Written by Forrest Messer
You’re in a distant land, one in which bushes will spin and scream at you, a little girl is your worst fear, and that guy who said he’s on your side just ran into an enemy tower. No, you fools, not Antarctica! It’s League of Legends. The advent of what is now coming to be known as “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena” games or M.O.B.A began back in the days of Warcraft 3, a time wrapped in nostalgia and dial-up connections. I’m of course talking about Defense of the Ancients. However, Riot has taken the basic DotA formula and cleaned it up a bit, essentially taking the genre and making it much more accessible.
Xerath has one of the coolest taunts.
League of Legends has several strong suits that make it the success it is today. For starters, it’s free. There is literally not a single gameplay-relevant thing that you have to pay for in order to experience it. On top of this, it boasts incredibly addictive, fast paced, competitive teamplay, which just so happen to be three of my favorite gaming related terms. The visuals of the game are done in a stylistic fashion which allows them to scale down for most systems but look very appealing when maxed. Riot also constantly updates the game free of charge, adding in a new champion bi-weekly as well as new vanity skins.
The way League of Legends manages to stay free and highly productive is thanks to its in-lobby store. There are two currencies in the game, Riot Points and Influence Points, the former being what you pay actual money for and the latter being acquired simply by playing the game enough. With Influence Points you can access anything that would directly affect the gameplay, this includes any champion in the game as well as runes, which are used to give stat boosts that persist game to game.
Then there are Riot Points, which are used to purchase in-game champion skins, champions themselves (for those who don’t feel like working for it), and various bundle packs. You can buy Riot Points in quantities of $5, $10, $20, $35, and $50. With a locked pricing method like this, you will almost always end up buying more riot points than you actually needed, but they help to grease your palm for the next purchase. That being said, the vanity skins they put out make you want to spend money on the game, they are generally well-made and often times very amusing.
Spell effects can certainly be impressive.
Summoner’s Rift is the primary game mode, in which teams vie for advantage, gaining money from killing enemy champions or minions to buy powerful items. This game mode is set up as a 5v5 arena in which each team has the objective of destroying the opposing Nexus (see: home base). Team fights are where the real action happens, involving giant violent symphonies of ultimate-abilities and tactical positioning, featuring popular roles like tank, support, and high damage. Romping around with your friends as you ace an enemy team is an absolute blast.
With as many champions as League of Legends has, you can expect that some are simply going to be more powerful than others, so the balance is best arranged in tiers rather than on an overall idea that all champions should be equal. This being said, almost any champion can be effective in the hands of a skilled player. The game also features a 3v3 map in the same game mode, but the 5v5 dynamic is the focus of the balance, making some champions absurdly powerful when the number of players gets scaled down. Recently added is the new game mode Dominion, which is a classic king of the hill style game that really shines when combo’d with the frantic skirmishing of League.
The stylistic, somewhat cartoony art style holds League very well. For the most part the visuals stay consistently clean, even when shit is hitting the fan. Another aspect of the visual presentation are the vanity skins ranging from exceptionally badass like the Warmonger Sion skin, to absolutely hilarious like the Gentlemen Cho’Gath skin (Cho’gath is a giant spiky monster who looks positively dashing in a suit and top hat). When League of Legends first launched, a lot of veteran M.O.B.A players were really thrown off by the more light-hearted art style, but the stylized approach to game art allows both the visuals of a game to age exceptionally well, as well as allowing them to run on a vast range of systems without taking too many hits.
Graves’ smoke screen blocks enemy vision.
League of Legends is a game that is in constant flux. With a new champion being added every two weeks, as well as updates to existing champions and game balance, the tier list of which champions are “in” is constantly changing. To this date Riot has bolstered the ranks bringing the game to a grand total of 85 champions, the latest of which is Graves the Outlaw. With these updates comes certain problems though. Riot seems to have been struggling for quite some time with client and server stability with their constant interference, and even though this meddling comes with fancy new content, it can be quite vexing when you’re locked out of the game on the one free window in your busy schedule. Riot also seems to have some serious issues with hitting larger deadlines, things often getting pushed back days, weeks, or in some cases months from when they were initially set (I’m looking at you, Magma Chamber). At the end of the day however, it seems really silly to complain about a game that you got for free.
League of Legends has kept me consistently amused and hooked for over a year now. The frantic multiplayer is an absolute blast with friends, and it truly stands among the best free to play games in the world.
Genre Score (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena): 90
While it lacks some of the complexity that the more “hardcore” M.O.B.A games boast, it is responsible for the popularization of the genre and is still insane amounts of fun.