Introduced just a couple of months ago, a custom map created for Dota 2 is generating major attention. Dota Auto Chess is the hottest sensation for Dota 2 players, which indulges players in a showdown versus seven other online players. The game has already reached up to 90,000 concurrent players which is almost 20 percent of the entire player base of Dota 2 at a given hour. This is a significant achievement, considering the short time since its introduction. It’s the highest player number any custom game map has ever achieved since the original DOTA.

Dota Auto Chess comes from Drodo Studio in China, and it acts like a blend between the mechanics of the Dota 2 with custom map scenarios. You can’t exactly call it Dota 2, nor is it a game of chess. This is a plus, as players get to enjoy something unique. We’ve seen tower defense-style maps in Dota 2 like Custom Hero Survival and others. The idea behind these might’ve been great, but their actual implementation lacked replayability, which is a necessary component for success with such maps.

Above: Picking a hero

Getting started

In Dota Auto Chess, players start the match by picking a chess piece in the form of a one of five heroes. The gameplay is based on a turn-based survival map in which players face wave after wave of chess pieces from random players as well as various NPCs.

Above: Waves start

The starting waves consist of NPCs that have a chance at dropping items that can work effectively with different heroes based on their skillsets and attack types. These NPCs then appear after every five waves, starting at the 10th wave until the game ends. After the initial waves have passed, you get to face a random player every wave from the seven opponents participating in the same game and arena as you.

Above: The courier

Placing chess pieces requires you to control your courier (the little guy selected in the picture above), whose appearance can be altered via spending candies, which are earned by finishing in the top three once each match ends. You can also purchase candies from using actual currency stored in your Steam wallet. Note that the appearance change is strictly cosmetic and does not affect the gameplay. You can think of it as a trophy for players who have multiple victories under their name, so they can show off in front of the community. It also gives you a change of mood as is with various other cosmetics items in Dota 2.

The options from pieces you choose from — and numbers allowed — expand gradually as you level up your courier. This leveling requires in-game gold which is earned by surviving rounds, killing units, as well as in the form of dividend pay-outs based on the amount of in-game gold you currently have on you.

Above: Selecting pieces

Units differ from each other based on their rarity and the amount of gold they cost. Every chess piece level up by combining three similar pieces of the same character. For instance, in order to reach level two, three pieces of level one rarity need to be placed on the board. This results in a new single unit with better attributes. Similarly, combining three pieces of level two rarity results in a level three piece, which is the highest level. Leveling pieces is vital, since at higher levels character possesses upgraded stats (health points, attack damage, spell effectiveness).

Above: Using abilities

Power play

Each character has a distinct ability, which generally requires mana to be cast. For instance, Axe from the Orc Warrior faction casts “Berserker’s Call,” which forces all the units in a certain melee range to attack the hero for a set amount of time. This ability also increases his physical armor for the same duration. More expensive pieces have stronger abilities, and these are invaluable. Techies from the Goblin Mech faction places an “Explosive Bomb” in the battle arena that deals massive magical area damage. In the image above, we can witness multiple chess pieces casting their abilities during a live match. Characters can earn mana by attacking other chess pieces or taking damage from other characters. Every spell which is cast has an innate cool down which hinders spamming of various abilities.

Building synergies is where the strategic aspect of the game really comes into play. Different classes and races offer unique bonuses, which are integral towards winning the game. A certain set of units are required to build these synergies. Players can either choose to counter the synergies built by other players or focus on their own, whichever suits them best.

Above: Building synergies

As you can see in the image above, the claw mark on top of the units depicts the beast synergy bonus, which adds additional physical damage output to all your chess pieces. Similarly, the shield symbol depicts the warrior faction bonus, which adds bonus armor to all ‘warrior’ units on the chess board. For every enemy unit left standing on the chessboard once the battle is over, players lose a certain percentage of HP, until they run out.

It is important for players to keep a keen eye their funds, as it is crucial. You do have the option to reroll the five displayed pieces at a cost of two gold, as many times as needed. However, continuous rerolls will deplete funds, resulting in other players gaining an advantage, as they might be putting the same funds toward leveling up (which means more pieces on the board for them as well as a better chance at getting high rarity pieces).

Keep in mind that each draft is timed, with roughly 20 seconds before every round to make changes, which includes upgrades or altering pieces, it’s essential to use time wisely. Losing a few rounds early on in order to save money and performing well in the endgame scenario is a strategy many players opt for, and often works out well.

All factors considered, Dota Auto Chess is indeed something to look forward to and it could very well be one of the most popular games of 2019. Remember that Dota 2 is a sequel to a game created on a custom map series from Warcraft 3. Who knows if this addictive new custom game surpasses expectations and end up being a full-fledged game and genre on its own. Only time will tell, and we have our eyes glued towards its future progress.

Robert James is an MMA fighter and a gaming enthusiast with a special knack for the latest developments. He also writes on Xfinity Internet Packages.