on the battlefield. He can then trigger these to quickly dash to a selected remnant, resulting in huge AoE damage at the end location.
Earth Spirit – Kaolin
Carved of sacred jade, Kaolin was the stone statue of a great general, buried for over a millennia with his ten thousand strong terracotta army. Now Kaolin —fused with the spirit of the earth —has broken free, ready to fight his enemies. He’s a strength initiator with some interesting team fight abilities. Kaolin has an innate ability to summon Stone Remnants of his terracotta army, which strengthen his other abilities.
Boulder Smash can target stone, ally or foe and send them flying in the direction Kaolin is facing, damaging enemies in its path. Stones go a further distance that fleshy targets, and also silence enemies that they hit.
Rolling Boulder turns Kaolin into a huge stone boulder. After spinning in place to build momentum, he launches himself forwards damaging units in his path until he collides with an enemy hero or is stunned. If Kaolin rolls over one of his Stone Remnants, it will increase the distance, speed, damage and add a slow to heroes he collides with.
Geomagnetic Grip is kind of like the reverse of his Boulder Smash. Instead, Kaolin runs a magnetic charge through his target, pulling them towards him. Enemies struck by the target are stunned and are also dealt damage if he uses a rock.
Finally his ultimate, Magnetize, deals huge AoE damage to enemy heroes in a small area. The effect is the refreshed if a magnetized enemy hero runs into a nearby Stone Remnant, which as a result explodes.
Dota 2 is notorious for it’s steep learning curve cliff. I was taught everything I knew from more experienced players over hundreds of hours. It was a fantastic way to learn, but it did have it’s difficulties, like pairing me up against highly skilled players. Now Valve have added in a whole new coaching mode, which offers various tools to ease the process.
You can warm up with a one-on-one training session or take the game to matchmaking/bots. Coaches can see exactly through the eyes of their students, and even draw on the ground and mini-map just like casters can in professional game. You even can set up your very own private voice channel to keep things focused.
A coach can teach any number of students. You can even have multiple coaches and students in a match. For those that like a challenge, you can go as far as to enter matchmaking with six people: five players and a coach for the entire team. Naturally the coaches can only see whatever their team can see, as to avoid any cheeky cheating.
Crafting & socketing
It’s been a core feature of Valve’s Team Fortress 2 for years now, and it’s finally made its way to Dota 2. Crafting will allow you to make use of all those unwanted or duplicate items and make them into something a little bit more desirable. First up you will need one of the new recipies: Polymorph or Augment. The former allows you to transform several items of the same rarity into a whole new item all together. The latter allows you to combine duplicates of the same item into a higher rarity. You can find these recipes while playing or from opening Ancient Scroll Cases, which also have a chance to drop even rarer recipes that generate unique items.
Socketing is a transformation of the old and clunky system to personalise your items. Each item now has five total slots, which can be socketed with various new gems which augment the item with various aesthetics. Kinetic gems change the animations, Ethereal and Prismatic gems change the colours and effects of an item. Inscribed gems show off and track certain hero stats such as kills or ultra-kills. You can even get Autograph runes from your favourite players and sign the whole team onto a single item to show your dedication.
We’ve seen a great deal of great machinima from Dota 2, from juicy good plays or hilariously bad fails. There’s even been some great fan-made movie esque videos that echo the essence of the Dota across the internet. With the new showcase view, this allows you to move the camera much closer to your hero in a game replay. If you want to record an epic kill for the good of prosperity, now you don’t have to break the game with console commands do obtains your desired camera angle. It’s also great to show off your in-game cosmetics.
Valve love to collaborate with their community, with the Workshop acting as a portal between the two. Now professional players can create whole items sets for their fans to don and support them. These new Player items will keep track of stats such as tournament games of that player. Some of the sales from these Player items will go to funding the creator and player, just like the pennants from The International.
The picture above is of iceiceice’s Spiritbreaker set.
It took some pretty bizarre acts of protest, but finally Diretide is back, albit a bit late. Taking a peek on the test client, it seems not a whole lot has changed since last year, with exception to the finale event of slaying Roshan.
Instead of killing Roshan in the fastest time possible —which last year got into the hundredths of a second mark —players now have to kill Roshan repeatedly for a chance at the big loot. With every death, Roshan gets another 15,000 life and the players get another 30 seconds on the clock in which to kill him. The whole process then starts again, until the inevitable happens and Roshan survives the onslaught.
The top players/teams will be the ones that reach the higher levels, which seems to be able to go on infinitely. Whether we will see any of the crazy exploits like last year, all with the objective of getting their hands on a $1000 courier will remain to be seen.
Notable patch notes
Did you really think we were done? Oh no. There’s some lovely little tid-bits deep in the patch notes that you will want to know about. Here they are:
- Added Lanepicker to hero selection screen: Now you can also choose your desired lane when you pick your hero, and avoid those horrible “mid or I feed” clashes.
- Colourblind option added: For all your colourblind folk, you can now play the game in all it’s desired glory.
- Bots now substitute for players that leave in Limited Hero mode: It sucks for new players when someone leaves and permanently unbalanced the game. Now those quitters will be replaced with semi-competent bots to propel your team to victory.
- Added last hit training missions: Last hitting is an art that can never be mastered, but is vital to being successful in any game of Dota 2. Now you can practice your skills in the loving warmth of a playerless training mission
- Changed low-priority penalty metric from time-based to games played: Before, naughty players once put into the low-priority queue would just play on an alternate account until the timer expires. Now, it’s measured in games played, forcing them to live out their sentence.
There’s plenty more to take a look at, so why not check out the patch notes yourself. The Diretide portion of the update goes live later tonight, with the rest following suit tomorrow. We’ll have impressions on Ember Spirit and Earth Spirit up in the next day or two.