With the massive overhaul of League of Legends since the Pre-Season 3 patch, I figured it was time that League of Legends was due for an update. However, the Season 3 patch revealed that they were overhauling the ranking system as well so I decided to wait for that before I wrote about the game again. This is a re-review of the game as of 2/10/13.
N/A - Wars are bad, new Fields of Justice system are used to settle the fights instead. Read up on it if you want, but no one cares and storytelling was abandoned long for just character lore.
Since I last reviewed the game, the maps have been reworked to be higher in detail along with many character models. The previous problem of some champions being completely out of place when standing next to others is slowly being fixed, but they have a long way to go for many of them. The process is slow, but they are gradually getting around to it with one every few months. Hopefully with the release of new champions cut back, they will update the character models more often. The new and improved Summoner's Rift and Twisted Treeline are impressive, but it still pales in comparison to games with a more updated game engine like DotA 2.
After logging in for the first time to create your Summoner (profile), you get to play a practice match and go through a tutorial. The tutorial teaches you all of the basics of the game in case you are new to the MOBA genre. It is something nice that many other games need to include as well. This avoids the steep difficulty curve that is created because you do not know anything because you are not given the opportunity to learn to play the game. This approach is much more user friendly than the ones present in other MOBA games.
The game is set up to be a 5v5 where players on both sides choose a champion to control. There are currently around 110 champions, a huge number. Each week, 10 are selected to be available for free, while the others have to be unlocked to be used. In Blind Pick mode, two players on opposing sides can choose the same champion, but in Draft Pick, you take turns and no two people can have the same champion. There are also different game modes available. Summoner's Rift is the standard 5v5 map that MOBA games have. Twisted Treeline is a 3v3 map that is smaller and has slightly different mechanics and items available. The Crystal Scar is a 5v5 map that focuses on controlling certain points on the map. The Proving Grounds is a simple map that is a straight line from one end to another. As a result, the gameplay is quite different on each map, but has also resulted in some balancing issues. Each map has lanes that minions flow from to try to go towards another target. They will help you destroy the enemy team and are vital to success as it is extremely difficult to take hits from any turret and survive.
In the standard game, you are expected to try to destroy the enemy Nexus. To do so, you must clear all of the turrets down a lane, destroy the inhibitor at the enemy base, destroy the turrets guarding the Nexus, and then destroy the Nexus. Minions move forward slowly on both sides. If a minion dies near you, you will gain experience and level up. Getting the last hit on the minion will give you extra gold to spend on items. As you level up, you gain learn an ability or power up an existing one. Each champion has a total of 5 abilities. 1 is considered to be a passive that is always on, 1 is your ultimate that can be learned at level 6, 11, and 16, which is a very powerful ability, but often has a high cooldown. The other 3 are standard abilities that you can use fairly frequently to hopefully turn battles in your favor. Each player can also bring 2 Summoner Spells. These are special abilities that you can select during champion select and each of them has a different purpose to help you either survive or deal more damage.
Compared to other MOBA games, the ability cooldown of the champions are fairly low. This allows you to spam them and abuse them as long as you have the mana. Other MOBA games have higher mana costs and cooldowns making them one off and hoping that you get them. While strategy is a bigger part of DotA 2 thanks to this, League of Legends becomes less monotonous since you are not simply sitting there and farming. However, some players feel that this takes away strategy as many of your abilities will always be up with low mp costs allowing you to spam them.
Champions are divided into various types. The main ones are tank, ability power carry, jungle, attack damage carry, and support. The tank primarily builds to take damage or make the enemy team focus on them. The ability power carry is usually played as an assassin that deals heavy magic damage quickly. The jungle tries to attack enemy players in the lanes. The attack damage carry is usually ranged and deals heavy physical damage. The support has defensive abilities and focuses on distracting the enemy team while keeping your own team alive. Although those 5 types make up a typical team, some people choose to reorganize their team to have say 2 people that can tank or 2 attack damage carries. Knowing when to use a special setup is difficult as it requires excellent coordination and some knowledge about the setup of opposing players.
Team work is crucial in League of Legends. A good team can work together, even if they are yelling at each other. However, their communication allows them to prepare for incoming attacks and attack the enemy as a team. If you can work together, you can perform better overall. Most teams that fail to work together will lose due to people being hunted down one at a time by a group of 2 or 3 players from the enemy team. Coordinating your actions can also greatly improve your team's victory rate, but it isn't always easy to do so as there are times when people just flat out refuse to work together with others. This becomes a problem for some people.
At the end of a game, you gain Influence Points (IP), Experience (exp), and potentially League Points (LP). IP allows you to buy runes fora bit of customization or to unlock champions and experience allows you to unlock rune slots and gain mastery points. The idea is to be able to customize your champions a little to reinforce their strengths or neutralize their weaknesses. LP is used for the special ranking system that I will get to in a bit. Runes provide a small, but noticeable difference in your stats and abilities. They go from ignoring enemy armor to giving you additional mana per level. While the difference is small, it can add up over time.
The competitive level is known as Ranked Games. In this mode, your stats and records are recorded and matched against all the other players. Only champions that you have unlocked can be selected and you must have at least a certain number to play. Both sides will take turns banning 3 champions each and then selecting champions. No two people can select the same champion even if they are on different sides. As you play, you will gain LP for winning and lose LP for losing. When you get to 100 LP in your league division, you can move up to the next division if you win a best of 3. If you are up for a rank promotion, you need to win a best of 5. The players at the top are in the Challenger League and can play against the professional players.
There is now also a spectator mode that you can watch. Random games are selected to be placed when available or you can spectate your friends or custom games as well. There is a 3 minute delay to prevent players from whispering advice or tips to their friends. The official tournament matches are streamed on YouTube and TwitchTV.
There are two problems with the game. The first one is the fact that you have to unlock champions. There are lots of them and it can be extremely difficult to unlock them. The amount of IP you get is based on the length of the game you played. Games rarely give more than 100 IP each and the most expensive ones cost 6300 IP (7300 if you want to buy them on the first week of release). It can mean nearly 100 games to unlock one of them. With so many champions needing to be unlocked, it can be problematic to unlock them without spending real money. Some games offer all the champions for free instead.
The second problem is the game's balancing. The game has made it much more rewarding to build health rather than armor and defense due to the change of some items. The game encourages building items that ignore or bypass defenses in favor of stacking damage. As a result of this, it is far better to build health and health regeneration than any form of defense. This concept helps the champions that benefit from stacking health, making them hard to kill and giving them potentially a lot of damage as well. Some champions are extremely hard to kill thanks to this system.
You can form a ranked team that operates as a guild. You can progress up the ranks and challenge other players. If you make it to the Challenger Tier, you can play against the professional players who have to keep winning to keep their status as a professional team.
If you like the MOBA genre, you should probably give League of Legends a try. It is definitely different with low cooldowns and low mana costs as compared to the other games. Unlocking champions can be a pain to do as there are over a hundred of them and it could take you a hundred games to unlock some champions. They also have a nice tutorial system that other games lack. However, the attempts to change the game to make it different has resulting in numerous balancing issues that need to be tweaked.
7/10 - Overall improvement due to the overhaul of the game's various systems. However, a few new balancing problems have been created in it's place.