Now that video games have been entrenched into mainstream media, Netflix has been trying to latch on tight. After a League of Legends documentary, several seasons of a Castlevania series and even a terrible take on Dragon's Dogma, the streaming service has teamed up with an industry titan. Together with Valve, an animated series about none other than Defense of the Ancients was spawned, named Dota: Dragon's Blood. Friends of the site may be familiar with the game.
I, however, am not a Dota player. I tried the tutorials once, but after a game or two, it became quite clear that this gargantuan effort didn't have a lot of rewards on the other end. My Steam inventory probably still has a bunch of beta keys. So, essentially being a rube, watching this show might give me more insight into the sprawling world of the arena game.
Still, it wouldn't exactly be going in blind either. When the auto chess craze ignited, I got heavily into the Dota Underlords beta. At the very least, I've heard of some characters already, like the ridiculously powerful Luna or Terrorblade. I may have even heard someone say: "By Selemene's light." Now that I think about it, that might've been Luna. That seems logical, since the series follows that hero and their allegiance to the deity of Selemene.
To start off the show: the main protagonist is Dragon Knight, who gets cursed with a link to a dragon. If you've ever seen Dragon's Dogma, this isn't exactly the strongest intro, considering the similarities. From there, ol' DK meets Mirana, the hunter with the jumpy feline in Underlords. The two team up to solve each other's problems, in what seems to be happenstance, more or less? The first few episodes of the show are scattered, so it's hard to tell what is happening. More on that in a bit.
Simultaneously, there are elves who seek artifacts to appease their god. These items eventually end up in a tower with a powerful wizard. From then on, all hell breaks loose and factions go to each other's throats. Once episode four rolls around, there's a little more action to keep things going, but also, that's about it? There's a war and blood gets spilled, the two protagonists share a rote love interest; the ingredients basically go through the motions.
After watching the complete series, I don't know if I've picked up any additional knowledge on Dota. The story is continuously chaotic; it seems like the show wants to touch on a myriad of references, while explaining very little. As a result, it always feels like stuff is just happening, for the sake of it, seriously deflating any action on screen. There's a knight with a colossal hatred for dragons who later on just gives up. Terrorblade, the main bad guy, barely shows up at the end and then puts in zero effort. Every scene feels like a justification, more than it is story pacing. Here's that thing from the game! On the other hand, the general bombastic way that dragons are displayed takes up so much screen time. If I didn't know any better, these predictable diatribes feel like they came from the Dragon's Dogma cutting room floor.
It's now been several days since I finished watching the Dota show and I can't say that I retained much. I do know Invoker is a hero now, but then I found out later that they're just named Carl? Why didn't the show just call them Carl? That would've been hilarious, particularly because they play such a dry role. The next season better change the name to Carl, if there is another one.
As far as quality goes, Dota: Dragon's Blood passes the bar of Dragon's Dogma, but that isn't saying much at all. Maybe diehard fans that understand all the goings on would enjoy this more, and there are tons of Dota players, but anyone without a compendium of knowledge about the game likely isn't getting anything out of this. You'd think that the goal here would be a symbiotic relationship, where Netflix lures in Dota players and, in turn, Valve can count on a new audience to help infuse some life into their ancient game.
Well, about that: I fear that I'm here to confess that I am a sucker. Due to not getting any satisfaction out of the show, I loaded up Dota Underlords again. I've been playing ever since. Seeing all my favorite heroes in that game has made me resent the flimsy show even more, but I also appreciate the characters better now. Remember Slark? They're just a fun fish dude who loves stabbing people. That's all they do; jump around and jab, jab, jab! If Slark was in this show, I would've enjoyed it so much more. I love Slark. What I forgot about Dota Underlords is how fun it is to puzzle with alliances in that game. Since then, I've been desperately trying to make Swordsmen work, then Brutes, then Healers. I'm still working on that last one, but I might dabble into some Demons.
Sadly, it seems like Valve might not be as enthused to pair the show with the chess game. The last update was in November and my ranked score has been the same since I stopped playing, about a year ago. This glorified Netflix advertisement would've been the perfect time for a big to-do, but it seems that the auto chess genre went as quickly as it came. At least the chess version makes sense; it's contained and clear in its objectives. I can't say the same for the show or the main game. Maybe I'll try again, should Dota ever land on phones. It worked when League of Legends did it, even if I haven't gone back to play Dr. Mundo in a minute. I would've also loved a show about someone named Dr. Mundo. As long as that show doesn't get into the weeds about blue buffs or something silly like that. We'll see.
What's next on the chopping block for Netflix, you think? My money is on The Elder Scrolls. Now bring back the All-Hero Challenge, damn you!