6 min read

In the early days of Dota Underlords, WePlay Esports held an open tournament with $15.000 as a prize pool.

Dota Underlords is a multiplayer online game published by Valve, and its first release was in June 2019. With the popularity of Auto Chess, a chess-like strategy game, a Chinese modification created inside Dota 2, Valve Corporation created their automatic strategy battler to a huge public and critical acclaim. The developer added different features such as integration with mobile devices (creating a cross-play experience) and a number of rewards through the battle pass.

The concept of an automatic strategy battler can be quite simple to understand, yet difficult to master. A player chooses heroes from a semi-random pool, purchases them with earned currency, and improves a squad. Each match consists of several rounds in which one plays with and against AI-controlled heroes. The more rounds are won, the more currency is earned. On the contrary, health points decrease each time a round is lost, eventually leading to death - and defeat - when they reach zero.

The game has simple graphics, and it’s not hard to follow the events even if you are not familiar with auto battlers. The battles are held in a gaming arena (White Spire), and the goal is to rule White Spire!

A player can have up to nine heroes in their “board”, positioned accordingly to their goals. The amount of heroes you can have in each round is equal to the level you are, which can be upgraded through the expense of coins - the in-game currency you earn after each round. Each hero has an ability, a tribe, and a characteristic; combining those can create devastating effects for opponents. It’s a knockout match: those players who lose the game are left with no chances of ruling White Spire. To become the Underlord, the supreme ruler, the gamer needs to watch the economy, level progression, and heroes' synergy.

The game has a competitor: Riot Games’ TeamFight Tactics (TFT) released on June 26, 2019. However, Dota Underlords’ mechanics are fairly distinct. Since AI controls the battle, it’s fairly common that plain luck decides the outcome of a round. The games are also different graphically.

Unlike TFT, Valve’s take also offers a co-op mode (AKA adventure) where a user can play with a friend against the computer. So, graphics and gameplay features distinguish these two titles.

As the game is free to play (except if you’d like to buy the Season One Battle Pass, which had cosmetic changes such as hero skins and customizations), anyone can accept the challenges, and each match player had fun with a very serious tournament — after all, gaming is about having a good time!

Dota Underlords: Free to play with a Battle Pass like Dota 2

Image: WePlay Holding

Dota Underlords: Free to play with a Battle Pass like Dota 2

Valve Corporation created seasons - a period of time when changes are only minor - buffing and nerfing different tribes, units, and heroes’ traits. In season one, Dota Underlords was more rudimentary. Valve enriched the player’s experience going as far as different victory dances, player skins, hero skins, profile customization, and in-game weather effects. The Battle Pass had all of those customizations for a very reasonable fee, but the game itself is free.

Dota Underlords and Dota 2 have common player bases and in-game items (in-game items can be used to improve characters and their abilities). Therefore, it’s possible to play matches of Dota Underlords in between Dota 2 games. The game is available for mobile devices (Android and iOS).

With or without the battle pass, the experience of playing City Crawl and other game modes can be fun and challenging!

Dota Underlords tournament with a $15,000 prize pool

Image: WePlay Holding

Dota Underlords tournament with a $15,000 prize pool

WePlay! Dota Underlords Open was the first big international tournament ever held in Valve’s auto battler. The event had an open qualifier bracket that consisted of over 6,000 unique players, who eventually were cut to the final 16 (eight from the American and European regions each).

The game audience was diverse: logically-minded newbies and seasoned players from early access have had to fight their way through to get the prize pool.

Event coverage

Throughout the four days, WePlay! Dota Underlords Open accumulated over 540,000 views on Twitch, YouTube, and Steam, as well as a lot of positive feedback from both the players and audience.

The tournament was featured by over fifty well-known endemic media, including VPEsports, Esports Insider, Dexerto, Dot Esports, and others.

Dota Underlords

Dota Underlords. Image: WePlay Holding

A spectacular show: Who’ll rule White Spire?

WePlay Esports team creates events with specific themes to entertain viewers and conjure certain emotions. Here is what our General Producer Maksym Bilonogov had to say about the WePlay! Dota Underlords Open theme in an interview for Hotspawn:

“One of our screenwriters found a narrative showing confrontation of the gangs within the game: they battle, fight each other, and this entire action happens against the backdrop of a rather dark underground. We thought “Hm, it resembles a shady backstreet club” and decided to make a tournament in a syndicate theme, which was already slightly hinted at in key visual for the event already. We’ll add up some emotional atmosphere of a clash of gangs to the educational content of the new game. The confrontation theme perfectly resonates with the open qualifiers for the event — anyone could take part in the qualifiers and manifest themselves into the world.”

Auto battlers were the uncharted territory of esports

WePlay! Dota Underlords Open was announced when there were virtually no significant international events based on auto battlers. This was a challenge for our team as by that time, no one had discovered the optimal format and practices for holding auto battler competitions. At the same time, we took a massive leap of faith since there was no definite answer whether auto battlers could become an esport.

The Underlords Logo

The Underlords Logo. Image: WePlay Holding

Our Head of Esports Yevgeny Lukyanenko shared his thoughts on this topic with ESTNN:

As for me, auto battlers can easily find their niche as an esports discipline. This genre is akin to such genres as collectible card games that have a huge following. In a way, this is an offshoot genre. Sure, there are some things in the game that you cannot influence as a player, but still, according to the enormous feedback — that people left in the live chats and comments on Reddit and Discord — it’s fascinating to watch strong players compete. That’s what we’ve learned from direct feedback. It’s not just us who think so, the community thinks there is indeed a competitive element here. So, the game and the genre have the potential for growth as an esports discipline.

The viewership results and media coverage of WePlay! Dota Underlords Open inspired our team to continue working on auto battlers, and we hope to roll out more exciting announcements soon. We’re ready to see everyone fight without a question! Are you ready to play?

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