Video Game Review: Dota Underlords

Like a board game, "Underlords" pits eight players against each other in strategically complex battles. By Chris Clark
Dota Underlords

“Dota Underlords” is a free-to-play strategy game with cross-play on both PC and mobile devices. This newest installment is set in the world of the wildly popular “Dota” (Defense of the Ancients) and features characters and items from that game. “Underlords” functions similarly to a board game and pits eight players against each other in strategically complex battles.

At the beginning of each match, every player starts with a single gold coin that they use to hire the first crew unit. As the game progresses, you earn more gold and hire more crew members in order to strengthen your team. The strategic challenge for the players of “Underlords” is selecting new crew members. Each character is a member of at least two alliances. When you hit a certain threshold of characters within the same alliance on your crew, you receive a tactical bonus.

Also, you can increase the power of your crew by leveling up individual characters. This is done by hiring duplicates of a single character until you have three. You can then combine these three characters into a single, higher-level version of the original character. Aside from hiring characters, you can purchase experience points in order to level up—which then allows you to have a higher number of characters on your crew.

With these options, the primary strategic tension lies in a question of quality versus quantity. The characters available for hire each round are randomly selected. If you don’t like the selection of characters that round, you can spend gold to “re-roll” and choose from a new set of five random characters. However, spending gold this way slows down your ability to level up your crew size. It’s difficult to strike a strategic balance between having a large crew and a powerful crew, but the challenge is a satisfying brainteaser.

My only complaint about “Dota Underlords” is the length of the games. Each match takes 30-45 minutes, which is rather lengthy for a mobile game.

“While Underlords presents a fun and exciting strategic challenge, it is difficult to devote that amount of time in one single sitting.”

As I write this review, “Dota Underlords” is still in beta. The developer reports that the game will only get better from here. If you enjoy a strategic challenge and have some free time, I’d suggest downloading this on your phone or PC.

Peer Rating: 4/5

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