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Review: League of Legends

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As someone who only stumbled onto League of Legends fairly recently, I have to say I’m impressed with their initiative. For a game which is basically (and don’t you dare flame me LoL fans) a modified and redesigned (translation: rip off) version of classic Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne – they have managed to both establish a loyal and sizeable player base, and demonstrated a willingness to evolve the game into something they can legitimately call their own creation.

I mean, far better to honestly rip off a product and then keep making sensible additions until it’s your own than to just rip off another game badly and then never admit you were ripping it off in the first place (I’m looking at you any game made by Gameloft).

Anyway, (potentially life-threatening) accusations aside, League of Legends is an interesting title to look at – not only because they have managed to carve out a pretty solid niche in the new-found Defense of the Ancients sub-genre, but also because they managed to do it with a F2P (Free-to-Play) payment scheme.

But more on that later, firstly let’s talk gameplay. For anyone who hasn’t played Defense of the Ancients it involves controlling a single “hero” character in a RTS (real time strategy) environment. There are two bases set up on the map and they are joined by three ‘paths’, along which friendly and unfriendly units patrol. Your chosen hero’s (there are around 90 to choose from in both DotA and League of Legends) job is to march along one of the paths, protecting your own units and killing opposing units and gaining experience and gold for doing so. As you level up you become more powerful and can buy items to augment your stats. Each team is made up of 5 heroes and PvP combat between heroes is frequent and unforgiving. While it sounds like a birds-eye-view RPG of sorts, the frantic nature and difficulty curve of the combat will quickly convince you otherwise.

Now League of Legends takes this formula and improves on it in a number of ways. I made a little list of some of my favourites:

  • Recommended items – something DotA was always lacking, choosing the right items (and learning them) was usually the hardest part of the game
  • Centralised shopping – in DotA you would have to travel from shop to shop searching for the right items, in LoL they are all in the same place making it that much easier (and less time consuming)
  • In-built defenses – By giving the player a free, no-cooldown teleport back to the base as well as instant stealth when they are in bushes (located along or inbetween the paths) they make the combat that much more forgiving
  • External character – In DotA you started from scratch and when the game was over, that was it. In LoL you have a “Summoner” character which serves as your profile, but also levels up from multiple games – giving you access to universal skills, talents and base improvements to your characters. Game breaking? No. Game improving? Yes.
  • Pre-game character selection – something already used by other DotA clones like Heroes of Newerth, this is just common sense and decreased rage quits phenomenally (especially when combined with the leaver-penalty system)

But the main improvement on DotA that League of Legends can offer? Ironically, it’s the payment system.

The main profits avenues League of Legends has going for it are purchasing heroes (they can also be bought with in-game currency) additional character costumes (can only be bought with real money) and summoner point boosts (only real cash). For someone who never had any intention of paying money to play if I didn’t have to, these worked fine for me.

League of Legends offers you a “sample” of 10 heroes a week, which allows you locate heroes you enjoy playing or are good at. Then you have a choice of either saving up to buy those characters permanently, or paying somewhere between $3-$12 and just buy them straight away. It’s the classic “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for fr… Wait a sec?! Where did my cow go?” approach which gives you something you didn’t know you wanted, and then takes it away right when you decide you need it.

Does it work? Well judging by competitor Heroes of Newerth having to swap to a similar F2P model after their P2P (pay to play) strategy failed pretty hard, not to mention new games like Firefall taking a similar approach, I would say yes.

Another great thing about League of Legends is that they are innovative and have great ideas about developing the game mode. Already they are offering both a 3v3 map (DotA was strictly 5 on 5) and the ability to play people versus bots (Any DotA bot maps that exist are fan made).

On top of this is their newest creation: (with a release planned for sometime very soon) Dominion.

This takes a break from the traditional  destroy-the-base approach that DotA is famous for and instead involves capturing and holding points, much like Arathi Basin in World of Warcraft or Domination in Unreal Tournament. With faster gameplay and a greater (if that was possible) focus on PvP – it’s got me pretty worked up.

All in all, League of Legends is basically everything you should want from a DotA clone. It’s smart, innovative and somehow manages to both play exactly like the original at times and play like a brand new game at others. And considering it’s free – it’s definitely worth checking out.

What’s that? I didn’t mention anything negative about it? Well, cartoony graphics can get a bit old but besides that I think the main complaint is “It’s not DotA!!!!111” and I didn’t really feel I had to mention that.

Except for just then. When I did. Damn.

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