Dota Underlords is a free-to-play strategy video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. The game is based on a Dota 2 community created game mode called Dota Auto Chess, which was released in January 2019. It was released in early access on June 20, 2019 for Android, iOS, macOS, Microsoft Windows, and Linux.
Dota Underlords is a auto battler, a type of chess-like competitive multiplayer strategy video game, where players place characters known as "heroes" on an 8x8 grid-shaped battlefield during a preparation phase. After both players are ready, a team's heroes then automatically fight the opposing team without any further direct input from the player. A match features up to eight players who take turns playing against each other in a one-on-one format, with the winner being the final player standing after eliminating all others. Over the course of a match, players earn gold and experience points, which are used to upgrade characters and other playable units to make them stronger. Players can also make use of items, which give stat bonuses to units. It features full cross-platform play, with players being able to start a single game on PC and finish it on a mobile device and vice versa.
Development and release
Dota Underlords is developed and published by Valve Corporation. It is based on Dota Auto Chess, a popular community created game mode within Dota 2, another game they developed, which released in January 2019. As Dota Auto Chess saw great success, having over seven million players by April 2019, Valve met with the mod's developers in February 2019, the Chinese-based Drodo Studio, to discuss directly collaborating on a standalone version. However, the two companies were unable to come to an agreement, with them both stating that it was in their best interest to develop their own separate games, with Dota Underlords being Valve's project. The game was built using Valve's in-house Source 2 game engine, making it the first Source 2 game to be released on mobile platforms.
Valve announced Dota Underlords in May 2019, with it releasing in early access as a fully free-to-play game for Android, iOS, macOS, Microsoft Windows, and Linux on June 20, 2019. Within a few days of its release, the game saw over 1.5 million downloads worldwide, and held a concurrent player count of over 200,000 on Steam. Valve plans to keep it in early access for only a few months, eventually adding features such as a replay system, ranked matchmaking, daily challenges and rewards, and a battle pass before officially releasing it later in 2019.
Polygon called it a clone of Dota Auto Chess, stating that while they thought Underlords was more appealing to new players, the many similarities to the original mod could make it hard for veterans of the genre to see a reason to play Underlords over it, adding that games need to be more "unique in order to survive" in a niche genre. Critics also noted its popularity with Artifact, another Dota-based Valve game that was seen as a failure.
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