With the release of Dota 2’s Primal Beast update, the MOBA saw a significant shakeup. There were new items, buffs and nerfs to heroes, and, of course, the introduction of new stompy strength boy Primal Beast. Like every Dota update, it had me intrigued enough to download it and boot up the game as I’ve done for thousands of hours before. But this time I found something unexpected – Primal Beast is the hero I’ve been waiting for almost a decade.
Getting in-game for the first time after the update, I managed to lock in Primal Beast after a lengthy matchmaking queue. As we left the fountain and I was able to size up his mammoth stature, the other heroes and jungle creeps appeared nothing short of miniscule in comparison. Yes, I was ready to kit him out like a tank and charge my way to victory.
As the team stopped skirmishing in lane and started roaming the map, Primal Beast was in his element. As the enemy team gathered in middle lane and pushed towards the tower, I waited in the trees, feeling like Godzilla waiting to strike. As they edged closer, I charged Primal Beast’s Onslaught ability, which causes him to dash forward and smash and stun anything in his way.
Out of the trees I flew, and right into the opposing team to initiate the mother of all team fights in the river. Quickly mashing the key for Trample, I walked through their team stomping the ground with an AoE attack. An Axe saw fit to taunt me, locking Primal Beast in place, but it only spelled disaster for him, because once his taunt wore off I used Primal Beast’s ultimate ability: the aptly named Pulverize. This is by far the hero’s best ability, and it made him pick up Axe like a toy and repeatedly smash him into the floor, causing his nearby teammates to be stunned. This sort of raw brutality in a character is exactly what Dota needed.
Matchmaking as a solo player in Dota 2 can often leave you at a disadvantage if you join a team with poor communication – Primal Beast is one of those rare strength heroes that can actually make an impact without relying too much on highly coordinated team fights with your teammates. With Axe, you can taunt enemies, but you’re locked in and you need the team with you. With Sven, you can stun, but again, once the enemy realises you’re alone, it’s bye bye. Primal Beast feels like a game-changer; like you can pick up the slack from your unresponsive teammates, and come in like a wrecking ball. His initiation abilities are so powerful that you can’t ignore it when he tears through trees and terrain to chase down that Lion player who just won’t stop turning your supports into frogs.
He’s also just so giddily fun to play. If you’ve become bored of playing squishy heroes, or you’re tired of being careful in the laning phase, Primal Beast is there to let you trample all over the creeps and chase those pesky ranged cowards away with his size-40 feet. He allows you to punch a tower so hard with his gigantic hands that it’s like blowing over Lego. He allows you to just have fun in Dota again.
That’s crucial in a game such as Dota 2, which has been out for almost a decade. The series itself has an even longer legacy, stretching back to originally being developed as a mod for Warcraft III 20 years ago. With games like this, metas quickly form, and when new heroes are eventually released, the community quickly min-maxes their builds and they become just another character to play.
Primal Beast feels like he changes that by shaking up gameplay itself. His very presence changes the pacing of the mid-game dip that occurs once each team has destroyed each other’s tier one towers, but they’re still too weak to roam the enemy jungle and gank. This whole section is accelerated with Primal Beast, and suddenly he’s clearing lanes with his AoE stomp, or snatching up enemy heroes caught out in compromising positions.
Don’t get me wrong, he is slow and cumbersome, and he isn’t the best ganker, but once he’s in the fight, he can be the pillar of the team. Build him out as a tank with item’s like Heart of Tarrasque, and the added strength both bumps up his health and makes him deal more damage. He isn’t unstoppable, of course, and his slow speed is a weakness, but for players who like to play strength heroes and tank – especially in matchmaking – Primal Beast is the hero we’ve been waiting for; the hero that is durable enough to survive, has the abilities to carry a team fight as a tank, and is fun enough to play.