Both born from the same Warcraft III mod, Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends and Dota 2 are similar, yet different at the same time, due to the design philosophy taken when making them. While Riot Games put their own twist on the idea of the Dota mod, Valve created a separate-engine sequel, resulting in two different games.
First thing you will notice is that you can actually kill your own minions in Dota 2 to deny them from your opponent, when it’s not possible in League of Legends. This provides an additional dimension to laning, as you will be able to deny gold from your opponent directly by killing the minion, as well as zoning him, making him choose between getting the creep and taking damage. Professional Dota 2 players don’t do it too often, though. In fact, in the Grand Final’s last game of The International 6, the biggest Dota tournament ever, 9 out of 10 players only had sub-10 denies, with one Wings Gaming player racking up 22.
Pace of the game
Dota 2 is a more chill experience than League of Legends, with players barely leaving lane due to the presence of Courier, which brings their items to them, when you’d have to Recall in League of Legends, and slower animations in general, including changing direction. It’s not unusual to see games taking 70 or more minutes to conclude in Dota 2, while in League of Legends, an hour-long game is something newsworthy and amazing.
In League, games are more snowball-y. A fed laner can snowball the rest of his team, creating a situation where coming back is almost impossible, resulting in a sub-30 minute win for his team. In Dota 2, it’s much rarer for that to happen. Even though there’s usually one or two high level players on the enemy team, it’s possible to kill them due to the stronger CC in Dota 2.
One of the biggest differences between LoL and Dota 2 is the champion availability when you start playing. In League, there is a rotation of weekly free champions. If you want to try a non-free champion, you have to purchase it for IP (Influence Points, which are earned by playing the game) or RP (Riot Points, which are bought for real money). In Dota 2, you gain access to all champions for free. This makes Dota 2 a little bit more easily accessible for new players, because you can actually try out any champions that seem cool to you instead of having to save up to purchase them. Still, MOBA games, especially old and well-developed, have a very high entrance ceiling. You have to know a lot of stuff before you can call yourself a good MOBA player, not even touching upon the mechanics side of things.
Potions and Items
At the beginning of the game in League of Legends, players usually buy some Health Potions depending on their champion and role. Different from the potions bought in Dota 2, they don’t stop working if you take damage. You can also buy more immediately expensive Refillable Potions, which get topped up when you go back to your base. In Dota 2, to complement Healing Salves, which work similar to LoL Health Potions, except getting interrupted from damage, you can also buy Tango, which will replenish some health if you consume four trees.
Itemization is quite different in League of Legends and Dota 2. In LoL, the early game revolves around surviving and farming minions to get enough gold in order to Recall to base and buy the best component of the item that should be rushed first for that champion. The best case scenario also involves killing or at least pushing out your lane opponent, making him have to buy an inferior item, giving you an advantage. In Dota 2, players rarely leave the lane due to the presence of Courier, which can deliver the items you want straight to you. While in League people have to find an opportune time to back, you can stay forever in Dota 2, unless you die.
The other difference between items is that you can build your character however the hell you want in Dota 2, while champions have set roles in League of Legends, with some exceptions. Also, Dota 2 has many more items with active abilities, compared to League of Legends. While items can completely change the way your champion plays in Dota 2, that’s not how it usually works in League. There, you buy items to complement and make stronger the intended play style of your champion.