I have been playing League of Legends for about a year and a half and never really wanted to play another MOBA game. The closest anything got me to stop playing LOL was Heroes of Newerth, but it never got out of me more then just vague curiosity. But, after watching the tournament for DOTA 2 in Liepzig, I knew I wanted to take part in the beta for this game and see what is all the fuss about. So I got my invite past week, played about 30 matches of it and here is what I think about it.
I will start by saying, that I don't feel that one game is better then the other. At there core, there are the same three lane, wave based, five on five game, but with different takes on this formula. So for someone, who never played the original D.O.T.A., but enjoys LOL quite a lot, it was not hard to get into this game. But that is just me and for someone new to the genre, I would not recommend DOTA 2 as a starting point without someone to guide him or her. Now, I know it is a beta and all, but as of right now, the game does nothing to explain how it should be played. What is confusing is that one the first launch of it, it asks how familiar is the player is with MOBA style games. After you choose one of the tree variants, it does nothing about it. I chose the second one, that I thought would explain to me things like creep denial or give me some tips on which heroes should I choose. It did none of those things and just let me be. There is a "Learn" section in the main menu, but all it does is give you the list of all the heroes in the game and descriptions of there abilities. So for anyone interested in this beta, I would recommend trying the Sniper first. He has only two active skills and is pretty easy to use. This is the reason, why LOL has a tutorial, but I don't know if it was present during that game's beta.
Despite that, there are some things that DOTA 2 does better than LOL. For one, it has an actual spectator mode, that allows you to watch live and recorded games. For comparison, the best thing that League of Legends has right now is a third party program called LOLreplays. But there is no live game functionality and it has some bugs and issues. DOTA 2 also handles the community side of things better with having public chat rooms in the game and it benefits form the fact, that it is a Steamworks game. But the main thing it does better than LOL is how it handles leavers. When someone leaves a game, that can pretty much ruin the whole match for the 5-1 player team. In League of Legends, if someone disconnects, there is nothing you can do about it, only to report the player after the game. In DOTA 2, if someone leaves, a 5 minute timer starts counting down. If the player does not come back during this time, when the timer ends, anyone if free to leave the match and not be labeled as a leaver. I cannot stress you enough how awesome that is. Starting a ranked game in LOL, only to loose it, because some kind of a jackass died 5 times at the start of the game and left, can be very frustrating.
Oh, I have written 3 paragraphs, but said almost nothing about the gameplay. So, how does DOTA 2 feel compared to League of Legends? Well, in some ways it is the same game, but in other ways it is not. The meta game is almost the same: one players goes to the middle lane, two go bottom and two go top, while one of them can be a jungler. The difference is, that there are no masteries, summoner spells or runes in DOTA 2 like they are in LOL. So at the start of every DOTA 2 game every hero starts the same. In both games the early part of a match is mostly about creep management and last hitting. DOTA 2, as did the original mod, adds the ability for the player to kill his own creeps and deny gold for the other team. However, the biggest difference is to be found in the hero stats and there skills.
In League of Legends there are two stats, that can influence the effectiveness of champion abilities. They are damage and ability points, and different skills scale differently from these points. For example, the more ability points a mage has, the more damage his skills inflict. In DOTA 2, a heroes stats don't affect his skills, so the amount of damage showed in the description of the skill is the amount it will do for the rest of the game. Because of this, after you have maxed out a skill in DOTA 2, it will stop to scale which is different from LOL, where buying new items will improve champion skills. Because of this, damage dealing skills in DOTA 2 can deplete the amount of rivals health for a hefty amount even at level one. To balance this out, skills, for the most part, cost a lot of mana points. In some cases a primary skill can take away more then a half one someone's mana pool and mana regeneration is quite slow at the beginning. All of this forces a player to be more careful with his usage of skills at the start then he would be in League of Legends. And because of this, solo kills are more rare in DOTA 2 and require more of a team effort than in LOL. Don't get me wrong, it is still possible to kill someone on your own in DOTA 2 and it is still better to work together in LOL, but I found it to be a bit more difficult to do a solo kill in DOTA 2.
The death penalty is also a lot bigger in DOTA 2. In LOL, when you die, all you have to do is wait for you to come back to life. In the other game, the times are longer and you also take a gold penalty for dying. The amount of money you have is split in safe and unsafe and when you die, you loose the unsafe part. Now, what counts for safe gold and what does not, I don't know. All I do know, that loosing 1K of gold can be very bad, when most of the items in the game are expensive. The big cost of items makes sure, that you will end most of the games with only one or two big items, where in LOL half of the games end with having three or four of big, combined items. Both the cost of the items and gold lost upon death make the game a bit harder for one team to come back. When one team starts dominating the other, they get gold, while the other is loosing it, especially if the loosing side is spending there gold on come-backs. That allows for the winning side get there hands on some good items a lot faster, than the other would have. While that won't affect the skills, it will affect the need to go back to base to heal or restore mana. And the less time you are in your base, the better. I have yet to see a comeback, where one team defends there base and pushes there way to the enemy's side. Combine these facts together, and I would say, that one a typical DOTA 2 match is shorter than the average League of Legends match.
One might say, that DOTA 2 is harder then LOL. And I will agree, that LOL is a bit more auto-attack focused. To quote someone I encountered while watching a DOTA 2 game: "LOL is where nabs go to play." Well, in my experience, I would not call one harder than the other. If anything, I feel that I do a bit better in DOTA 2 than in League of Legends. Both games still require the same from their players and both can be hard to get into. They just focus a bit on different things. League of Legends is more about the meta game, where DOTA 2 is more about single combat situations. At least that is what I think about both of these games and my experience with them.
P.S. If you plan to play the DOTA 2 beta, be ready for long waiting times. Since this is a beta, there are several, several times less players than there are in League of Legends.