For my very first Monday Night Noob — an evening that I devoted to a game I’ve never played before — I decided to get out of my comfort zone and dive into one of those titles I’ve heard so much about yet intimidated me all the same: League of Legends.
League of Legends (or LoL for the humorously inclined) is one of those PvP MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena) that have rocketed in popularity to become one of the most dominant types of games on the interwebz. I’d certainly heard of LoL and its predecessor Defense of the Ancients, but the whole “PvP” moniker scared me away. Up front, I’ll admit that PvP isn’t really for me. It’s not that I refuse to participate or don’t understand what the fuss is about — I do on both fronts — but PvP for me is generally more stressful than enjoyable, especially in the face of some of the more ultra-competitive players out there.
But I did want to give it a go, and so last night I downloaded LoL — which was very fast — created an account, and logged in. The game is a PvP match between two teams of players who are fighting across a map in an isometric view to try to blow up each other’s Nexus. Between your base and theirs are three main lanes of conflict, several defense towers, and in-between “jungle” space that house critters that can be killed for XP and gold.
Each player chooses a champion from the dozens and dozens available, each with their own unique abilities and stats. On top of this, champions are modified with runes (think stat builds), additional skills and loot you purchase during each game. So it’s not just enough to know how to play your character well, but how to outfit them for victory.
One of the things I liked is that LoL is a little less twitchy and more strategic than, say, FPS matches. Sure, the action gets thick and furious at points, but it rewards those who fight smart, and even encourages you to retreat instead of giving the enemy the kill.
Champions have six skills at their disposal, four of which can be boosted as you level up during a match. Having so few skills helps keep the insanity to a manageable level, I found. Alongside your champions are computer-spawned minions who fight for both sides. Minions help you by taking the brunt of the combat, getting turret aggro, and providing you with XP and gold when killed.
I went through four matches — each consisting of about 30-50 minutes apiece — last night, two against the computer and two against human opponents. My first impression was that the game is really good-looking, obviously drawing from World of Warcraft’s stylized cartoonish art to make a pleasant backdrop. Each champion has a lot of character to them, and I got a laugh or two from the voice-overs that were provided.
Of course, me being me, we got trounced both times in PvP. The first time against human opponents I chose a rather fragile character who died too often, giving the enemy a lot of gold and tipping the scales in their favor. The second time was better, but the premade we went up against had an insanely good player who racked up tons of kills without being touched himself.
I liked the focus on teamwork; you really do have to function as a team to take the matches, so solo heroes are not welcome. Of course, that means that there’s a lot of pressure on you to not screw up, which didn’t help with the “stressful” aspect of the games. Snafzg and Nazgum held my hand through the matches and told me that the other players can be pretty brutal at times, but to just shake off what they say and keep on learning.
While LoL is pretty easy to pick up, I quickly saw just how much there was to learn about the game in order to excel at it. On top of dozens and dozens of champions that you have to know well in order to counter, there are all sorts of strategies, builds and armor choices that come into play.
LoL has an excellent pricing plan. The whole game is free-to-play with in-game store purchases. If you don’t want to spend a dime, you don’t have to — you can buy things in the store with points you gain from matches, or if you want to speed things up, you can drop a few bucks into it. Every week sports a number of free champions to play, so you really are never pressured into putting up cash unless you want to. The store itself is somewhat laggy, unfortunately.
Ultimately, League of Legends is a solid game with an understandable appeal, even if it is more hardcore than I’d like with a steep learning curve. Will I keep it on my computer? Definitely. I probably won’t be playing it as much as most, but I can see popping in for a match here and there to see if I can ever get a handle on it.
I’m still taking suggestions for future MNN titles — what do you think I should play? Don’t forget to check out the new MNN page on Bio Break as well!