Dota 2 or LoL: Which MOBA is better?

Dota2 versus league of legends
Dota 2 or League of Legends? Not such a tough decision after all. (Image credit: Valve Corporation/Riot Games)

One question, older than many Fortnite players - Which MOBA is better: Dota 2 or League of Legends? Both successful, both with a great fanbase. But let's take a closer look at two of the biggest esports games in the world. Who will win our big comparison?

Usually, it's not an easy competition but each game has its strengths. Over the years the gaming world has been split up strongly between Dota and LoL fans. Both love their MOBA with all its special features. Today we'll take a look at each of the titles and determine which one you should play.

Game modes

Both games give us different scenarios to choose from. The classic variant is and will probably remain the 5v5 mode. In it, two groups of five players compete against each other, with unranked and ranked games – depending on whether you want to level up to a certain rank within the community.

Lol aram
The ARAM Map in LoL consists of a single lane. (Source: Riot Games)

If you like it more experimental, you can choose the all-random mode (for LoL e.g. ARAM), where you don't choose a hero yourself, but get one assigned by the game. And if you take a look at Dota 2 here, you'll find that it has quite the advantage when it comes to mods: Captain's Mode, Random Draft, All Pick, Ability Draft, All Random. With this selection, the point simply has to go to Dota 2.


Map kluft der beschwörer
That classic LoL map: Summoner's Rift. (Image credit: Riot Games)

A classic game (5v5) always takes place on a map with three lanes. The goal is to destroy the enemy main building in the enemy base. To get there, you have to destroy two firing towers per lane. Between the bottom and mid lane or top and mid lane, there is a jungle where neutral creeps can be defeated. In Dota, this mainly gives the player gold, experience and neutral items which get progressively better as the game goes on. In LoL, neutrals provide gold and experience, but also a certain buff which brings temporary beneficial effects – more mana regen, cooldown reduction, more damage.

The two maps have very distinct styles. Summoner's Rift is much brighter and more cartoony. The Dota 2 map has a more realistic feel to it and is generally much darker. The choice here is more a matter of taste.

Dota 2 map
The classic map with three lanes from Dota 2. (Image credit: Valve Corporation)

Custom games

Despite being out for more than a decade, LoL still doesn't allow for custom player-made maps. Dota 2's arcade, on the other hand, is full of creativity and the number of available maps is just insane. Sure not all of them are a masterpiece, but names like Overthrow (made by Valve), Pudge Wars, Custom Hero Chaos and many others stand out. The recent success of Auto Chess in the last year also started in the Dota 2 arcade and soon made its way as a standalone title (Dota Underlords) and now has a version in LoL known as Teamfight Tactics.

LoL has made some progress over the years by adding a number of custom games. Dota 2 is still king with its arcade which brings us back to the times of the Warcraft III map creator and the freedom it provided. A point for Dota 2.

Dota 2 overthrow loading screen
Dota 2 Overthrow. (Image credit: Valve Corporation)


Here, LoL and Dota are very classic in their approach: Players collect gold by getting last hits on the creeps or killing heroes and then buy items that improve their hero. Shoes that make you faster, armor against physical or magical damage, etc.

Dota 2 items
Some of the Dota 2 items. (Image credit: Valve Corporation)

In LoL, players can only equip new items in their Base. In Dota, there is a secret shop on each side of the map where items can be bought. Additionally, Dota 2 has a courier that can bring the items to you so you don't have to waste time walking.

Furthermore, Dota 2 items feel a lot more impactful as they can significantly change the pace of the game. Getting a Blink Dagger on a support hero can turn the tide in team fights (Earthshaker is a good example). In League of Legends, items feel more like stat sticks as Riot is not a fan of giving item-based mobility to the players.


League of Legends

The heroes in LoL are mostly set in stone: The supports support, the tanks tank, the junglers jungle and the damage dealers deal damage. That about covers it. The number of champions in LoL is currently over 140. As you can probably imagine, a lot of abilities will be quite similar. If you're switching over from, say, Dota 2, you'll find out that mana isn't the only resource in League. Some champions use mana, some energy, some rage and others don't need a resource (limited only by cooldowns).

Lol champions
The champions in LoL. (Image credit: Riot Games)

Dota 2

In contrast to the competition, Dota has a lot more hero categories, and many champions combine several characteristics: There are Carries, Supports, Nukers, Gankers, Escapers, Junglers, and Pushers. Those categories, though, are not as definitive as in League. A support hero can often be seen playing mid, a carry can go on the off-lane and so on. The number of heroes in Dota 2 hasn't increased much when compared to the original Dota. Still, each of the newly-added heroes has introduced fresh mechanics that often felt broken at launch.

The choice is entirely up to you again. League gives you the security that the champion you picked will be corresponding to the typical role. In Dota 2, things can vary a lot, and sometimes you won't be able to tell if your teammate is trolling you or just trying a new strategy.

Dota 2 heroes
Some of the heroes in Dota 2. (Image credit: Valve Corporation)


Most of the players who favor LoL have never played Dota 2 and some haven't even heard of it. The opposite isn't true as Dota 2 came out a few years later after League of Legends so a lot of players had a chance to get a taste of Riot's MOBA.

Out of the two, LoL is definitely the game with the bigger player count and it's also more popular globally. Dota 2 is certainly not a small title, but Valve doesn't put nearly enough effort into marketing while almost every platform is flooded by ads for League of Legends. People usually know Dota 2 due to The International as the event has the biggest prize pool for a single tournament, but not for much else.

The point here goes to LoL as Riot Games has done an outstanding job over the year to keep the game in the headlights. The company is even doing it again with Valorant, which, despite being in closed beta, is one of the most talked-about games in current times.

Gabe newell valve
Gabe Newell recording an announcer pack. (Image credit: Valve Corporation)


Strategy, teamwork and the right hero/champion combination is crucial for both MOBAs. In-game, however, there are some differences, especially in the fights. Here is something particularly noticeable in the gaming experience: the hero abilities in LoL are weaker but have a much lower cooldown. This means more action but less influence of individual actions.

In Dota 2, it's the exact opposite: spells have a much longer cooldown on average but even non-ultimate abilities can dictate a team fight. Furthermore, Dota 2 has buybacks, allowing you to spend gold in order to instantly revive instead of waiting. This strategic component can be used to often fool enemies into overextending and then catching them off-guard.

In pub matches, LoL and Dota 2 can be an absolute slaughter-fest, but there's definitely more action going on in League. Dota 2, on the other hand, will reward you for your patience and thinking ahead.


Dota 2:

  • Has more game modes
  • A less cartoony map and art style
  • The arcade encourages creativity and custom maps (Auto Chess is a good example)
  • Actions and items feel more impactful
  • Roles are not set in stone (anything can work and Valve won't ban you for it)
  • Heroes are focused on quality over quantity.
  • Lacks a tutorial and has a steep learning curve when compared to League
  • Games can sometimes take hours

League of Legends

  • Is definitely the more popular game
  • Heroes must be played in their exact positions
  • Skills are low-risk high reward on a low cooldown
  • Early fights are something normal
  • Has more heroes than Dota 2
  • Games are usually shorter than in Dota 2

If your cup of tea is fast-paced combat and more action, then you'll probably enjoy LoL more. As someone who has played both titles, I prefer Dota 2. The game is not as hard to learn as everyone says and it can be tons of fun as long as you don't get too invested which may lead to frustration. If you've only played one of the two MOBAs, I strongly recommend that you try the other one so you get a more objective view.

If you don't agree with our comparison, feel free to voice your opinion in a comment. More news about LoL and Dota 2 can be found on EarlyGame.