Valve had been building the hype for a while, but "The Big Update" has finally come to Dota Underlords. After the developers tinkered away at the patch in complete secrecy for weeks, the autobattler now features twelve new heroes, four new alliances, two new game modes and, probably the most exciting part: two of the Underlords have joined the fray. Additionally, the UI has received quite an overhaul.
Hobgen and Anessix, reporting for duty
During the first months of Underlords' open beta, four shady figures appeared on the game's main menu screen. These turned out to be the Underlords, the characters the game gets its name from. The four are entangled in a battle for White Spire turf, and now it's clear how exactly they'll affect gameplay.
Two of the four Underlords have been made available for now: Hobgen and Anessix. Before entering a game you select which one of the two you'd like to play with. In-game, the Underlords mostly behave like any other hero in terms of placement and attacking. You can't sell them, obviously, and you cannot get additional copies from the shop. What makes the Underlords unique is their traits: they affect your entire team. Underlords are the sergeants leading their armies into battle.
The Underlords each have thei rown synergies. Anessix works well with demons, while Hobgen relies on his own abilities—which set enemies on fire—to grow more powerful. During the game they unlock more abilities you can choose from, allowing you to adapt to any game state.
12 new heroes, 4 new alliances
The hero roster has grown significantly too, with twelve new heroes and four new alliances. Nyx Assassin, Shadow Demon, Dazzle, Magnus, Weaver, Io, Legion Commander, Lifestealer, Bristleback, Faceless Void and Sven all can be recruited. The latter two, Faceless Void and Sven, will act as the Ace units for Assassins and Knights respectively.
The new alliances are Brute, Champion, Healer and Insect. Brutes apply a damage debuff to enemies, Champions gain all alliance bonuses and Healers amplify all friendly units' healing. Insects bring something completely new to the table. They cause untargetable, 1-health spiders to crawl onto the board. These deal a low amount of damage, but increase the chance enemies miss their attack.
It's not just new heroes that fit into the newly added alliances, however. Many of the existing heroes now belong to a different house. Axe no longer is a Warrior, but now fights for the Brutes, and so does Doom. Enchantress is a Healer in addition to her other alliances, and Nature's Prophet isn't a Druid at all anymore: he's turned into a Shaman. There are many more changes to the alliances, and for a detailed overview we suggest the changelog.
To round up the major update, Valve has added new game modes to Dota Underlords. A sandbox mode, called "Freestyle", allows you to set up board states to test all kinds of situations. No longer will you have to practice against bots and cross your fingers for the right units: everything can be manipulated.
What's more exciting is the "Duos" game mode. You queue up with a friend against seven other duos, making for a sixteen player game. You and your partner share a health pool, level and gold, so communication is key. You don't share your lineup though: in the combat phase you each fight against an individual member of an opposing duo.
More to come
Dota Underlords is getting close to its official launch. Like the developers announced a while ago, The Big Update is the first step towards the official version of the game. They'll be focussing on bug fixes and balance tweaks mostly until then. What's for sure is that the other two Underlords will be added, and a slew of new heroes as well.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.