League of Legends is a fast paced MMORTS, based on the widely popular Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft 3. In the game, players are given control of a warrior who they’ll throw against countless waves of minions, death-spitting towers, and of course, enemy players. It’s a tried and true formula, one that Riot games has polished to its highest form. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Riot games has produced a 20-inch chrome rim.
Though it is an MMORTS, the actual game matches take place in individual lobbies, meaning you’ll only interact with 5-9 other players at a time. Once the game loads, you’ll find both Summoner’s Rift and the Twisted Treeline (the game’s two maps) crisp, colorful, and cartoonish. With a halfway decent computer, League of Legends should run buttery smooth, even with its dizzying explosions and numerous enemies crowding the screen at any given time.
In the game, you control just one character, meaning that when you’re killed, you’ll suffer a lengthy respawn wait until you can re-engage in combat. The game is free to play, and therefore accessible to almost anyone, but LoL will reward only the most diligent of players. Rushing too quickly into the action will result in a quick and fruitless death on your part, leaving you behind in the race to reach level 18 (XP is given for every kill, and with each level come more powerful attacks). Once you fall behind, it’s tough to catch back up—usually a difference of just two levels between players will make for a decisive victory.
That’s not to say non-hardcore gamers will be crushed into dust the moment they warp into the game. There’s an enormous assortment of characters to choose from (there are over 50 total, each stylized with its own artwork, character models, and upgradeable skills), each character supporting a slightly different play-type. Feel like you’re getting smashed upon all too quickly? Give Warwick a try—the werewolf regenerates health with each attack. If you want to hang back and deal higher damage, try Veigar, the evil pipsqueak who brings bolts of dark energy crashing down on his opponent’s heads. Whatever character you choose, you’ll find them finely detailed and unique (with great one-liners to boot). The available free-to-play characters change weekly, meaning newcomers can experiment with multiple styles of play.
That being said, there are decided advantages for those who have been playing the game for an extended period of time. In addition to the in-game leveling system, there is a macro-leveling system that applies to your player profile (called your Summoner Profile). For every match you play to completion, you’ll be provided XP and Influence Points. The XP applies to your Summoner Level, from which you’ll earn points to place in a Mastery Tree, boosting everything from critical-hit chance to mana regeneration. The Influence Points, on the other hand, are used to unlock characters and runes (which provide in-game boosts). Alternatively, these characters can be purchased through micro-transactions in the form of Riot Points), meaning that if you’re tired of the grind, you can spend a few bucks and speed up the process.
The result of this macro-leveling system is that League of Legends earns far more replay value than it would otherwise. The core mechanic is solid, but with only two maps to its name, LoL can start to feel a little repetitious. Providing these RPG elements give each match a sense of importance that might otherwise be lacking.
That isn’t to say, of course, that the individual matches don’t hold their own appeal. When played properly, League of Legends is a true adrenaline pumper, a game that looks deceptively simple but requires serious skill to play well. The bread and butter of the game is slaying minions, the computer generated hordes that spawn from the enemy’s base. You’ll push through the onslaught of these baddies to take towers, strong defensive structures that can be found along the channels leading to the enemy’s base, and which can wipe you out with ease. When you do manage to fell the towers along any given channel, you’ll then be tasked with pushing into the base itself (where you’ll find even more towers), to destroy the enemy’s Nexus and win the game.
The action requires a careful balance between advancement and retreat. If you push too hard, you’ll be slayed by a player, tower, or even worse, a minion. If you’re too careful, you’ll fall behind in level advancement. Battles will unfold with two opposing warriors on either side of a minion battle, the warriors blasting attacks across the crowd, dipping back when their green bar begins looking a little narrow. And it’s here that League of Legends requires the most attention and patience. A battle between players can turn around in two seconds flat, and that’s no exaggeration.
If split-second, heart-wrenching decisions aren’t your thing, don’t fret—it’s an MMORTS, and you can fall into more of a support position (I spent the entirety of one game healing fellow warriors and sniping minions), or lurking in the shadows. That’s the most impressive thing about League of Legends—despite the fact that there are only two maps, that there is only one game type, the game has the potential to feel a little different each time, based on how you decide to add to the chemistry of your team. There are thick reeds in which you can hide, back alleys full of monsters that you can team-up to defeat for extra XP and special buffs. If you really want to get creative, you can buy custom equipment from the game store, rather than opting for the recommended builds.
Which is to say, I think, that League of Legends is what you make it. At its core, it is a highly-polished MMORTS mechanic, and little more. As mentioned earlier, there are only two maps (for 3v3 or 5v5) and one game type. If you’re willing to stick with the game, though, you’ll find the macro-level system rewarding and deep, and even if you don’t buy or unlock any characters, having a fresh ten to try each week will provide some replay value. The community for LoL is alive and active, and in a game that relies so heavily on teamwork, you’re bound to make some friends before too long. If you’re looking for a heart-pumping click-fest, definitely give League of Legends a download. Who knows? It could very well be the next game you lose yourself in.
Robert LamirandeLeague of Legends - Review,