Review: Dota: Dragon’s Blood Is Pure Fan Service
We need more of Dota: Dragon’s Blood. Not in the sense of “Season 2 when”, but rather as “Season 1 Gabencut (+3 more episodes) when.”
Dota 2 is a game for curious people who want and will spend their time digging up all its main aspects: mechanics, esports, content makers, and, of course, lore. In this regard, Valve can be compared to FromSoftware, which throws players into a huge kitchen with a boiling cauldron, and there is no direct answer on what to cook, how to cook, and why you are here for God’s sake.
And that's why I love Dota so much. Let's omit the gameplay – we’re here for the animated series.
Attention! The text below has small, minor spoilers used to illustrate the experience. Important plot stuff is not mentioned.
Even after thousands of hours spent watching streams or in the game itself, I never stop finding new bits of information that connect characters, build relationships, create confrontations and break chemistry. Somehow, miraculously, even descriptions of new artifacts and skins can expand the universe and tie a couple of things together, at the same time creating new points on the enormous board of fan theories. I can't call it accidents, because when such "coincidences" occur, our hearts break:
Lore built bit by bit is Valve's motto. A fancy pebble, isn’t it?
Because of things like this, I am ready to forgive the so-called Dota anime for all script and graphic flaws. Yes, the noses can be embarrassing, but just a few seconds later Marcy makes us laugh with a single eyebrow movement. Yes, the red ancient dragon is far from the level of the graphics of the game itself (as well as Sagan), but have you seen the landscapes? Yes, by the middle of the season, Davion and his adventures fade into the background, giving way to a global event, although the series is called "Dragon's Blood" and not "Religious Schism". Still, what difference does it make if the screen shows us Luna tearing her enemies apart with the help of the ultimate from the game?
I did not build any expectations for the series, but the wave of general hype still hooked me a little. There were many thoughts in my head: Will the series tell us about the foundation of the world or how the multiverse system works? What’s Terrorblade’s role in all this? Who else will they show? What easter eggs will there be? How old is Mirana in the game if she's about the same age as the young Davion on the show? And so on.
Eight episodes in one gulp, a little time to digest, and voila, the opinion is ready: Dota: Dragon’s Blood is a quality series with no intention to become the best, which is rather made for fan service, contrary to all the theories about marketing strategies for attracting new and returning old players.
First, it's a very eventful show. Rumor has it that the episodes weren’t supposed to be 24 minutes long initially, but 30 minutes each. But that would not have helped much either. For a measured narration and better perception, three or four additional episodes would be great to show us the heroes, or just to take a break from all the adventures. Yes, fillers were invented for a reason.
Second, nothing is explained here. In the first minutes, the voiceover follows Oracle’s huge eyes trying to hint at the laws of the world. But you forget it all just by the first corner when Davion fights a dragon. And then you might completely forget that the series is about Dota: elves and dragons everywhere, and only the opening, Mirana’s name, and Invoker’s orbs (who isn’t called by his name though for the time being) remind of the universe.
Third, a lot of attention has been paid to references and easter-eggs, which is why the uninitiated mind can either perceive it as an episode for creating viewer-hero chemistry (the same episode with the stone from the screenshot above) or as an ordinary contrived coincidence (Invoker’s story or the season finale).
Fourth, Davion's story suddenly turns into a story of an elven civil war. Very interesting from a Dota point of view, very incomprehensible from the point of view of an ordinary Netflix sub.
Fifth, take look at the screenshot below.
It’s not the cause but the consequence though. There is no jump in player activity, just the usual online-boost over the weekend. In terms of numbers, the popularity is declining even with the Major being live.
The season finale hints that we were only shown the prologue. Ahead lies a lot, and I'm not talking about 115 other characters, but specifically about the adventures of our well-known folks. This is good to hear for both a fan of the game and an interested person. The "Dota anime" is breaking Netflix's charts all over the world, obviously gaining a foothold in the top 1 in the CIS countries.
Summing up, I would like to say that the series came out well. I won't be able to recommend it to friends outside of the gaming scene, as I would have done with Sex Education, The End Of The F**king World, Black Mirror, even the very Avatar animated series from the same studio. And this is precisely the beauty of it - you have to reach Dragon’s Blood yourself, and it will reward you. The authors are experienced with low-budget animated series, and with Valve's inherent caution, the delicate feelings of gamers were not hurt due to the chosen plot: a long time ago, far far away…
Sterile, with a hidden twist.
The plot is strong and rich, but it looks like a classic shonen. The heroes are good, alive. The voice acting could’ve been done better: Davion sounds too young, and anyone but Luna has a British accent. The graphics are nice, but there are things to work on. The music is not impressive, apart from the Invoker theme.
Invoker’s line deserves special attention, though. Everything they made about the mage is good: the drama, Troy Baker, the motivation of the characters, the epic component, the soundtrack (unfortunately, the only worthy track in the entire series). I would love to see more of him. Maybe even a spin-off?
Exactly, this is the phrase that will describe Dota: Dragon’s Blood in a nutshell: we need more. Not in the sense of “Season 2 when”, but rather as “Season 1 Gabencut (+3 more episodes) when.”
And well, imagine that Valve collaborated with a huge company and released an anime of their own title for fan service. If this continues, how long will it take for Half-Life 3 to be announced?