League of Legends (PC)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Graphics: 6.50
Sound: 7.50
Gameplay: 9.00
Replays: 10.00
Gamelength: 8.00

“League of Legends” is a simple, yet intricate experience that can be as watered down or as complex as the player chooses.

Anyone who’s played “WarCraft III” for an extensive amount of time knows about the famous mod, properly titled “Defense Of The Ancients.” The same team, as well as many key players from other parts of the gaming scene created this game to be a spiritual successor of sorts to that mod. Rather than being a simple modification of an existing game, the developers chose to create this game from the ground up as a standalone experience unlike no other. Still, their games have tried and partially failed, and these guys are attempting to bring this new genre into the spotlight. So, will they succeed? Is this game really that good? Let’s find out. Today, it’s time to explore the new world of “League of Legends” for the PC.

Taking a hint from the popular visual style of Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft”, this game definitely has a very similar style of graphics. Everything, even down to the texture design and character models is all too familiar. That’s not to say that it’s ugly, but it just isn’t very unique. To be fair, the character models do appear to be cell-shaded, so at least there’s some sort of change, even if the overall visual quality isn’t top notch.

The user interface, in all of it’s simplicity, is a pain to use, but not because it’s unorganized or pointless. Everything is generally easy to find, but there are a few random problems that pop up more often than any player would like. For example, after playing a match, sometimes the game wont load the original client. That means it has to be completely restarted from time to time for what appears to be no reason at all.

When the client is working, there are plenty of things to tinker with. There’s a slew of information about the game’s huge list of playable champions, a storefront, talent trees, rune customization and a few other random tidbits, such as stat tracking and friend lists.

Despite the amount of customization given to the player, most of it seems very artificial. For the time being, most of the talents seem almost useless, never giving any sort of real edge to any players, no matter their level or build.

The same can be said about the runes, which give more of an edge by comparison to the talents. Even still, runes simply don’t do enough to justify wasting any serious amount of time on building up a huge collection of stuff to tinker with. Even with a maxed out talent tree and a ton of tier 3 runes, the customization just isn’t very satisfying or rewarding. But hey, who knows? The game has only just been released and there may be a lot of changes coming in the future to fix all of that!

While this is a game that can be played for free, there is a retail version that gives several very notable bonuses. In the free version, players can only use champions that are in the current rotation, which changes on a weekly basis. Otherwise, influence points are earned as the player continues to fight in more online matches. Those influence points can be spent on permanent champions, runes and other small things.

The retail version of the game includes just over half of the champions unlocked permanently, straight out of the box. There’s also a $10 “Riot Point” bonus, which are the real life money equivalent of influence points and can be spent on most of the same things. Also included is a goth-themed skin for the champion, “Annie”.

It’s hard to justify spending cash on the game when everything can be unlocked over time just by playing the game, but the permanently unlocked champions are a definite edge for starting players.

As for the “Riot Points”, they’re almost pointless. At the current money:point ratio, it simply isn’t worth it to buy new characters, much less anything else. The only worthwhile Riot Point-exclusive bonus is the potential use of double influence point or double experience point bonuses for those who plan on playing the game for many, many hours over the course of the bonus duration.

Even though riot points are useless and the customization is damn near pointless in it’s current state, this is still a wonderful game. Crafted from the ground up to be an addictive and simplified gaming experience, this is easily the kind of game that could hook any interested player for countless hours to come.

From the unique character voices and sound effects to the simple, yet complex champion design, there’s a lot to love about “League of Legends.” I mean, who could resist the cute, yet evil giggle of Annie? Or how about the silly Jamaican voiceovers for evil Sion? And if that’s not enough, you’re sure to find at least one character to enjoy. After all, the game includes a whopping 40 champions, with more on the way.

Each champion is designed to be an entirely different experience. Not only are they cosmetically different in every way, but they have their own unique skill sets and item builds. For example, one player may pick “Taric” and play a support role, while another character may turn him into a damage dealing powerhouse or even an indestructible tank. Those possibilities are nearly endless, although most of that has to do with equipment more so than each character’s limited skill sets.

Equipment works in a very simplified, but easily managed way. Every time your champion kills something, be it another player champion or a minion, more gold is collected. When enough gold is earned, players can send their champion back to the base, where the shop resides. Once the shop is opened, a very simple point, click and buy interface is shown, but it’s really not as simple as it sounds because equipment options are very, very extensive.

Each character has a base build that can be accessed quickly from any screen in the shop, but those builds are only good for new players as a starting point. After a few hours of playing, it becomes obvious that there are tons of other builds available based entirely on the character’s equipment. This is where the game really starts to stand out as a unique experience for each different player and for that, this game deserves some sort of award.

Gameplay, in practice, is very simple to pick up. However, it’s a difficult task to completely master even a single champion. To elaborate, the entire core of the game is broken down to a set of 4 skills per character, as well as 2 chosen summoner skills from a decent-sized list, each of which is useful in it’s own way. Using each skill at the right time, in the right order and in the right situation is simple enough to figure out, but that’s as far as the simplicity goes. Delving deeper into the game and truly mastering your chosen champion will require a lot of time, patience and equipment experiments. As such, this is an extremely competitive game, so stay away if you’re not into that sort of thing.

Much like the core game mechanics, the controls are very simple to learn. Everything is a simple matter of left or right clicking, with a few number or letter keys thrown in from time to time to set off skills. The user menu, where graphics and interface options may be altered, is accessed by simply pressing the escape key. To that end, this is a very easy game to control.

Taking everything into account, this is a highly addictive game with a few shortcoming that will likely be altered, improved or perhaps even removed over time. These guys know what they’re doing and they genuinely care about their players, so it’s only a matter of time before the game is patched up for the better.

So, if you’re into either the “Diablo” or RTS styles of gameplay, I highly recommend this game. What have you got to lose? It’s free! And if you like it, throw in the $30 and support farther development. They deserve it for a job well done.

Overall Rating: 8.50

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