Auto Chess vs Underlords: What's new for Auto Chess players.

Posted by Greg Austin on 2019-06-23
As I nonchalantly right clicked to move my courier about I realized that I couldn’t, hundreds of hours of Dota Auto Chess have turned me into a compulsive courier walker. After the initial shock and courier mourning period was over I started delving deep into Underlords. My initial reaction was that it felt, different, and I couldn’t figure out why. As I’ve played more I’ve learnt what’s different, what’s trash and what’s great. It seems to me that some UI niceties, new heroes, new synergies, and a reworked item system make up what’s great about Underlords. As for what’s trash, it’s the camera angle, kill feed, missing chat, and some missing UI elements from DAC. My initial impression is that despite some great UI decisions and a reworked item system, the game feels rushed and some of the magic of DAC is missing.

Other than realizing there’s no courier, when you first start playing Underlords you’ll try move your cursor to the edges of the screen, but nothing will happen. You will feel imprisoned by your screen, it’s almost as if Valve knows this because the battle area is literally a dungeon. You can however click on other player names to see other player dungeons. It wouldn’t seem so bad if you could see other player’s synergies easily with icons like in DAC. You have to click every single player to see what their synergies are which can be tedious and requires some next level micro from the player. In addition to that UI gripe, you can’t see total player damage nor can you check player team net worth.

In the defense of Underlords they’ve made some great UI additions to make the game more accessible for new players. Underlords will highlight all your units when you click on the race or class. They’ll also describe the class at the top of the screen when you click the race or class. Plus, when hiring new units they’ll show you how many units you need to get an active race or class perk.

There are, however, still some more UI grievances, for one, the kill feed is non-scrollable and so tiny - it only takes up a small top section of the screen. My issue is that it doesn’t give you enough satisfaction when you shred some other enemy team. In DAC the feed is quite long and scrollable so you can easily see who got slammed by you. In Underlords there’s an icon showing who’s defending against you, but there’s no way to easily see if you dunk on them. There’s only two or three lines of kill feed so it flies by quickly. In Valve’s defense there is a nice introductory screen when you face an opponent that shows how many wins and losses you have against them. That addition still doesn’t let me feel the glory of slam dunking on some scrubs. At times Underlords barely feels like you’re playing against other humans. There’s no chat. There’s no couriers being walked about. There needs to be more interaction with other players.

They’ve added some quality of life improvements to the bench. For example, your bench units will aggressively whisper at you when you don’t have enough units on the board. The game will also make it very obvious when you have too many heroes on the board. The bench looks great too with all your heroes facing you. In DAC the game will only finish 2* or 3* units only on the bench. Underlords simplifies that process, the game will always fully complete a unit even if you have one on the board, and one on the bench.

The reworked item system is a good solution to a problem I’ve had for a long time with DAC. In DAC you never get fantastic items, for example, I’ve played hundreds of hours of DAC but have never gotten a Heart of Tarasque or a Divine Rapier. The item drops are too random and are few and far between. Although I have fun with the DAC item system I never feel adequately rewarded. Drodos solution to this was to give tangos or mangos as a consolation prize for not getting items. Valves solution is a bit more rewarding and has a much less frustrating way of handling the randomness.

Valve will let you choose one of three items if you defeat a creep wave. The level of the creeps determines the level of the item you can choose, for example, if you defeat a high level creep wave you will get fantastic items like a Heart of Tarasque, or a Divine Rapier quite easily. Having to choose items gives it a great choose-your-own-adventure quality and makes the randomness less random. It’s quite rewarding picking up the items. Items are also not locked in place per hero once you put them on to heroes, whereas in DAC items are locked in place which I’ve never understood. There is however only one slot per hero so you can’t have a huge carry on your team that takes the team to victory - which I quite like. It’s quite a simplified system which is rewarding and solves a problem still present in Drodos game, however, I’m not sure I like one slot per hero.

In conclusion, I’ve learnt what’s different, what’s trash and what’s great. Some UI niceties, new heroes, new synergies, and a reworked item system make up what’s great about Underlords. As for what’s trash, it’s the camera angle, kill feed, missing chat, and some missing UI elements from DAC. I don’t think that the good outweighs the bad at this moment but Valve certainly is going in the right direction. My guess is that they were rushed to release and the problems I have with the game will be solved in time. It’s a great time to be a player of this genre and I’m excited to see the direction that Valve takes.

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