Dota 2 vs. World of Warcraft: What Is the Difference?

Writer for Buff, Remi Smith
By Remi Smith
Tamara Fodora - Editor for Buff
Edited by Tamara Fodora
Fact-check by Itai Guzik

Updated July 25, 2023.

Group of gamers, three boys and a girl, in front of the computer, paying attention to what is on the screen

You may have heard that Dota comes from Warcraft, and that isn't wrong. Back in 2003, while Warcraft 3's Frozen Throne expansion was at its peak, IceFrog and Steve Feak, two big W3 community map makers at the time, created a game mod called Defense of the Ancients, or Dota as we know it. It quickly became the most popular mod in the Warcraft 3 community.

A decade later, Dota 2 came out as a free-to-play standalone title on Steam, which is still massively popular today. But, what are the similarities between World of Warcraft and Dota 2 today? Well, it turns out they're completely different games.

» Have some Dota skins you don't like? Learn how to sell your Dota 2 skins on Steam

Dota 2 Summarized

Game Design

Dota 2 is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) that can be compared to League of Legends in gameplay. Its predecessor did so well as a game mod that it formed the standard of MOBA games. On release, Dota 2 was instantly popular, despite the existence of LoL and other MOBAs at the time.

Dota 2 is a round-based game, where two teams of 5 players battle each other in a pre-defined 3-laned map. Each player has to control their own unique hero (out of a selection of around 120 heroes), each with their own abilities, attacks, and lore.

Each hero has to gather gold by killing creeps or enemy heroes and build effective kits that suit them and their team from the shop.


The goal is simple—you need to go into your respective lanes, kill creeps and enemy heroes to win your lane, then push together to destroy the enemy team's base. The execution, however, is not quite so simple. Dota 2 comes with immense strategy and split-second decision-making, and it requires hundreds of hours to even be considered proficient at the game.

» Read more about Dota 2 account boosting and why you should avoid it

World of Warcraft Summarized

Game Design

World of Warcraft shares some of its lore and universe with Warcraft 3, though its game style is completely different.

In the original Warcraft games, you'd be playing a top-down RTS game, building up a base, managing economies, and commanding hoards of orcs or armies of night elves to overrun your opponents and destroy your enemies' bases. You could have 12 people all versing each other, 1v1s, 2v2s, AIs, and loads of different maps to play on.

WoW Community

The community side of Warcraft 3 was probably what really made the game so popular, though. There, you'd find tower defenses, mauls, card games, shooters, and pretty much any other minigame you could think of in the RTS world (that's where many of those minigames you might know were born). I gotta hand it to those map makers too, I tried my hand at making a custom map during the peak of Warcraft 3 LANs, and it was certainly a lot to unpack, considering how much you were able to do for free.


In World of Warcraft, however, you are playing as a single customizable character from a series of different races and classes in an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). You can level up by doing quests or group dungeons, learn new spells, improve your gear, learn professions, etc. And you can do all that with (or against) thousands of other people doing the same.

The game takes hundreds of hours to get to the end-game content, but even then, there's always something new you could do, whether that's farming reputations, getting achievements, or improving your PvP rating.

You'll be playing from a 3rd-person perspective, with an action bar full of interchangeable skills and spells, in an open world map that is breathtakingly large and filled with all sorts of fantastical beasts and interesting NPCs with their own stories. You can also join guilds and communities filled with other players that can make the whole experience both easier and more enjoyable.

Dota 2 vs. World Of Warcraft: Game & Genre Comparison

Dota 2 took over the characters from the original game, which was made with edited Warcraft 3 models, so it's easy to see how some of the characters and visual features seem pulled straight out of the Warcraft universe. As a result, both games are set in fantasy universes that share similar species and monsters, as well as terrain.

As for differences, Comparing Dota 2 to World of Warcraft is like comparing Chess to Monopoly; they're both games that require strategy and experience, but fundamentally they're completely different.

Dota 2 is a 45-90 min match that you'll play with 9 other players that you might never see again, and you'll start fresh at the beginning of every match. In World of Warcraft, you can play with up to 40 people at once, and you can even choose whether you want to play against NPCs (PvE) or other players (PvP). And trust me, playing against NPCs is not always an easier choice.

» Check out our list of best DOTA 2 heroes for ranked games

Final Thoughts

Though there are a lot of differences between World of Warcraft and Dota 2 today, their history is a constant reminder of the good ol' days in Warcraft 3, going to LANs with friends and rejecting the option of sleep for countless hours of fun. Both of these games are worth sinking hundreds of hours into, though one might struggle to find the time to play both.

If you do find the time, why not have Buff open in the background to earn some cool rewards?

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