Dota Underlords - Valve's take on the Auto Battler genre - was a hugely popular game even in its beta phase.
Available for free on Steam, Dota Underlords is similar to its peers as a strategic unit management game, but with particular quirks and differences that separate it from the rest.
Like any Auto Battler, Dota Underlords comes with a daunting learning curve that might make getting to the real meat of the game time consuming and frustrating.
While the game does have a tutorial to help explain some of the very basic mechanics like how to buy XP, it doesn't tell you why or when to do so.
In this Dota Underlords guide, we'll go into depth on every aspect of the game that needs explaining. This includes what to do with your Dota Underlords money and how to go about upgrading Dota Underlords units, alongside an overall guide on how to play the early, mid, and late game.
On this page:
- How to play Dota Underlords: A guide to the essentials
- When to get XP and level up in Dota Underlords
- How to upgrade units in Dota Underlords
- How to make money in Dota Underlords and when to spend it
- How to get items work in Dota Underlords and when best to use them
- Early-game guide to Dota Underlords
- Mid-game guide to Dota Underlords
- End-game guide and how to win matches in Dota Underlords
How to play Dota Underlords: A guide to the essentials
Defined simply, Dota Underlords - or any Auto Battler for that matter - is fairly simple. You spend money on units, build a team from what you've bought, then put them on the board. Your team then goes on to fight other teams until one player wins.
There, is of course, much more to the game than just throwing units on the board and splashing your cash around recklessly. But, for the absolute basic outline of how a game progresses, here's a brief step-by-step:
- Eight players are present in one game, all of whom are out to beat each other for the top spot.
- Every fight takes place in a round, with an endless number of rounds until someone wins. The first three rounds are PvE (player versus the computer) minion rounds, with additional PvE rounds coming every 5th round starting from round 10.
- There are 60 heroes in total that you can buy split into five different tiers - tier 1 units being the most common and tier 5 units being the rarest. The higher level you are the better chance you have of getting a high tier unit, with exact percentages findable by hovering over your level on your character portrait.
- Every hero in the game has two alliances. When you control several heroes with shared alliances on the board at one time, they provide bonuses to your team like extra health, HP regeneration, etc.
- Heroes you buy are stored on your 8 slot bench. From there they can be placed on any of the 32 spaces on your board.
- The majority of heroes have mana bars and special abilities that can do anything from healing other units to dropping bombs on the enemy team. The mana required for these abilities are gained by hitting other units and taking damage.
- After every fight, the losing player takes damage equal to the levels of heroes left on the board. Starting at 100 HP, if your HP hits zero, sorry pal but you've lost.
When to get XP and level up in Dota Underlords
Managing your level and making sure you aren't behind your peers is incredibly important in Dota Underlords, but splurging all your gold on XP is a sure-fire way to go broke and lose early.
At the start of the game, you start at level 1 which allows you to place your first unit on the board. From there, you will continue to earn 1 XP per turn, quickly getting you to level 3 &4 without much hassle.
However, relying on this drip-feed of XP alone will get you to higher levels at a glacial pace, so when attempting to gain level up quickly you should focus on buying XP. For the cost of 5 gold you can purchase 4 additional XP towards the next level up.
It's quite a pricey exchange that can eat through your cash in no time, so it's best to only buy XP when you're already close to a level up or have plenty of cash over 50g to spare.
Each level up allows you to place another unit on the board, with the max level of 10 giving you 10 slots to place units. It goes without saying that a numbers advantage is huge when trying to win fights, so having as many units on the board as you can make a serious difference between winning the game and falling short.
How to upgrade units in Dota Underlords
Upgrading units is an incredibly important factor when determining the strength of your team, and looking for upgrades as early and often as possible is the key to winning fights and gaining a large win streak.
Dota Underlords actually gives you a little help when identifying if an upgrade is possible. If you possess two of the same hero and another one appears in the shop, it'll be highlighted with a colourful glow allowing you to easily identify what could be a game-changing upgrade.
To upgrade a unit, you need to own three of the same hero of the same level. For a 2 star hero you need three 1 stars, and for a 3 star hero you need three 2 stars. Having loads of 2 star units is what you're aiming for by mid game, and you'll want to try and get a 3 star unit by the time you get into the late game.
This is because a selection of high-ranking heroes is where a large portion of your team's strength lies. Any 3 star unit is a powerhouse, but a 3 star hero of a higher tier like Troll Warlord is borderline game winning.
How to make money in Dota Underlords and when to spend it
Keeping track of your money is probably the most important part of Dota Underlords - aside from the actual fights themselves of course. Having lots of money allows you to buy more units, reroll your store more often, and level up faster, making it the key to getting ahead of other players.
At the start of the game, you start with 1 gold, which is enough to buy your first unit and get the ball rolling. This progressively increases until round ? with 5 gold being given, at which point you continuously get 5 gold each turn until the game ends.
