Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
When “Warcraft III” came out years ago, no one knew that the future of modded strategy gaming would change forever. When Battle.net was still an infant, the creation of modded maps from “Warcraft III” became fun pastimes when you’re not traversing Azeroth herself. Some maps took memes from books and movies, like “Lord of The Rings,” “Predator” or even “Night of the Living Dead.” Others were small scenario games called “Heaven and Hell” or “The Arena.”
One of the most famous and prolific mods though was the “Defense of the Agents,” or DOTA. It pitted teams of special heroes against each other as they level up and using items to gain the advantage over enemy champions and minions in a mad rush to destroy the enemies’ base. It was brutal, competitive, strategic and required teamwork to play. Naturally it was the breakout hit, spawning its own tightly knit community of modders and players growing into its own game.
With the history aspect over with, we go to “League of Legends” or aptly named LoL (which for some reason everyone thinks is funny.) Developed by upstart Riot Games which included a number of DOTA players and developers from Blizzard on their team, “League of Legends” helps in delivering a free to play, stand alone DOTA game with over forty champions of varying abilities to do battle on the planes of battle. The story is really simple; essentially the world of “League of Legends” uses gladiatorial battles to determine political rulings, and summoners summon champions representing varying factions to control and partake in combat.
It is paper thin as a premise, but a game like LoL doesn’t really need a detailed storyline to work. It just needs to be fun, and it really is a lot of fun to play. The game is what you would expect from Blizzard, honestly; tight controls and hotkey commands; a simple grid on the bottom showcasing health, mana, etc. Buffs and Debuffs represented by icons and items, and a variety of champions to choose from, depending on your style. One of the strengths of the game is the balance of the game; each champion has a specific strength that can exploit the weaknesses of other champions, depending on the skill of the opponents of course. For example, tank characters can soak up damage while a healer can constantly revive his health in combat, or assassin characters can snipe enemies from afar, taking out weaker champions or controlling distance, a tactic that lets experienced players control the battlefield.
To help augment the champions, there is also the use of runes and mastery points. Runes, when purchased with IP points, can give boosts to your health, mana, regeneration of health, attack speed, and other attributes. These are permanent increases that can make your heroes more capable to do damage in combat. The masteries is basically a skill tree that functions like the runes, except it also includes summoner spells, which can be used in combat to heal, teleport or debuff your champion. Both mechanisms are nice and well put together, and really do benefit those gamers who stick with the game for the long run.
That being said, there are some flaws with the game right now. Because this is a free to play game online, it will take a lot of players a long time to unlock champions and runes through battle if they so choose. Micro transactions can be used to make this quicker, but it is not necessary to do so unless if you’re a hardcore DOTA player. Another problem is the numerous crashes and glitches the game has every once and a while. It is still new and just out of its beta phase, but it’s also something that needs to be cleaned up quickly. The team at Riot also needs to add more maps, as there currently is one used in normal play, and another in beta mode only.
There is also a major problem with matchmaking. Since there is no mechanism in blocking arranged teams of people or no real algorithm to determine someone’s ELO on the servers, sometimes you get a major mis-match which leads to a lot of frustration in matches. Not to mention the online is pretty much what you would expect, filled with blabbering morons quick to condemn someone for dying over anything else. Overall, some polish on the matchmaking system would definitely make the experience a bit more newbie friendly.
The game is free to play and download, so graphically it is actually pretty simple. The character portraits look amazing; the art design is reminiscent of Blizzard’s hallmark schemes, lots of color and jagged lines, some out of this world characterization, and bright and colorful worlds and enemies to take on. Some of the characters and abilities are homage’s to pop culture references, such as a Pirate with the ability to Parlay or a dark mage that pretty much is Vivi’s long lost brother. The champions are well thought out and their animations are really well detailed, even on low settings. Plus the item and ability portraits are really similar to “World of Warcraft,” simple 2-D drawings. The fact that there is little slowdown is also pretty amazing if you ask me too.
The sound is mostly strongest in the voice over’s and attacks. Music is not really existent in the game, and while the voices can get annoying with your champions, it does give off a bit of character to them, even if they are all one liners relating to their gimmick. Overall it’s adequate, but nothing special in the end.
“League of Legends” is a simple game based off of a simple premise, yet the fun factor of the game, despite being hampered by some technical issues that need to be ironed out with time, all but makes up for it. It is time consuming and tightly designed, and you definitely can see the labor of love the team at Riot did to create this DOTA game. Overall, “League of Legends” is definitely worth a look thanks to its distinct style, simple controls, and fun teamwork mechanic, and easily worth a play. If anything, give it a try because it is free and easy to download.