First off, let me say that this was an extremely difficult review for me to write. Not because of the game itself, but because of the price. You see, when I review a game, I try to determine if it is worth your money. League of Legends is a free online RTS, so, naturally, I recommend that everyone download it and try it for yourself.
That being said, League of Legends is a great, free alternative to WarCraft III‘s Defense of the Ancients (DotA) modification.
For those of you who are not familiar with DotA-esque games (Demigod, Heroes of Newerth), let me break it down for you. LoL is an online, multiplayer RTS where players, divided into two teams, use one hero unit to turn the tide of an AI-controlled battle, and ultimately destroy the enemy base. What adds some flavor to this equation is an in-depth item system, leveling your hero, and AI controlled units, called “minions”.
The way the game plays out is pretty simple. At the start of the game you are given a hero, either chosen by you, or assigned randomly. You then are placed in the center of your base, and given a few minutes to buy items and choose lanes.
By “choose lanes”, I mean decide what part of the map you are responsible for. You see, the map is divided into lanes, each of which is defended by towers. After the set-up time has ended, each base will send out waves of minions down each lane. As you kill the enemy’s minions and towers, you gain money and experience, allowing your hero to become more powerful.
Please note that this is a very basic outline of the gameplay. There are plenty of subtle nuances that new players will not be familiar with. Luckily, the LoL website provides gamers with plenty of resources that will help you master the game.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Why not just play DotA?” Aside from the obvious “because it’s free” answer, LoL features a simpler item system, persistent accounts, and more options, thanks to Summoner Runes and Spells.
The item system in DotA can be very confusing to new players, due to an overly complex menu system. You see, DotA is designed to run within WCIII, which means it can only do what the WCIII engine can handle. LoL, on the other hand, was constructed with the DotA style of gameplay in mind.
In DotA, many of the more powerful items require several small items to be fused into one. This means that your hero needs to be within a few inches of the store in order to see the stock, highlight the items you want, read a long list of smaller items you need, and then remember them.
What also throws a wrench into the mix is that there are multiple stores, and unless you know which store has the item you want, you’ll be stuck mousing over items for minutes trying to find what you want. This may not sound like a big deal, but in DotA-style games, every second counts.
In LoL there is just one shop, and when you mouse over a higher level item, a flow chart is displayed, telling you what items you need. If you have enough money, you can just buy them all in one click. Also LoL‘s store provides you with recommended items for your hero. This means that new players will have some guidance on which items to buy.
One of the biggest problems with DotA-esque games is rage quitters. You know the guys, the ones who quit half way though a game, screwing over their teammates for some lame reason. Well, in LoL you have a persistent account. This keeps track of all of your stats, including wins, losses, and leaves. When you create a game, you can specify that you don’t want players with a high leave percentage. This significantly cuts down on rage quitter, creating a more pleasant gaming experience.
Another cool thing about the persistent account is that it levels up the more you win. This helps players ball-park their teammates’, as well as their enemies’, skill levels. Also, it levels up your Summoner Runes, which I’ll discuss later.
Another way LoL differs from DotA is by having Summoner Runes and Spells. Before each game starts, you are able to choose two Summoner Spells. These Spells significantly impact gameplay, and have a high cool down while costing no mana. An example of a Summoner Spell is Heal. As the name suggests, the Spell heals not only your hero, but all ally units within a small radius of your hero.
Summoner Runes, on the other hand, increase your hero’s capabilities by boosting his or her statistics. You earn them by leveling up your persistent account with wins; for example, a Rune may give you bonuses to hit points, damage, mana, or defense. Runes are broken down into four groups: marks (offensive Runes), seals (defensive Runes), glyphs (magical ability Runes), and quintessence (powerful all-purpose Runes). They are also split up into three tiers; the higher the tier, the more powerful the Rune’s effect. By giving you the option to select Runes, LoL allows for more customization options for your hero, adding a level of experimentation not seen in DotA.
While I consider LoL to be a superior game to DotA, that is not to say that it is without its flaws. Every time you move your hero it says a little phrase. At first these are funny or cute, but after several games, it really starts to wear on your nerves. After three games, I found myself in the audio options muting everything.
Another issue I had with LoL is the art style. It’s not that I dislike LoL‘s chunky, colorful art direction, in fact I think it’s unique and attention-grabbing. I just found myself losing my hero in the chaos of battle, resulting in frustrating, and undeserved, deaths.
Like I said at the start of this review, I recommend everyone to go out and download LoL and give it a try. While DotA may be the original, LoL provides players with a simplified game that is newbie friendly. Sure, the game has its faults, mainly in terms of sound and art style, but that doesn’t mean you should pass it up.
Besides, it’s free! What do you have to lose?
While the art direction is unique and pretty to look at, it makes it easy to lose track of what's going on.
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The great DotA gameplay you've come to love shines even brighter in LoL's optimized engine.
The music and sound effects are all there, but the voice overs get really annoying real quick.
With 38 heroes to master, plus the promise of more to come, LoL provides endless hours of mixing and matching characters and strategies.
LoL is a great, free alternative to DotA that caters both to newbies, and the hardcore.