Once you hit 10 gold, you gain an additional 1 gold per turn as interest. For every 10 gold you have you'll get more and more interest, thus making stockpiling gold a priority when attempting to get a steady flow of money each turn. Interest caps out at 50 gold which provides an extra 5 gold per turn, if you manage to hoard 60,70, even 100 gold it won't matter, you'll still get your 5 gold per turn.
The final method of gaining that sweet, sweet cashola is through winning and losing streaks. By either winning or losing games continuously you can gain up to 4 gold per turn.
Those keeping tack should realise that players who continuously win will be gaining a huge amount of gold per turn (when you consider the base 5 gold, interest, the 1 gold you earn for winning a PvP round, and the winning streak bonus) and you're totally right.
It's true in Dota Underlords that the rich get richer, but for what it's worth the losers also getting a helping hand if they are really struggling. It won't gain back the health lost in order to get that losing streak, but it certainly helps a struggling player get back on their feet.
How to get items work in Dota Underlords and when best to use them
Every 5 round there's a PvE round where you fight against computer-controlled enemies. These get progressively harder the longer the game goes on, but you are guaranteed an item drop from every one. At the early stages of the game these items are fairly basic, but the longer you survive the more game-changing these items become.
When fighting these PvE rounds, the number of items you can choose from depending on your performance. Winning provides you the choice of three items, losing while taking a few enemies out removes some of your options, and losing forces you to pick one item.
Unlike other Auto Battlers, Dota Underlords features passive buff items. These provide team-wide bonuses that synergise with specific Alliances, making an already powerful team composition even better.
Picking these items before you've got a handle on what your team composition will be isn't recommended, but if you've got a certain Alliance in mind and its passive item comes up then grabbing one is certainly worth it.
Early-game guide to Dota Underlords
In the Dota Underlords the early game is all about building as strong of a board as possible. Getting early wins gives you a slight gold advantage over other players, which may not seem like much, but it can build enough momentum to get you to 50 gold ahead of the other competitors.
To do this, you've got to keep your eyes out for as upgrades as you can. If you're offered two of the same unit in the store, grab it regardless of its synergy with units currently on your board. While early synergies are considerable boosts to your team's strength, a team with a 2 star unit will almost always a team lacking them.
It's all well and good having that early Warlock bonus, but a 2 star Bounty Hunter will make mincemeat of squishy 1 star units regardless of the buffs your team has.
Then there's items. During the early game the items you receive won't be huge factors to your success, but they can be the difference between a victory and a close defeat. Be sure to put items on heroes that can make the best use of them. For example, let's say you get an early chainmail (which gives a hero an additional armour), be sure to give it to a hero that'll be taking lots of damage in the frontline - like an Axe or Tusk.
At the end of the early game (round 7-8) you're looking to have at least one 2-star unit, an item being used by your team, and some sort of small alliance synergy if you can.
Mid-game guide to Dota Underlords
The mid game is where your team's synergy can be decided, and you can start looking for specific units from the store. It's also the point where you should start stockpiling your money for the late game.
Take a look at the 2 star units you already have on the board, take note of what alliances they have, and start picking up units with shared alliances if they become purchasable.
It's important not to spend any money on rerolls during this part of the game, as doing so will slow your progression towards 50 gold and maximum interest. Instead, only splash the cash when a unit that shares an alliance with your team appears, or for a single XP purchase if it will gain you a level up.
As for items, continue equipping them to units that will best benefit from them. It's at this point where passive items with alliance synergy become valuable, and if you see an item that works well with your team then go ahead and pick it up.
By the end of the mid game, you should be sitting comfortably above 50 gold, have a nice selection of items being used, and have your alliances figured out.
End-game guide and how to win matches in Dota Underlords
Congratulations! You've made it to the end game. It's here that powerful tier 5 units start appearing, game-changing items can be easily picked up, 3 star units become a common occurrence, and players start dropping like flies. At this point you should be focusing on improving what units you have and fine-tuning your hero placement so that your team can perform to the best of its abilities.
It's a good idea to identify what 2 star unit you have that is closest to being upgraded, then look specifically for that unit in the store. If you start buying multiple units at the same time in the hopes of getting multiple 3 star units, chances are you'll run out of money before you get any of them.
The items you can grab at this point in the game can be hugely impactful on the outcome of the game. Items like expanded Roster provide an extra unit slot on the board which is a ridiculous advantage over everyone else in the game, and every other tier 5 item has an equally powerful ability. If you are fortunate enough to be offered a tier 5 item, be sure to grab it and equip it to a hero immediately.
If you find yourself on low health, it's time to spend. Your. Money. There's no use having 50 gold saved up if you lose before it's spent, so if you feel you're running out of options don't hesitate to spam rerolls and XP purchases. It's a desperate move, but it's often necessary to stay in the game that little while longer.
Best of luck!