In an age where free PC games are becoming increasingly common, the burden falls on us hardcore gamers to try out all games and figure out which ones are worth our time. League of Legends (LoL) by Riot Games is one free game that stands out among the crowd as being very fun, competitive, and graphically beautiful to behold. Essentially, it’s a stand-alone Defense of the Ancients (DotA) game, which is a highly popular Warcraft III The Frozen Throne custom map.
There has been a demand and rumor for a stand-alone Defense of the Ancients for a long time. Coincidentally, two games are being released in a very short time. League of Legends was released only two months ago, while Heroes of Newerth (another DotA like game) will enter open beta very soon. League of Legends consist of minds such as Guinsoo, a previous designer of DotA, and Pendragon, the administrator of dota-allstars.com.
In LoL, your team consists of one to five players, depending on the map and game, and each player controls a Champion. As of right now, there are 43 champions to choose from, which invoke a lot of variety and replayability. Each champion has their own persona with their own set of powers. So it’s very interesting to try out the different Champions, based on their characteristic (such as Tank, Figter, Mage, Assasin, Support, etc) and choose one as a favorite. Chances are, you will want to try out all the Champions to learn their powers so that you don’t get surprised in-game against a cunning opponent. Each Champion has a set of 4 ability powers, and can level up to 18th level, having the chance to improve one ability power each new level.
Your basic objective is to destroy the enemy headquarter, or Nexus. To do that, you have to destroy the towers along each lanes (one map has 3 lanes, the traditional DotA map, and the other map has 2 lanes). Periodically minions will spawn and head towards the towers. So it’s your job to aid your minions and push them towards the enemy tower to clear the way. As easy as it sounds, the enemy will be trying the same thing, which makes it all the more fun.
Other RPG elements include buying items with gold (you accumulate gold constantly and also through killing enemies). The items further diversify LoL, because of the endless possibilities of customizing your Champion. While LoL offers you item recommendations for each Champion, you might want to build your own sets of items depending on how you play. A notable difference from DotA is the inclusion of only one item shop in your base, where the items are neatly organized into categories. First tab includes Attack, Defense, Movement, Consumables; each tab is farther subdivided, for instance Attack tab contains Life Steal, Attack Speed, and so on. Furthermore, if you click on an item, you can see what advanced items you can build from this one. In fact, if you have enough gold, you can build an advanced item simply by buying that. This saves a lot of time rather than buying each individual item before buying the advanced item. All these features make LoL a very newbie-friendly game and takes away some of the steep learning curve associated with DotA.
Another interesting inclusion in LoL is the Summoner system. As a Summoner, you gain experience and influence points for playing each game (practice games earn you less). Your stats are also tracked through your Summoner page. You can also buy Runes to modify your Champion powers. As your Summoner gains levels, you can unlock new Rune slots. Each new Summoner Level also gives you a Mastery point, which you can then put into Passive skills that improve your Champion’s stats and spells. The Mastery, reminiscent of WoW, contains of three sections: Offense, Defense, and Utility. Personally, the Summoner system is a nice touch, as it encourages finishing a game to gain Summoner levels. You don’t gain any XP or IP for leaving.
League of Legends has an interesting matchmaking system that pits players of similar Summoner levels against each other in a 5v5 game. So far, I haven’t been disappointed in this, even though sometimes it can take a while to find a game. The Practice games room, on the other hand, is almost always filled with players and open games to join. While Practice games do earn you slightly less XP, it’s a quick way to jump into a game and have fun. The chat and messenger function is nicely integrated as well, and serves its purpose wonderfully.
Graphics-wise, League of Legends looks beautiful with its cel-shaded animations. It certainly has a stylized unique feel to it, and is definitely a much better update to DotA. Each character looks unique and fresh and the spell effects are wonderful while not being a pain for the eyes. With a decent graphics card, you should be able to run the game at a full 60 fps without any stutter and beautiful images. The map has two modes, Summer and Winter, and the graphics of each mode is gorgeous to behold, Winter being my slightly higher preference.
The sound effects of League of Legends are awesome. I love the effects of each spell, some of which are very unique. The music suits the mood of the game and delivers an intense feel while you are in the heat of battle. The Champion selection screen has a particular drum beat music that reminds me of ancient wars and sets me in the mood every time. While the amount of voice acting for each Champion is limited, they are still original and entertaining most of the time.
The only drawback of League of Legends is the lack of content; we know that much more will be released soon, via in-game options and website news, but it’s all very teasing. For instance, we are promised ranked games, more champions, more items, and better features. At this stage, the game should be safely called to be in open beta. You will see that not all Champions will be available to you at once; you can either buy the digital version to unlock everything, or win IP and buy them. It’s possible to play League of Legends without paying a single dime; only cosmetic upgrades cost real money.
Overall, League of Legends is a very addicting and fun filled game that will certainly draw DotA veterans who want an improved game. It will also draw a lot of players who wanted to try out DotA, but never had the courage to overcome the steep barrier amidst cussing from the hardcore DotA community. Either way, expect LoL to be filled with players online at all times. League of Legends is a game that promises to grow, and I hope they reach a final stage very soon.