Since December’s 7.00 patch, which saw the return of Monkey King, Dota 2 players have been wondering if (and likely, when) a new hero would appear. While many are nonchalant or neutral about such a prospect, given the game’s respected approach to gameplay and balance (plus the massive overhaul 7.00 brought), it hasn’t stopped fans from speculating.
So when small hints at the continued release started to roll out, fans began to play the guessing game even more—and the evidence has only become stronger.
The biggest tell is the code being slowly patched into the game—namely, code for never-before-seen abilities. One fan copied code that they found in a recent patch and shared it online on Github for fans to pick at.
There appear to be four abilities included, according to the files’ labels: Grapple, Shadow Realm, Flash Powder and WillOWisp. (These are, of course, subject to change.) And all are linked to a hero called “Sylph.”
Each has placeholder sounds, using file names from other heroes. The notes include some “projectile” notes, implying a potentially ranged hero, and idle animations. In a later patch, a quick line was also thrown in: “modifier_sylph_shadow_realm”, implying that Shadow Realm applies some kind of “state.”
When it comes to large additions to the game, such as heroes, bits of assets and code like this are often thrown into the game early. For heroes like Legion Commander, Techies and Underlord, textures would be found as well way before expected released.
Meanwhile, we haven’t actually had an explicit mention of an upcoming new hero. If not a hero, though, then what is this code for? The other possibility would be that this is a major character in Act 2 of the Siltbreaker campaign, possibly the final boss. After the first act’s feedback of aggressive and difficult enemies, it would only be fitting that Valve would want to put major characters in the game. Plus, given the “placeholder” files, it would make sense, as prior Siltbreaker bosses used other heroes’ assets gratuitously.
But that loops back to the theory of... well, a new hero, again. DotA (the Warcraft 3 mod) had a history of implementing many of its upcoming heroes as “bosses,” and the last to receive such treatment was Monkey King. (Albeit, with many years’ gap.)
Meanwhile, the lore of Dota 2, for what sparse canon exists, implies new additions to the Dota universe. Most fans are leaning on the theory that this new hero is the fourth Elemental Spirit, as only three have been included (Ember, Storm and Earth) in the game thus far. One comic of the Monkey King, though, shows four spirits:
The name, or at least title, “Sylph” would make sense as a fourth spirit, given “Sylph” implies a spirit of the air of some kind. It seems that Storm Spirit would take up an “air” role, but Valve could always take a more liberal approach to the word somehow.
Siltbreaker also provides a wealth of potential lore. Through the campaign and the comics released with it, a story unfolds of an all-powerful terrible being, Siltbreaker, that has escaped the prisons of Dark Reef and wrecks havoc upon the world. As “overpowered” as the Siltbreaker figure seems, he isn’t a far cry from the literal gods, universe-crafters and celestial beings that are a part of the universe.
With Valve’s slow shift back towards building story, especially with games such as League of Legends and Overwatch leading the charge, Valve is likely hard-pressed to not keep up their lore. Between the Monkey King reference and Siltbreaker’s inevitable appearance in the self-titled series, the game universe slowly hints that Valve may finally deliver.
The final question? The Ironwood Branch branch effect, available now to all Battle Pass owners, seems a little too accessible to fans to lead to nothing. According to Valve, the way trees sprout when the branch is “planted” in-game will evolve during the tournament. While they currently say “GG,” in reference to their community nickname “gg branches,” nothing else has been patched in, adding a degree of secrecy. Before Monkey King’s announcement at TI6, trees started randomly dropping bananas, and now the trees are a last touch of fuel in the tank of speculation.
It’s hard to feel like everything up until now has been pointing to a new hero. This is the first non-”color” theme of The International, and Siltbreaker is coal for the hype train. There hasn’t been a new hero since Monkey King, while other games are maintaining a frequent character release schedule. There’s no telling if there will actually be a hero, but there’s very little reason to expect nothing from TI7’s breadth of content.