League of Legends Hands-on Preview
In a league of its own.
Like many PC gamers, I’ve spent a large portion of my recent years playing the ridiculously addictive game that is Warcraft III, eventually giving in to World of Warcraft as well. Having now snapped back to reality, I’m scarily in limbo again with a new game that’s got my attention – League of Legends. From the same developers that brought you one of Warcraft’s most played mods, the ‘Defence of the Ancients’ comes a quirky yet challenging game that combines various different game styles for some truly unique gameplay. I got the chance to give the beta version a good workout, and I certainly had an interesting time with it.
League of Legends starts off like a ‘king of the hill’ scenario, but soon takes on a strategy aspect as well. Playing as one of the many ‘champions’ available from the roster, you start off as a level 1 player, with a simple attack and a special ability. You share a magical base with other players, which is guarded by magical turrents scattered around the area. At the opposite end of the map is the enemy team, with exactly the same setup as yourself. From time to time, each base spawns a number of AI controller minions, whose sole purpose is to trek across the map and attack the enemy base. Though they won’t go very far on their own, its up to you and your fellow champions to support the minions in battle and destroy your enemy’s base.
While this all sounds deliciously simple, in truth it’s quite tricky. Do you all combine your forces and just rush down one part of the map? Or do you split up and slowly progress together to attack from different angles? As you conquer minions and other champions, you gain valuable battle experience which can help you upgrade your champion’s fighting skills and special abilities. Your base also has a magic shop for plundering, so you can always buff up with magical items before charging into battle. Should you get picked off by another champion, you simply wait for a timer to count down until you respawn at your base.
What makes the game both challenging and plenty of fun are the champions themselves. Each and every champion is different, and obviously has their own strengths. You can choose to be a gold plated golem, a tweaked-out ninja, or even a fireball throwing little girl, who can transform her cuddly teddy bear into a ferocious beast – only by experimenting with each champion will you find one that you truly excel with. Before each game, you’re also given the chance to apply runes to your champion, which gift you with various buffs and bonuses – the beta let me choose over 84 runes to add to my Rune Book, but sadly there was no tutorial or guide as to how to use them properly, so I hope that the final version gives this part a bit more attention. There also wasn’t any kind of tutorial as to how to actually play the game – there are practice games you can play with other players for a non-ranked match, but it would have been nice to have some sort of walkthrough before plunging headlong into battle. Let’s hope the final build has a decent tutorial for those who are new to this kind of gameplay.
While the game is comfortable with having as many as 12 players on a map, it did stutter greatly on a number of games, freezing all of the champions on the screen and then suddenly springing back to life. Even on a stable connection I ran into these issues, so again I hope the final build irons out any connectivity issues that players are facing in the beta.
League of Legends certainly will get you going for its quirky champions and cutthroat ‘map dominance’ factor. There are a couple of bugs to iron out here and there, but in all honesty, League of Legends is set to be a must-play game for 2009 when it comes out in a few weeks.