WarningMight contain spoilers.

This is a shockingly clumsy and amateurish show. It would have done far better to take its cue from Valve’s own cinematics team and embrace the absurdity and humour of the source material instead of adopting such a tedious, self-serious tone. I can’t imagine how most DotA characters could ever enter a world as devoid of fun as this one. The editing is particularly bad, though that could be an unfortunate editor doing their best with substandard material.

In keeping with the house style, the show is stereotypically American: abundant, unpleasant violence and gore; plenty of busty women in skimpy clothes with unrealistic cleavage; and careful staging to cover up any genitals (the true villains of television). The constant swearing seems shoehorned in and motivated more by a misunderstanding of what mature storytelling is than by character.

All that said, the show has its strengths. The slightly generic characters are given interesting shades as the series progresses. Tony Todd as Slyrak is an important casting choice: his recognizable voice evokes the game and his gravitas anchors the less interesting early episodes. On the whole, I like the way the story sets up the Dragon Knight, although he was a boring choice of protagonist and even the fundamental irony of his affliction cannot make this Davion interesting. Terrorblade’s voice itself is unimpressive, but, like most of the cast, he’s more compelling than the ostensible protagonists. Troy Baker’s quietness as Invoker works exceedingly well to convey his weariness and his rage. The Australian accents for the elves are a refreshing choice. (Making this my second inappropriately serious show featuring Aussie accents in a row.)

The opening credits are spectacular, both visually and aurally. I wish the rest of it lived up to that promise, but there are several truly impressive sequences, often involving Invoker’s magic—even the little things, such as when his eyes light up and he manifests a coin to toss to Fymryn, are memorable. The best of them was his duel with Lirrak. I also liked the dream sequence where Davion meets the dragons.

In the end, Dota: Dragon’s Blood is not good, per se, but given my history with DotA, it’s enough. I finished the season in a single sitting. I’d have no hesitation in watching more. I have to imagine it would be the same for other veterans of the game. I’m skeptical of how much anyone unfamiliar with it would enjoy the series, however.

On an unrelated note, this Luna is far more interesting than a direct translation would have been. If you’ll humour for me a moment, I could imagine a better alternative version of the show that revolved around her journey to redemption, as is so common for male anti-heroes—not this version exactly, perhaps, but one with a similar history and more room for growth. Davion would be more palatable as an occasional supporting actor whose tale we discovered in the past tense rather than the protagonist. Mirana could then have a real purpose and an independent existence.

Next in series: (#2 in Thoughts & Spoilers: Show: Dota: Dragon’s Blood (2021))