Why Dota 2′s Immortal Treasures left me disappointed

Dota 2 is my most-played game ever. I have poured more than a thousand hours into it, made some great friends and I like spending snippets of whatever grownups call pocket money on little wizard hats and capes.

When the magical digital wizard booklet known as the Compendium was announced for 2014 I picked one up as soon as possible. A quarter of the proceeds go to The International 4 prize fund with the rest going to Valve. I like the idea of contributing to a tournament I enjoy and to players from whom I have learned a lot. Similarly, Valve’s input is cool. Reaching stretch goals means the team create items, a new game mode, different types of customisation – some of the rewards will benefit all Dota 2 players, even those who didn’t pick up a Compendium.

Today was the day for delivering the Immortal Treasures.

Last year’s Compendium Immortals were problematic because there was a clear disparity in terms of their value. Some were for popular heroes and had supercool animations, some were for less popular heroes and didn’t really deliver on the animations front either. As Chris puts it on Three Lane Highway, it was possible to feel like you’d lost.

This year is far better in that respect – the items are cool, the chest system has been changed so that with multiple chests you’re not risking doubling up on an item you’ve already received and there’s a chance for earning some ace rares. Indeed, I haven’t spoken to anyone who’s been disappointed. Except for me.

“Once the Immortal Treasure stretch goal is reached, you’ll receive an extra Immortal Treasure every 10 levels. Each time you open a treasure, you will find a different item, with a chance to get an exceptionally rare item.”

That’s the way this year’s Immortals work.

I’ve bought my Compendium and been enjoying leveling it up naturally, playing games and completing the tasks the booklet sets in order to gain points. I’m at level 7 at the moment and thus was entitled to one Immortal Treasure box. I opened it while on voice chat with friends as we queued for a game. “What did you get?!” was the question everyone was asking one another. I got a tail for Puck. It’s a lovely item but the character just isn’t one I play. Instantly I started thinking about the people I play with who pick Puck often and who I could gift it to.

I love that aspect of Dota – giving someone an unexpected present just because you know they love playing that hero. It’s a really nice feeling. In fact when I was waiting for the chest to open I was running through which items I’d love and keep and strut up and down the lanes with for months and months and which ones would be heading to other people’s armories for them to do the same.

But everyone else who was excited about the Immortals had received multiple drops. I realised I was the only person there who hadn’t spent extra money leveling up by buying extra points and, as the conversations continue, was acutely aware of how many cool items I was missing out on by not spending money. This is the first time I’ve felt that by not spending money I was having a less enjoyable experience than other people in Dota 2.

By spending the cost of another Compendium you can gain 24 levels on your current Compendium. That does things like affecting the rate at which you earn levels and items for your Dota profile. But what it also does is earn you at least two extra Immortal Treasure drops. Three in my case as I’m already on level 7. I guess looking at it like that made me feel silly for watching my level grow through meeting the booklet’s challenges and things. Like, I was doing it wrong and missing out by not just dropping another six quid into the pot.

I still have the Puck tail too. Like I said before, I was going to give it to someone I know who plays the character a lot. Thing is, he’s spent roughly three times more than I have on the Compendium – nudging towards the £20 mark – and so when I asked what he’d got in his Immortal drops the answer was “everything”.

The Dota 2 treasure system has improved so much since last year, it really has. But the feeling of missing out because I simply hadn’t spent enough money is not one I’ve associated with Dota 2 at all. Having it flash up during a moment I was excited about was unexpected and unpleasant, and then again when I was trying to decide what to do with the item. I want the cool items but they now they feel more like a set of toys you buy outright rather than having an element of reward or socialising to them. I could still spend the extra money – I’d prefer that to using the marketplace, I think – it’s just that I no longer feel good about it.