I’ve been playing LoL for quite a while now. I’m not going to lie, this is kind of a biased review. I started out playing the original Warcraft way back in the day when it came on six floppy disks. I then followed the series through installments 2 and 3, and eventually WoW. This is all relevant because at the peak of its popularity, a mod was made for Warcaft 3 called “DOTA,” or “Defense of the Ancients.” You may have heard of it. This mod became wildly popular. The premise was that you had control of a champion character based off the Warcraft 3 game, and that you and your minions had to attack and destroy the enemy team’s base. I never actually played DOTA. But I loved the Warcraft series, so when LoL came out and I discovered that it was made by some of the team that made DOTA, I was all over it.
League of Legends is free to play, all you have to do is sign up for an account on their website and download the client. When you first log into LoL you are inundated with information, on tournaments, sales, stats, and they even have a youtube player on the main menu with the latest updates playing. There’s a tutorial that you can play through to learn the basic mechanics of the game, and I would strongly suggest you do this. MOBA style games, or multiplayer online battle arena games, have a dangerously sharp learning curve. LoL is no exception, although I have heard it said that of all the MOBA games it is the easiest to learn. That being said, each champion plays differently, so when you finally get comfortable with one, as soon as you pick up a new one you’re starting all over again from ground zero.
If you open up the Riot store, there’s a giant list of champions to choose from, and they are constantly adding new ones. One point I would like to make about this game that really makes it stand out to other games is that they make a big deal out of their champions. Every time a new champ comes out they change the title screen, the background music, they leak all these teasers; it really feels like a party. You can get new champions by purchasing Riot Points with real actual money, or you can save up your Influence Points which are rewarded after matches. This sounds like a broken system, and most people would assume this means you can pay to win. The caveat here is that no matter what champion you are playing, you need to know that character inside and out to perform. You can spend as much money on this game as you want, and still get your ass handed to you by some guy that never spent a dime on it.
Also on the main page you’ll find your summoner profile, with your masteries and rune pages. Masteries are basically skill trees that you plug points into as you level up from match to match. Your rune page is a map with slots that open up one at a time as you advance in level. Runes can be purchased using influence points or riot points in the Riot store, and directly effect various stats on your character, such as attack damage, mana regeneration, armor, etc.
As far as champion selection goes, I would suggest reading about all the abilities, read the tips, and pick one that looks FUN. The best advice I can give about performing well in this game is to find someone you enjoy playing. If you think a champion is boring you’re not going to do nearly as well as someone that really suits your play style. I prefer to run big damage dealers like Olaf and Darius, and when I feel like playing a glass cannon I’ll run Brand. But they have a large selection of champions, and everyone should have no problem finding a champ that suits their style.
Currently the game has three maps; Summoner’s Rift, Twisted Treeline, and Dominion. Summoner’s Rift and Twisted Treeline are 5v5 and 3v3 destroy the base type maps. They each have lanes and jungles with AI mobs you can tangle with, and automatically spawned creeps on either side to back you up. Dominion is like a king of the mountain style circular map. There’s still creeps but you don’t have to acknowledge them as much on this map, as your main focus is capturing towers and trying to keep them.
For those of you lacking confidence and/or skill, there are bot games you can play that are less intimidating than pvp. Your team of three or five will play against the computer in either beginner or intermediate difficulties. And fair warning: there is a huge difference between beginner and intermediate.
When the match starts, you and your team are huddled in your base. Here you can heal and shop for items. You start at level one, and as you gain experience from killing creeps and champs, you will level up, eventually hitting eighteen. Starting at level one, you have one skill available to you, and every level you can either gain a new skill or put a point in an old one, making it stronger. You gain gold from kills too, making frequent trips back to your base to upgrade your equipment is essential. Gearing your character appropriately can make the difference between laying waste to your enemies or getting beaten into a puddle of goo every time you step into a lane.
Skills range from aoe (area of effect) spells to direct damage, heals, shields, even some summons. The game is fast paced; you can be running up mid lane and get ambushed by the entire enemy team in the blink of an eye, and you’re left wondering where all your health went.
The LoL community has a reputation for being rude and downright mean. I haven’t really experienced this. The majority of people that I have played with have been polite, friendly, or just quiet. Riot has done a good job creating a reporting system for people that ruin the game with poor manners, harassment, or ditching mid-game (which by the way will incur automatic punishment, going afk (away from keyboard) or leaving mid-game are serious offenses). Unfortunately there is also an option to report unskilled players, although I have yet to see someone be punished for not playing well.
Alright, let’s get down to brass tax; the good, the bad, and why should you bother.
The good: It’s a fun game with a horde of characters to choose from, with lot’s of customizable skill trees, allowing for a very unique and satisfying experience. You can play however you want, and the game is completely free. You’ll never have to spend a dime to experience everything the game has to offer. The fast pace will keep you on your toes, and the constant developments and updates will keep you interested long term.
The bad: The game itself has a razor sharp learning curve. If you aren’t familiar with moba style games already, it may be enough to throw you off of the game after only a few minutes.
Why should you bother: If you can get past the initial frustration of mastering the basic controls, the game is extremely addicting, and there’s enough variety to keep you interested in experimenting with new champions and skills. The different maps and constant updates will keep your mouth watering for more.