League of Legends is a completely online RTS, played in 3 vs. 3 or 5 vs. 5 matches. There are two game modes, Classic and Dominion. In the much more popular Classic game mode, each team is trying to reach and destroy the enemy base, or “nexus”. In order to do this, each team tries to fight through the characters controlled by the enemy team(champions), waves on oncoming minions, easily-defensible enemy turrets, and enemy inhibitors. Each of these provide some reward when destroyed; gold and experience for killing enemy characters and minions, a massive gold boost for destroying turrets, and substantially stronger minions for destroying inhibitors.
In the newest game mode, Dominion, the objective is to capture and control as many turrets as possible in teams of five. Teams are given 500 points at the start of the game and whoever runs out of points first loses. Points are lost by either having less turrets controlled than the enemy or by the enemy killing a team's champions. Respawn times in this game mode are much shorter, champions are empowered, and gold and experience are much more easily gained.
Of the two game modes, it’s highly unlikely that Dominion will ever meet competitive play. Given the short respawn times, it’s very easy to go into a fight not caring about whether or not you die, so long as your team doesn’t all die at once. Champions are meant to be of roughly equal strength in Classic mode, and because of the change of objective in Dominion, certain champions are often much stronger than others.
After choosing game mode, players can choose to play custom games, normal games, or ranked games. Custom games don’t make use of the built-in matchmaking system and players are able to arrange matches against friends. Normal and ranked games use a matchmaking system where you are placed in a queue against with players whose performances are statistically similar to yours. The differences between normal and ranked games are that ranked matches use a draft pick system for champion selection,(explained later) and a modified ELO system to match players.
The ELO system is a system to rank players relative skill levels. Everyone starts out at 1200 ELO score, and loses or gains ELO score according to who they play against and how well they play. The ELO system is overall pretty functional, but there is an unofficial point range determined by the community known as “ELO h***” that is notorious for being extremely difficult to get out of due to the fluctuation in skill level of the players in that point bracket. The main frustration of the ranked system is that the starting point for all players is in “ELO h***”.
As I briefly mentioned, players select champions to play as. You do not start out with all of the 87 champions unlocked. There is a free champion list that changes on a weekly basis. These champions can perform different roles in the game, from healer, to mage, to fighter. Once players have been matched with players of similar skill, they select the champions they want to play and tweak some statistics to maximize their character for their play style. In blind pick mode, neither team can see what the other has chosen as their champions. In draft mode, teams take turns banning six champions from being played, then the teams alternate in picking champions to be played. Champion selections can be seen by both teams, so strategy and careful selection are important.
There are, at the time of this writing, 87 champions available to play. Most of the time, the community keeps up to date with the pro gaming circuit and copies strategies used and champions chosen. Many players subscribe to one form or another of ranking champions from best to worst in tiers. In my opinion, some champions really are overpowered or underpowered. For example, games can be decided solely by which team has more crowd control (champion-disabling) effects available to them. Some champions just don’t compare to others overall, despite the best attempts of Riot Games to keep champion power levels equal. However, there is enough variety to keep things interesting.
Champions are purchasable by using Influence Points (IP) or Riot Points (RP). IP is gained in-game by playing and finishing games and is earned based off of the time played and if the game was your first win within 24 hours. Riot Points are paid for with real money and are used to purchase champions and a variety of premium content such as skins (alternate outfits) for champions. Though the Riot Points can give a player an edge early on, players eventually gain enough IP so that there is no inherent advantage to having spent real money on the game. The RP prices on items in the shop are high enough to deter most people looking to get that edge at the early levels. Most champions cost 975 RP, with $10 via credit card getting a player only 1380 RP. Most of the more popular skins are priced at 975 RP, and legendary skins (with new animations and sound packs) are double that at 1850 RP. That being said, I highly suggest that if you decide to buy Riot Points, save up and buy one of the large champion bundles priced at about 4000 RP. You’ll save a lot of money that way, as opposed to buying champions individually at what might as well be ten bucks a pop. Otherwise, just choose your favorite champion(s) and buy a skin. The only things that are RP-only are skins, name changes, and IP/EXP boosts.
In addition to the traditional DotA-based gameplay, players, also known as summoners, can gain levels outside of individual matches. Player levels determines the extent to which one can tweak their statistics, using “runes” and “masteries”, and which extra abilities(summoner spells) they have access to. Some summoner spells are essentially never used (rally) while others are seen in almost every game (flash, ignite). Runes are bought using IP and are used to augment champions in-game. Summoners have rune pages that they can rearrange as they please. Some spots on the rune pages are blocked off until the summoner levels up by playing games. Mastery trees also augment champions but don’t cost anything to use. Summoners can allocate points in different attack, defense, and utility masteries equal to their summoner level. Though these all give the player a large degree of flexibility and individual choice, most people end up using popular setups that they see in the pro gaming circuit.
A large amount of the LoL community is terrible, some of it is average, and very few are exceptional. Often times the community is just a massive mob that spouts nonsense in a lemming-like fashion. This doesn’t apply strictly to gameplay or balance suggestions.
There are four versions of LoL: North America, Europe, Asia, and Southeast Asia. Players from other regions can’t play with or against each other except in global tournaments, in order to reduce language barriers and keep server latency at similar levels. However, there are always some people who get past the system or aren’t blocked, and they are significant pests to the other communities.
Graphics and Music:
Even though the graphics are cartoon-y, they’re not dreadful. Most computers should be able to run the game just fine.
League of Legends doesn’t have many musical tracks, but for the most part, they’re the intense orchestrated kind, like what you’d see in a movie’s battle scene. I personally end up tuning out most of the music, but Dominion has a track that somehow manages to stand out every now and then. Overall, I enjoy the music when I notice it.
If you intend to play League of Legends for the community, you’d be better off elsewhere. This game is infinitely more enjoyable when you play with a team of a couple of close friends. The technical imbalances in the game don’t ruin it if you’re just playing the game casually. If you’re looking to play competitively, however, your options of play style go down. Overall, this game is hit-or-miss depending on your personal preferences.