A new patch dropped today for Dota 2, taking the game to version 7.23. And while this might sound benign, this is might be one of the biggest Dota 2 updates in years, changing core concepts of the game and altering what it means to play Dota.
Dota 2 updates have frequently been surprisingly dense compared to most other games. They often bring entirely new game modes or major ability reworks to the game’s already crowded roster, alongside the expected smattering of new heroes and balance tweaks. These patches arrive sparingly throughout the year, and while there have been more minor tweaks over the last few years, pillar updates like today’s are like Christmas day for Dota 2 players. Except, today, many players are scratching their heads and wondering what Dota 2 even is, anymore.
The 7.23 patch, dubbed The Outlanders update, does add two new heroes to the game: the elder Void Spirit and the elderly Beatrix Snapfire. Both look like they have interesting abilities that could bring something new to the table-Void Spirit is an interesting mobile carry, and Snapfire can literally make people hop-but the tectonic shifts come further down the page.
Even in the first subsection, covering couriers, there are huge changes. Couriers are Dota 2’s brave, selfless animals who ferry purchased items from the shop in each team’s base to the heroes out in the battlefield. They are crucial to Dota 2’s momentum, as they allow players to stay in the middle of the fray and not have to return to base every time they want to buy a new item. In the past, each team has one, and managing its time and load as it travels around was a layer of strategy unto itself.
Now, every player has a courier. It levels up over time, meters your passive gold gain, and can use items, like sight-giving wards or active-use items, when it reaches the appropriate level. Oh, also, Observer Wards no longer cost gold, everyone starts with three Town Portal Scrolls (which allow players to teleport across the map to friendly structures), heroes can level to 30 and unlock every talent in their tree, and there’s no more Side Shop. Those are capturable Outposts now, which provide vision and experience.
The granular changes of Dota 2 are seemingly impenetrable to outsiders, and that’s for good reason. Frankly, many of these changes are too dense for even me, someone with over 4000 hours of playtime and even more spent watching competitive matches, to begin to contextualize and dissect. Others, like analyst Kevin “Purge” Godecs, will spend hours picking this apart on their Twitch channel.
MOBAs are some of the densest, most challenging genres to get into, but like most competitive games, that’s because you need to understand the fundamental mechanics driving them. It takes hours to work through how the gameplay loops overlap and resolve, and you can really only learn by doing. What Dota 2 has done, with this patch, is not just pick away and manipulate the outermost layers of design, but plunged into the core of Dota’s gameplay loop to alter it at a core level. Some players are already, albeit hyperbolically, declaring it a new Dota.
It’s not, but it’s the closest it can be without a complete revision. The way you do everything has changed, in some way. Neutral camps in the woods drop items now, and those items carry significant boons for players and teams that take advantage of them. Gold gain has shifted, item pathing has changed, heroes have been reworked, the map has been altered, and entirely new paradigms are being established.
This is seen most evidently in the item changes. A single item, Stout Shield, has been removed, and in return every melee-ranged hero gets a passive damage block. One item, dropped randomly by neutral creeps, can make heroes live for five additional seconds after taking a lethal hit, and another amplifies any disable by 35%, making their stuns and hexes last even longer. Some combine existing items into newer, even more powerful items. Every bullet point here has, in some way, shifted the core of Dota 2.
These changes have happened a few times over the course of Dota 2, whether through the initial introduction of talents or its major 7.00 overhaul, when it went beyond parity with the Warcraft 3 mod that inspired it and truly became its own game. Valve’s no stranger to overhauling games, as Dota Underlords just saw its own massive revision not too long ago. (It also has an update today that seems a little overshadowed by its older brother’s patch.)
But this is one that Dota 2 players will be chewing at for weeks and months to come. There might be strategies lying dormant here that won’t surface until the next International. It’s a wild but exciting time to be playing Dota 2.