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League of Legends: Not a DotA “remake” but nonetheless a terrific (freeware) game

[1]Wow. It has been a dang long time since I have posted on dotTech. That is not to say I spent my time off wisely – played League of Legends until my brain turned into mush – but I sort of miss this feeling. So what better “come back” post to make then to talk about the one thing I have wasted my past 2-3 weeks on. (Oh, and thank you to everyone that sent me messages while I was gone and welcomed be back!)

I am not sure how many dotTechies are gamers, but for those that are I am sure most of you have heard of DotA [2] (Defense of the Ancients). For those that don’t know, let me explain. Blizzard Entertainment is a video game developer that is known for their famous RTS (real-time strategy) – and most recently – MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) games. Starcraft, one of Blizzard’s classics, is one such RTS that was released in 1998.

Blizzard, in their wisdom, built a “custom map maker” in Starcraft allowing users to create their own “custom maps” (or “scenarios” or “games” or whatever you want to call them) to play using the Starcraft engine. One such “custom map” built for Starcraft by users is “Aeon of Strife”, a predecessor of DotA. Now, flash forward  to 2005 when Icefrog starts developing DotA for Warcraft III (Blizzard’s most recent RTS game) and DotA, literally, becomes a one-hit wonder. Thousands of people from around the world play the game; so much so that international tournaments are held just for DotA. The only problem is, DotA is limited by the Warcraft III engine and mechanics since, essentially, it is just a “custom map” for Warcraft III. So being such a popular game, many other developers have popped up and starting creating DotA “remakes”, or in other words, whole new standalone games that are based on DotA but not limited to the Warcraft III engine (you don’t need to buy Warcraft III to play these “remakes”). League of Legends (LoL) is one such “remake” (although as I will explain later, I feel LoL is different enough from DotA to be called its own game and not a clone).

Like DotA, in LoL there are two teams (currently each team can be comprised of 5 people each but there are plans of making 3v3 maps also) that fight against each other – the blue and purple teams. The fundamental goal of each team is to try to destroy the other team’s “nexus”. Whoever destroys the other team’s nexus first wins. Each team is comprised of “champions” (individual characters controlled by actual players), “creeps” (computer controlled monsters champions need to kill to get experience – to level up – and gold), and buildings (such as towers, “inhibitors”, etc.). Before the game starts, players are allowed to select their champions, “spells” (two “extra” spells to use in game), “mastery” (a focus which helps make your champion stronger), and “runes” (special “boosters” that help you in game). Once the game starts, the two teams battle it out trying to destroy the other team (the higher level you are the stronger you are, and the better items you have – you use the gold to purchase items – the stronger you are). Here is a ~5 minute video showing some in-game action:

Currently there are 43 champions users can select from in LoL, with the newest champion – Poppy – arriving just this last Wednesday:

[3]

However, don’t expect to be able to use all 43 champions right as you start playing. You see, LoL is a freeware game; anyone can download it for free, and play it for free. However, the developer (Riot Games) still needs to make money, right? So, Riot developed LoL on a micro-transaction model (MTS). What this means is LoL has an in-game “store”:

[4]

From this store users can buy champions, skins, runes, and “boosts”. To buy anything, users need to use LoL “currency”. There are two types of LoL “currency”:

[5]

Champions can be bought with either IP or RP points…

[6]

…but runes can only be bought with IP and skins and “boosts” can be bought only with RP. The cool thing about this MTS system is everything that affects in-game play, you need not use real money to purchase it – you can use IP (which you get for free by playing the game) to get it. So even if you don’t have deep pockets, you can still own hardcore in LoL – I do (sometimes =P).

Now don’t worry. Even if you are new, you will still be able to play with champions. Every week Riot makes 10 champions available for free; anyone can use them regardless of if you bought them or not. So, one week 10 champions are available for free, and the next week a different 10 champions are available for free; the rotation continues on like that. You can, of course, at any time purchase a champion and use him/her whenever you want.

In terms of game play, I must say I am fairly impressed with how well balanced the game is. Sure some may disagree with me, but generally speaking no one champion with “overpowered”; how well you do in a game depends on your skill level and how well you play. Of course, there are exceptions. For example, Twitch was grossly overpowered and got a well deserved nerf in the most recent patch (may still need a few more nerfs). Also, the newest hero, Poppy, is  fairly overpowered dishing out a ton of damage and taking hits like a truck (Poppy is already scheduled for a nerf because she does “more damage than intended”).

What I also like about LoL is that it is a team game front to back, left and right. Sure there are “carries” on each team in each game, but without proper teamwork, no team will ever win. This mechanic of teamwork contrasts greatly with that of DotA. In DotA yes teamwork was required, but usually one person – who got farmed or fed – could run through the enemy team and win the game single-handedly. In LoL even if one of your teammates – or you yourself – are fed or farmed, it is critical to do ganks and fight as a team, or you may as well kiss that win goodbye and surrender when 25 minutes pass (in LoL teams have the option to surrender after 25 minutes of gameplay).

Other noteworthy/DotA-differentiating features of LoL:

As I inferred to earlier and just explained, although they may seem like minor changes, all the differences between DotA and LoL really make them two different games. Yes, while they may look similar on paper, when you play both games, you will notice an inherent difference between the two; they just feel and play different. That doesn’t mean LoL is a bad game; on the contrary it is a terrific game. However, that means, in my opinion, calling LoL a DotA “remake” is more of a marketing strategy than a reality.

Now there are two aspects of LoL which I feel that can be improved upon:

I do hope Riot considers adding in the ability to deny creeps and buildings in the future.

Also, although Riot Games is continually improving the games – fixing bugs, adding new features, etc. – currently League of Legends is a little bit buggy. Before the most recent patch often times the graphics rendering in game would be very laggy and “choppy” when I would in large battles. The problem was not at my end – my computer can handle LoL just fine and my internet connection is one of the best – but rather in the game engine. Other minor bugs include disappearing/messed up icons (especially when you relog), messed up matchmaking (I once played a game with a person who claimed to queue with his friends but ended up in my game), etc. However, as I said Riot is continually improving the game. Since the last patch, the performance improved considerably and the lag mostly disappeared and I am sure the other bugs will be quickly ironed out.

All in all, I highly recommend League of Legends to any gamer, or anyone that wants to give it a try. You can get started with LoL by visiting the following links:

System Requirements [7]

  • 2 GHz processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 750 MB available hard disk space
  • Shader version 2.0 capable video card
  • DirectX 9.0 capable video card
  • Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista SP1, or Windows 7 (Mac OS is currently not supported)

Version Reviewed

v1.03.11

Click here to get started with League of Legends [8]