Defying all we thought we knew about Valve Time, the studio have just simultaneously titled and launched Dota Underlords. It's Valve's take on ultra-popular Dota 2 mod Auto Chess, which they had been teasing for a while now. While the game will eventually be free-to-play, with an open beta due in approximately a week, they've just opened the floodgates to anyone with a Dota 2 2019 Battle Pass. It supports eight players online and has AI bots to play against too. Below, a video from YouTuber "Kripparrian" giving it a quick peek.
Despite being based on a mod called Auto Chess, Underlords has nothing to do with Chess. It's a turn-based, deck building puzzle-tactics game using the cast of Dota. Rather than control a single character, you build up a small deck of fighters that you place on the game board so as to best support each other. Once battle begins, you just sit and watch the fight play out, and hopefully your guys win. Between rounds you're given more characters to add to your stash to either reserve, play on the board, or (if they're multiples of the same character) combine into a higher-level version.
Underlords looks to be fundamentally similar to Auto Chess, but a bit more polished and accessible. It has a chunky mobile-friendly UI (it's coming to Android and iOS, with full cross-play), and simplifies some systems like items. Rather than combine gear via the arcane pseudo-crafting system, rewarded artifacts are just dropped onto units with minimal fuss. Probably for the best, as the game is visually overwhelming otherwise, looking a bit like two MMORPG parties going ham on each other once battle begins. While I don't have a battle pass myself, given the Vs AI options, I might give this a stab once it launches in full.
The creators of the original Dota 2 mod, Drodo Studio, are currently making their own standalone Auto Chess for PC. Riot Games announced an Auto Chess-y mode for League Of Legends this week too. It's all auto-go this week.
Dota Underlords is currently available in the Steam library of anyone with £7.49/€7.95/$9.99 The International 2019 Battle Pass on Steam. A free open beta will begin in around a week. You can read more on Valve's official Dota 2 blog here.