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Arcade Night: Troll & Elves 2

If you’re reading this, the author still hasn’t gotten to play as Troll after three days of trying

Official art for Troll & Elves 2.
| Art by HekkCZ | Steam Workshop

Implemented in August 2015, after The International 5 and as part of the Source 2/Reborn client, the Arcade allows homegrown developers to try their hand at creating their own custom game modes. Custom game support is much like how predecessor DotA was built in Warcraft III, only this time, Valve makes the process smoother for developers.

This is a pilot of Arcade Night, in which The Flying Courier site lead Victoria visits (or re-visits) custom games across the Arcade/Workshop.


Every time I visit a tower defense game, I end up being more of a fan than I’d expected. I’d been dragged into some TD customs in Warcraft III last year (yes, I have friends who do that), and I poked around a few in the Dota 2 client since the Arcade launch. Part of the appeal is learning the patterns of enemies, watching them march around a maze of pummeling death as towers block the way of enemies with the AI capacity of a rolling marble.

So Troll & Elves 2 seemed like a great game to try, as it throws plenty of that out the window.

A remake of a WC3 classic released in May 2016 by developer sSam, it’s essentially two-team tower defense game. While typically tower defense involves fortifying against swarms of AI attacker, the attacker is one human player in this case, as the Troll, against everyone else in the game who play as Elves (up to 11 players).

Both teams have tents available that give gold, with a permanent Troll tent providing currency for attack and armor and such, and extra gold accumulates proportional to damage done to structures. Meanwhile, Elves need to quickly build their tents, towers, repair workers and more. If an Elf dies, they can respawn as a Troll-helping Wolf or an Elf-friendly Angel. Elves win if the Troll dies, and the Troll wins if all Elves die.

With the basics understood, I ventured in with two goals: play as an Elf, and play as a Troll. Easy enough, right? The good news is, I got a lot of experience as an Elf. Almost too much. After so much Elfing, I’m not great, but I can survive a solid while. Sometimes.

Except I couldn’t get the freaking Troll role.

I’d played for three days straight, just because I needed to have something to show for everyone, except I don’t know how that actually works. They ask if you want to play as Troll in the start, but I never got it anyway. Is it RNG? Is the one-shot questionnaire lying to me? We had entire lobby arguments over who wanted Troll more. (They got it.)

I can’t figure that out. But I’m going to assume it’s RNG, and I won’t mark that too heavily against an otherwise-enjoyable custom game. So, with that aside...

Some Elf allies’ formidable base.
Troll & Elves 2 by sSam | Dota 2

Troll & Elves 2’s gameplay is relatively easy to pick up on; the developer outlines it well in the game’s information page, and there are descriptions for almost everything in the game. The developer also provides tips for each side via an information bar, meaning you can at least be proficient pretty quickly. From the start, you’re expected to be adept enough to at least put up a good defense against the Troll, but that becomes more intuitive in just two or three games.

Occasionally, you’ll get someone yelling at you to try to give you ill-timed advice (typically in Russian, as this seems to be a majority of the player base), but much of the time, they mean well. And in the worst cases, most players are okay with you hopping into their base if your own has been devastated.

Troll & Elves 2 is essentially a lesson in resource management. Do you want a ton of okay towers, or three powerful ones? Are you going to forego a few Rock/Wall upgrades for workers? It’s up to you, and depending on your Troll, mileage may vary. And if you are the Troll, will high DPS destroy your enemies early, or have they put up an army of Towers you can’t withstand for a second?

Once the game really gets going, it’s extremely satisfying to have your little army of towers and workers defend your turf when the Troll rolls around. And I bet it’s satisfying to appear late-game with enough damage to shred a Dragon Head in mere seconds, especially as gold rolls in with each point of damage. (But I wouldn’t know. Because I never played Troll.)

Overall, there’s nothing truly terrible about Troll & Elves 2, an average game of which can take 20 to 40 minutes. I’d say the most frustrating thing about the gameplay itself is: If you don’t know the “meta” of dropping a half-built tent upon spawning and running from there, you’re already behind the rest of your teammates. There also seem to be complaints about end-game Troll being a little weak, given his power scales with items. Otherwise, it’s a fairly enjoyable experience.

Any tower defense game fan will find an off-beat home in Troll and Elves 2. It combines the resource management smarts of any tower defense game with the strategic wit and flexibility only a human can achieve, and once it picks up, it’s lot of fun on both sides.

Here are some tips on the Elf side that seem to help:

  • When the game starts, run a bit off to the side, drop a Tent, and don’t finish it. Then, run to your area of choice. It’ll allow you to generate some necessary gold before you start building, making you more difficult to reach.
My own base.
Troll & Elves 2 by sSam | Dota 2
  • Your rock is... your rock. It will protect you above all else. Towers have extremely low HP, so your Rock is really your most important asset. Upgrade it early, and obviously, fortify it with Workers and Towers.
  • A good area to occupy is one with plenty of room for all of your assets, plus your towers. You need large spaces for everything: Tent, Trader, Mother of Nature, Workers Guild and Research Lab.
  • Use abilities! Your Blink can especially get out in a pinch, but can also be used to move around if your own assets have you stuck.
  • Stay near other players.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of early-game Workers and Wisps! Workers are your HP regen, and Wisps get you Lumber, which you’ll need later.
  • Wisps are excellent ward alternatives. Place them on elevated unoccupied surfaces to give vision of an area.
  • Play with a friend! You can pool your resources and make extremely formidable forts.
  • As an Angel, the best time to steal gold is immediately when the Troll appears far away from you. Keep an eye out and jump in for the dank stuff.

As for Trolls, from what I’ve gathered:

  • Every attack you do generates gold based on damage output. Attack until you’re sure you can’t anymore.
  • Don’t forget to upgrade items! Sell one, get another.
  • While attack damage and attack speed are great early-game, don’t forget to start working on your health and armor as well, as these are what ensure you’ll be able to stick around stronger bases for longer.
  • When your HP is getting drained, don’t overstay; keep in mind your enemies have a Root ability that can spell certain doom.
  • Go for weaker players’ outposts earlier. Even if you can’t take them down earlier, at least you can attack them longer.
  • Don’t give up just because you couldn’t take down an Elf! Again, every attack generates gold.
  • If you become a Wolf, bug your Troll for Gold and Lumber. It’ll help you both.

If you plan on picking up Troll & Elves 2, you can find it in the Arcade and Workshop.


Want to see more Arcade Nights? Any games you want to see visited? Did you have any complaints or praise about Troll & Elves 2? Feel free to leave feedback!