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Dota Underlords: How to play

Helpful tips for newcomers to the Auto Chess genre.

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About Ed Thorn

Ed joined Metabomb in May 2017 and puts together guides and news across the site.

This article explains how to play Dota Underlords, and includes new player tips, and strategy advice.

Dota Underlords is Valve’s take on the Auto Chess genre which is taking the gaming world by storm right now. Unsurprisingly, it’s incredibly similar to the Dota Auto Chess mod that was originally created by Drodo Studio.

At the most fundamental level, you’ll build a team of heroes and attempt to outlast seven other opponents. Battles take place automatically, so the strategy lies in how you position units, spend gold and experience, make use of items and so forth - there’s a lot going on.

To a newcomer, Dota Underlords can be a daunting and intimidating experience. That’s why we thought it best to put together a guide which’ll go through the basics and get you up and running in no time.

How to download and install Dota Underlords

Dota Underlords is currently in beta form, which means you’ll need to purchase the Dota International Battle Pass if you want to get in on the action.

Simply purchase the Battle Pass through the in-game menu. Once you’ve done so, return to the home screen and select the Dota Underlords download icon. This will add the game to your Steam Library.

Now go ahead and install the game from your Steam Library. When it’s installed, click “open” and you’ll be good to go!

Note that the game is entering open beta in the next few days, so if you can hold out you'll save yourself some cash!

How to play Dota Underlords

Here’s a quick primer on how to play Dota Underlords:

The Basics

  • Eight players enter a game space, and each players has a “chess board” on which they can place their units. This board is where all the action will take place.
  • At the start of each round, players will be presented with a selection of randomised heroes they can purchase from the shop using gold. Any units purchased will go onto the “bench” at the bottom of the screen.
  • Units can then be dragged from the bench onto the board. When combat rounds commence, these units will attack their enemies automatically.
  • The first three rounds of each match will always feature battles against “Creeps” or AI units. Their main purpose is to allow you to build up a little gold and start constructing a team. Once these rounds are over, you will face off against other, real players.
  • At specific intervals in a match, you’ll face off against stronger Creep waves. Defeat them and you’ll get to pick one of three different items. Lose and your options will be limited to only one choice.
  • At the end of each round you’ll gain EXP and money depending on your performance. You’ll use gold to purchase units or level up your character.
  • EXP levels up your character, which in turn, increases the number of units you can field on the board, as well as the possibility of encountering higher cost units in the shop.
  • As players are beaten in individual rounds, they’ll slowly drop out of the running. It’s a case of being smart with your team composition and economy to increase your chances of becoming the last person standing.
  • Essentially, your goal is to build a strong team and outlast the opposition by winning rounds and spending your gold and EXP wisely.

Other essential Dota Underlords guides

Video by Kripparian

Chess Pieces - A breakdown of the essentials

There's a serious amount of depth to the heroes you buy from the shop and throw on the board. Below we've put together a few key things you'll want to take note of:

  • Chess pieces - or heroes - have either a passive or active ability. An active ability is cast when a piece’s mana bar is full, and it’ll gain mana when attacking an enemy. Some pieces have faster mana regen than others, so bear this in mind. Certain items can also boost mana regeneration, and so increase the number of active abilities cast.
  • Chess pieces can also be combined and upgraded. If you purchase three of the same piece, they’ll upgrade automatically. To create a two star unit, you’ll need three one star units. To create a three star unit (highest tier), you’ll need three two star units.
  • Every chess piece belongs to two different Alliances. Place two or more units of the same Alliance on the board and it’ll provide a bonus. You can check your Alliance progress on the right of the screen, under the top tab.
  • The level of your character determines how many chess pieces you can place on the board. Don’t neglect this! There’s a serious advantage to be gained by having one more chess piece on the board than your opponents.
  • Positioning your pieces is vital to success. Each piece fits into a certain archetype, so some will be tanky, while some will prefer to stay out of trouble. Try and be smart about where your units are positioned, think about who might need protection, who can flank and so on...

Gold and why it’s so important

Managing your economy is crucial to success in Dota Underlords, especially in the latter stages of a match. Here's what you'll want to pay attention to:

  • Heroes - You'll buy new Heroes from the shop with the gold you earn throughout the match. Each pool of heroes is randomised too, so you're highly unlikely to encounter the same selection twice.
  • Shop Refresh - If the shop's selection hasn't lived up to expectations, you can spend two gold to refresh it. We wouldn't advise this in the early stages of a match as you'll start burning through your precious gold reserves too quickly. Instead, it's best to wait until the late game or if you've got a horde of unspent cash to hand.
  • EXP - You can spend five gold at a time to earn chunks of EXP which will go towards levelling up your character. Each character level earned grants you the ability to place one extra hero on the board, as well as increasing your chances of encountering more powerful heroes in the shop. It's best to save up an ample supply of gold before you start levelling up as you'll want some left over to accrue interest and spend on heroes. Don't leave levelling too late, though. We'd advise getting on the process as early as possible.

Below you'll find all the different ways you'll go about earning gold:

  • Rounds - You'll earn gold at the end of every round.
  • Interest - The more cash you've got in the bank, the more bonus money you'll accrue at the end of each round.
  • Win/Loss Streaks - Go on a win or loss streak and you'll earn bonus money.
  • Refunds - You can refund heroes for the same amount of gold they originally cost you.

How do items work?

In a match of Dota Underlords, you'll occasionally face off against AI controlled Creeps and Boss waves. Defeat them, and you'll be presented with a rewards screen. This screen will contain three different items and you'll be able to choose one.

Lose these rounds and you'll only get to pick one.

Once you've made your choice, the item will show up in your inventory. You can then drag and drop it onto a character which you think would benefit most from having it.

When you're equipping items, think carefully about how it'll benefit a specific unit. For example, items which increase armour or maximum health would suit tanky, frontline characters. In contrast, items which buff DPS would suit an assassin or ranged character - choose wisely!

For a breakdown of all the items in Dota Underlords, make sure you give our Dota Underlords: Item list a read.

That concludes our first iteration of our "How to play" guide, but we'll continue refining and expanding on this page very soon. Stay tuned for updates!

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