The last few years have seen a great number of games make the jump to becoming web series and DOTA: Dragon’s Blood is a continuation in that trend. A Netflix exclusive, the series as the game suggests taps into mythos of the Dota universe to create a narrative that suits binge-watching as a practice. With Castlevania, Witcher and now DOTA Netflix is developing a successful niche of sorts where its either adapting or mediating gaming worlds into exclusives. While Castlevania and Witcher were incredibly successful with DOTA the series lacks the necessary punch that defines it.
Based on a game that draws from the world and design of Warcraft this series is essentially at times building the lore and canon for a mod of another game. A tricky journey to begin with, it is further compounded when you factor in that as a MOBA (Massively Online Battlefield Arena) players of DOTA have never cared too much about stories, rather what their heroes can do on the battlefield. Thus, the purpose of undertaking such a project is questionable; unless it was to never interest the players in the first place. Castlevania and Witcher were great hits but they were also the first time a lot of people encountered the universe, Henry Cavill was cast as the Witcher not just for his shoulders but also because he was superman and it’s the same with DOTA here.
Animated by the same studio that worked on The Legend of Korra, Voltron and Kipo Netflix has shown great commitment by hiring stars like Laura Pulver, Yuri Lowenthal and Troy Baker. However, despite the effort and the spectacular looking series, the story fails to gel. By portraying characters in negative and positive light, fan favorite characters like Mirana and Luna are reduced to mere puppets whereas Davion is rendered a helpless dragon knight. Similarly, the Invoker is reduced to an emotionally distraught father and Selemene and Terrorblade as irredeemable characters.
The eight episodes do not do enough to stich the narrative nor establish the world but they do enough to destroy DOTA’s legacy. A world that was built on comics that were made with as many open endings so that players could craft their own stories suddenly seems reduced and less fantastical with a linear narrative. Netflix gives the necessary legitimacy to make the series canon even in a world where there was nothing canonical. A great way for newcomers to enter the world of DOTA but it comes at an incredible cost, the cost of imagination and creative storytelling.