Review by WeegeeIRL
"Riot Games messed this one up pretty badly"
Being an avid RTS gamer and a huge fan of any and all forms of DoTA, I was turned on to League of Legends several months ago by a few college friends. Being a Mac user, I had to use Bootcamp to finally play this game on Windows 7. The studio that brought us the original DoTA, the world-famous pinnacle of early-2000's RTS games, has let me and many other fans down with this release, and for reasons that are unusual amongst modern RTS's.
Gameplay - 7/10
As one of the two most important factors of any RTS, I'll look at gameplay first. Since we have the studio that made the original DoTA behind this, my expectations were high when first trying out this game, and it doesn't disappoint. DoTA fans will love the wide character selection and use of skill pages to tailor the characters to their particular playing style. As you win games and gain levels as a player, points can be distributed into many skills that enhance the stats and abilities of your character, so putting together a wide range of tank, physical, and magic styles is only a few clicks away. This leads to a huge selection of competitive builds to ensure that you'll never get bored of a character...or really know what to expect from your opponents. Matches can easily last over an hour and often boil down to a tight, tug-of-war style struggle to reach the opponent's base and bring down their defenses. For the most hardcore of gamers, this is what DoTA was all about. For everyone else...well, Riot isn't really concerned about them, so forget about it. This isn't the kind of game you'll be able to play casually. No sitting down for a quick 10-minute round a la Starcraft. Clear your schedule, otherwise this game will not accomodate you.
Unfortunately, where LoL excels in its character content, it miserably fails in almost every other type of content. I was extremely disappointed when I realized the game only has two maps, one for 3v3 matches and another for 5v5's. This is completely pathetic for a game of this sort on release, let alone after having been out for TWO YEARS! In various patches, Riot has added dozens of new characters, but there are still only two maps. How any gamer could be accepting of this is beyond me.
In addition, there are a very limited number of game modes as well. Let's see, we have...online multiplayer, cool, cool. What else? "Custom Game," where you can train on the same maps with the same characters against bots or any online friends. A given in any RTS, but cool anyway. What else do we have...oh wait. That's it. Online multiplayer on two maps and custom games with a pretty bad AI. End of story. And I'm supposed to be impressed by this because...? Really, most studios would be ashamed to release a game with such little content, but Riot Studios seems perfectly happy with it after 2 years. Huh, beats me.
There is one final option for gaming, and that's the competitive, ranked mode, accessible only to players who have hit the level cap of 30. With only two maps, the competitive aspect of LoL sounds like it would be pretty hardcore, with very tightly-controlled character roles and such, right? Well, that's nothing compared to the biggest problem that plagues LoL to this day, which is...
Community - 1/10
Oh, right! The other most important factor of any RTS, the gaming community. This is one of the ways in which DoTA became popular; tons of friendly competition every time you log in. LoL has tons of competition with players all around the world, yes...but it's nowhere near friendly. It's actually the most hostile gaming community I've ever seen in my 20 years of gaming.
Every match I've ever played on LoL consisted of an hour-long flame war between veterans and noobs alike. If any one player is using anything but a time-tested build, their opponents will taunt them, their team will ditch them and often leave them for dead, and they will be reported (and occasionally even banned). Want to be creative with a build? Suck it up and keep it to yourself, because your team will most likely spend the entire gaming doing their best to make your particular experience a complete hell. No exceptions; after 6 months of playing, a 2 month break, and 4 more months of very intense gaming, I have never once come out of a match thinking, "Wow, that player/team was really nice." Don't expect to find anything of the sort, because after only a handful of games, you will develop pure hatred for every LoL player ever.
Riot has done very little to address this after 2 years. In fact, they have made it much worse by leaving report-based regulation (bans, etc.) to a counsel of selected LoL players. This counsel goes through videos, chat logs, and gameplay records to "investigate" whether or not the report warrants a ban. Essentially, Riot was lazy enough to invent a player-led bureaucracy where players can be reported for reasons ranging from "Had a bad attitude" to "Unskilled gamer." This means that if you're just starting out, get lucky and win several games, and incidentally get put into a very skilled match and are in over your head, chances are good that you'll be flamed for around an hour and then get reported for being unskilled, which occasionally leads to a ban. How the people actually doing the flaming aren't banned for "Had a bad attitude," it beats me. But any sort of mediocre gaming set up by the game's actual content is completely ruined by its pedantic, unforgiving community.
Graphics - 7/10
The game looks very sharp overall and has a colorful, cell-shaded, upbeat sort of atmosphere. However, nearly all the landscape in each of the two maps looks almost identical: big forest and big swamp. No variety whatsoever.
A major problem is that the game's items and upgrades, represented by small illustrations, have very little visual variety and tend to look the same. Prepare to memorize where various items are located in the menus, because you probably won't be able to find them visually.
Riot has promised players a major game overhaul in the "near" future, including a complete graphics update for both characters and environment, but it won't be out anytime soon.
Sound - 3/10
The sound effects are honestly downright annoying. Whatever bland orchestral score is featured in the game is constantly covered up by unrealistic attack and spellcasting sounds. Since when do sword-slices sound like a dirt bag being thrown on the ground? Most projectile hits are accompanied by a loud "THUD" that sounds nothing like a projectile impact. In fact, every sound effect is more out-of-place than the others, leading to an overall theme of out-of-place sound effects.
There is also a lasting issue involving the headphone output where audio will be completely cut off after minimizing and reopening the game window. It happens to me on Bootcamp, two friends with Windows 7, and one friend with Windows Vista consistently. Why this hasn't been addressed in a patch, I have no idea.
Overall - 2/10
With a character loadout and customizability like this, LoL has a lot of potential. However, you'll never be able to truly experiment with builds due to the hostile community and lack of a true single player option. After many months of playing this game, I cannot recommend it to anyone, at least not with a straight face. League of Legends players have changed my outlook on gaming in general for the worse.
Also, two maps? Really?! Free-to-play doesn't justify laziness, people.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 08/12/11
Game Release: League of Legends (US, 10/27/09)
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