League of Legends: The Good, the Bad, and the Troll

League of legends by Riot Games (2009)

     Being the most popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game to date and surpassing even Starcraft with its fan base, League of Legends has soared to the top of the gaming universe appealing to casual and competitive gamers alike. With a wide range of customization available and fast-paced entertainment for you and your friends, League of Legends is a versatile game that will keep you coming back for more.

"Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character" - John Wooden
“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character” – John Wooden

     For those unfamiliar with League of Legends, it involves two teams that start at opposite ends of the map that must battle their way to the Nexus of the other team to destroy it. You act the role of a “Summoner” who calls upon a certain “Champion” before each game to do battle. In the game’s story, these battles are conducted through the Institute of War to determine the outcome of disputes between nations in a controlled environment. This may seem like a feeble attempt to justify the game’s mechanics, but the amount of effort the creators put into the lore and appearance of the game is astounding. A great example of this is in the game-type dominion played on the map Crystal Scar where the music changes depending on the tide of battle. If you’re winning, victorious fanfare is heard and if you’re losing, the music works itself into a panic. But when it’s evenly matched and the fate of the game rests on those last few minutes, the music becomes so inspirational it would drive anyone to fight for victory. On the map, Howling Abyss, where you are thrown into an icy tundra with a single lane to do battle, the music is suited perfectly. The composers utilized the unique sounds of the Swedish nyckelharpa, viola da gamba, and other unconventional instruments in addition to vocals to make the map come alive. This attention to detail really sets League of Legends apart in terms of quality and design.

     A couple of years back, I used to get nearly 60 fps when playing on the lowest graphics setting. Since then, League of Legends has implemented a slew of visual upgrades to the models and particles that have greatly improved the appearance of the game, but resulted in mandatory fps drawbacks (~30 fps currently on a good day). I understand that it might not be possible to both visually upgrade the game and provide graphical settings that can accommodate the more outdated graphics cards, but I am fearful that one day the amount of upgrades will be just be too much for my computer to handle.

The now defunct Journal of Justice that focused on the lore of League of Legends
The now defunct Journal of Justice that focused on the lore of League of Legends

     One of the strongest suits of League of Legends is the sheer amount of customization available to the player. With over 100 different champions to pick from, each with their own unique playstyle and personality, it’s easy to find a personal favorite. You can further modify your playing style with the “Mastery Tree” and “Runes”. Mastery Trees are available to everyone and you are given a set amount of points to spend depending on your current level (max: 30) to buff your champions. “Runes” are purchasable items in the lobby that you also use to give your champion additional stats. While playing, there is an in-game shop where you can power-up your champion with in-game only items. In addition, you can also use summoner spells chosen before the game that add even further alteration. With different combinations of runes, mastery points, in-game items, and summoner spells, two players can play the same champion in very different ways leading to a more diverse battlefield. 

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Pick a Champion, any champion

     With any online game, not everything is unlocked at the beginning, leading to the next great aspect of League of Legends. You can access almost everything in the game without having to spend a single penny on it. League of Legends uses two types of currency: “Influence Points” (IP) and “Riot Points” (RP). IP is earned through playing the game and can be used to purchase new champions, runes, and boosts that increase the rate you earn experience or IP. RP is bought using real money and can be used to purchase the same things as IP as well as special skins for your champions. Both leveling up and gaining IP provide great incentives to continue playing, while unlocking new champions and stats along the way. The rate at which you can unlock new champions and runes is dependent upon how much you play the game, so those looking to optimize their experience must first invest decent amounts of time to the game, which can get cumbersome after a while. Once you reach the maximum level of thirty, a new stage of battle is unlocked for you: ranked play.

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The League of Legends Shop

     In ranked play, you are placed into a ranked ladder system where you can compete for higher ranks and glory. Ranked play provides a more competitive arena with draft style champion selection, banning of champions, and the option to create your own ranked team or fly solo/duo. Those with enough determination and skill can prove themselves by qualifying to participate in the professional eSports arena. With an annual world championship and multiple tournaments in between, the opportunities for professional gamers to make a name for themselves has expanded.

Season 3 World Championship at the Staples Center racking up 32 million views
Season 3 World Championship at the Staples Center racking up 32 million views

     The alternative to ranked play is a “Normal” game where the outcome doesn’t affect your ranking and you can test new strategies and champions. As a beginner, you’ll only be able to fight against AI-controlled enemies and must reach level 3 before facing others in PvP. This road as a beginner can be quite daunting and sometimes may seem unfair as your stats upgrades depend on your current level. The system tries to match those of similar skill with each other, but it isn’t perfect. Especially with many higher level players creating “Smurf” accounts that make them appear lower level than they actually are. This leads to unfair games and unpleasant experiences.

The current tier system
The current ranked tier system

     League of Legends features several game types that can change the way you play the game. You can choose to play on the classic “Summoner’s Rift” or “Twisted Treeline”, the Dominion style “Crystal Scar”, or the newest map featuring built in All Random All Mid (ARAM) settings “Howling Abyss”. Each map has its own inherent level of competitiveness and provides relief from being stuck playing the same kind of game over and over again. My favorite game type is ARAM on Howling Abyss since the games selects a random champion for everyone, challenging you to adapt quickly to both the enemy team and your own.

ARAM: Close Quarters Action
ARAM: Close Quarters Action

     League of Legends has a rather smooth feel to it with quick-paced action throughout the entire game. You are constantly moving to secure objectives, keeping an eye out for enemies, and protecting your allies. While in-game, you only need to focus on controlling your own champion which leads to the single most interesting aspect of League of Legends: you are always on a team while only being able to control your own character. This may not seem so significant but when the outcome of every match is determined by the level of teamwork between you and your friends/internet strangers, games can get pretty hectic. Excellent teamwork can lead to enormously satisfying comebacks while refusing to work as a team can result in humiliating losses.

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“Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.” – Joe Paterno

     Those that refuse to communicate with their team, spew insults and profanity at others, and make playing the game downright unpleasant are called “trolls” and they exist just about everywhere on the internet. League of Legends in particular has a disturbingly large amount of trolls and encountering one can turn a perfectly good game into a horrid affair depending on how others react. Riot Games has set up multiple systems to counteract the abusive nature of trolls. There is a Tribunal where players can report other players for negative actions and punishment include warnings and bans. An Honor system has also been put into place rewarding friendly players with crests and ribbons. Despite these attempts to improve the friendliness of the game space, it is still impossible to avoid the occasional toxic player that will try to ruin your day. The existence of trolls is not a problem unique to League of Legends but their sheer impact upon the quality of gameplay makes them infamous.

The Tribunal where players judge the actions of others
The Tribunal where players judge the actions of others

     With each game lasting around 30-45 minutes, League of Legends is an easy source of free quick-paced quality entertainment. The ability to team up with your friends and compete against others ups the excitement factor even more. Playing as a beginner comes with great difficulties in a game with a relatively high learning curve and a limited tolerance for unskilled players. I truly admire the amount of effort and creativity that the creators put into League of Legends but in the end, the players’ influence can be strong enough to overturn that entirely. As a free-to-play game, League of Legends is definitely worth a try, especially with a couple of friends. Be prepared to face players with negative attitudes and just walk away if things get too sour for your taste.

Sign-up to play and learn more about the game here: www.leagueoflegends.com

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 A BIRD’S EYE VIEW

Music – 8.5/10

Visuals – 8/10

Flow – 6.5/10*

Story – 7/10

Final Score – 7.5/10

*The game itself has great flow but the community has great potential to affect the experience negatively*

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