Publisher: Riot Games
Developer: Riot Games
System requirements: Windows 7, XP SP3 or Vista SP1; 2.0 GHz CPU; nVidia GeForce 5 or higher graphics card with shader model 2.0; 1 GB RAM; 1.3 GB hard-drive space; Internet connection
Release date: Available now
Games journalism is a grim and solemn business, and editors routinely beat those of us who appear to be having fun, but League of Legends is a game I’ve been playing (and secretly enjoying) quite a bit. It can best be described as an inverted tower defense game built using a PvP concept. Curiously enough, League was originally a Warcraft III mod that became a full game that’s free to download and play.
The idea of League of Legends is simple. There are two bases in the opposing corners of the map. They are connected by three roads that lead to wilderness and to various monsters. Roads are defended by towers. Each base spawns computer-controlled minions that follow the roads towards the enemy team’s base and attack anything in their way. You control a champion who has a number of upgradable special abilities. The goal is to destroy the enemy’s minion-spawning structure, but to get to it you have to do a lot of fighting and destroy a lot of towers. To even the odds, every match starts with all heroes at Level 1.
During the game, your champion can progress to a maximum of Level 18, which makes his attacks stronger and unlocks new ones. You also earn money by killing anything that moves and doing things such as ending an opponent’s killing spree. You can then spend the dough on various equipment to improve your champion’s damage, armor, mana and other statistics. As in any PvP game, you have to make sure your team’s champions are balanced in their roles, select the right gear and use the correct tactics. Teamwork is always rewarded and communication is vital for success.
Aside from your champion’s level, there is also your summoner’s level, which persists from game to game. Various possibilities become unlocked as levels increase. You gain access to supplemental spells, receive talent points and unlock rune slots. Talents work using three trees reminiscent of World of Warcraft or Torchlight. New spells become available at set intervals. Rune slots unlock with each level up to a total of 30, although runes are not yet fully implemented. All of this gives you a lot of customization options. There is also a store where you can buy runes and even cosmetic upgrades with either points you earn during the game or with real money.
League is bright, pretty and pleasant to play. Being a direct descendant of Warcraft III, it appears to be using the same engine, albeit a bit more polished. Controls are intuitive, with the right mouse button sending your champion to his destination and assigned keyboard keys firing off the spells. Any new player should feel comfortable slipping right into the game, but for those who aren’t, a very functional tutorial is provided. The sound aspect of the game is also done well. Speech, music and special effects feel appropriate and never annoying. Even though the game is still not entirely finished, I have not experienced any crashes or bugs.
I’ve been having a great time playing League of Legends. It’s a very well made game that is challenging and exciting, and between its many champions and numerous upgrade options it offers nearly limitless replay value. A truly solid game in its own right, League becomes an absolute winner when you couple it with the fact that you don’t have to pay a single penny to play to your heart’s content. I can’t think of any reason not to get it.