Dota 2 is ‘out’ now. It is probably one of the best games on PC right now. It’s a stunning multiplayer game, and a brilliant eSport. If you haven’t played it yet, you should. And you should invite your friends to play it to: it’s better played together.
But there’s something missing. A way to play it on your own.
I’m not talking about bot matches. I’m talking about a fully fledged single player campaign – 15 or so levels featuring different heroes, different scenarios, and different end-goals. Something story led and relaxing: a place for me to test and try new heroes without the pressure of an angry team-mate blaming me for everything.
In the hey-day of RTS games, developers would often treat single player campaigns as a weird adjunct to the multiplayer: they were often assumed to be training grounds for the online portion. That would be especially useful given Dota 2’s epic learning curve.
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But as those same developers looked into what their players were actually doing; something interesting happened. They realised that only around 40% of RTS players ever ventured online. The rest were perfectly happy to play the single player campaign, complete the game and move on.
RTS campaigns are really, really good now. Starcraft II’s single player missions are spectacularly fun: a superb selection of mini-games that give each unit a moment to shine. Company of Heroes 2 offers a taut and tense recreation of the Eastern Front.
But there’s not enough of them. We’re starved for truly great single player RTS games right now.
The thing is: I think Valve might be really, really good at making a single player campaign if they put their mind to it. The tutorial missions that have been added to Dota 2 so far are very, very simple, but by the same token, very well made.
And it’s not as if a single player campaign couldn’t fit a MOBA. Every RTS I’ve played will have a mission in which a single unit, or a tiny group of units take on a much wider force. That’s perfect fodder for a MOBA mission. Almost all of them include some kind of base defense: that would fit well into Dota’s structure. But there’s so much you could do: how about a mission in which you play as a courier, constantly ferrying items to and from the heroes. Or something where you have to kill as many of your own minions as possible before they reach a certain point? Or a speed jungling mission. Or something in which you tank Roshan for as long as possible round the map?
It’s not like there isn’t the lore to support such a campaign, either. There’s already two factions fighting: the Radiant and Dire. There’s a backstory to every hero which explains their position in the conflict. There’s even a deep historical compendium that’s unlocked if you complete the tutorial missions. It feels such a shame not to illuminate all of this story through play.
I know it’s unlikely. I know that Valve will take their time building features that improve the game that impact the greatest number of players. I know that I’m probably in a vanishingly small minority that want to play Dota 2 as a single player game. But hey: it’s worth a shot.
If not a full campaign: how about this – a single mission for each hero that explains their abilities and tools, links to the lore (just why does Tidehunter hate Kunka so much?) and a situation or scenario that shows them off at their best?
And if Valve aren’t prepared to make it – how about supplying mapmaking tools to those who are.