E3 2011 - Hands On
At E3 I had the opportunity to play a game totally new to me (though not many others): League of Legends. Sitting down with the team at LoL was not only an opportunity for me to learn about the title but a whole genre of games: MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas). The team was kind enough to explain to me how the gameplay in LoL functioned.
In League of Legends players enter a battle arena and duke it out against other players. Each team is composed of five players. Each player chooses a champion when entering the arena and all Champions start at Level 1. Through the course of 30-45 minute game session, most Champions level to around 18 but the next time the Champion enters the battle arena, they start back again at level 1. The leveling system really provides ‘instant gratification’ with short leveling time that improves Champion abilities quickly. It also provides for intense, dynamic gameplay as players level at different rates on the battlefield.
Players control both their Champions and minions during the game session. The type and amount of minions is determined by choice of Champion and level of the player. Final victory is achieved when one team captures the enemy team’s base. However in between team-bases are a series of towers that also require capturing. Watching the demo, it appeared to me that towers functioned as fun obstacles for players to surmount on their way to the enemy base.
Each time a player enters an arena for a new session, they choose from a variety of free-to-play Champions as well as some available for either real money or in-game currency earned on the battlefield. Riot Games’ philosophy on Champion design is that way the Champion looks makes it clear what the player is getting. For an example a melee Champion will look obviously geared towards a melee fighter.
Players can also purchase skins that change the look of their Champions. And while players keep purchased Champions, the free-to-play ones availability rotate. League of Legends releases new Champions in both categories every couple of weeks. They do release limited edition skins which are available only for a short time, but the skin is purely aesthetic in nature. The team clarified that they have no plans to release any limited edition Champions for purchase nor have they ever released any.
The LoL team is committed to making League of Legends accessible to new players with a variety of tools for newbies. They have several tutorials that range from quick and simple to walking players step by step through a match. Players can also choose to not play against other players. The system will match the new player with other new folks on a team and they then compete against the computer. Riot Games says this is a great way for new players to try League of Legends in a friendly atmosphere before dipping into the more competitive side of things.
Finally League of Legends was at E3 to announce a new function: a spectator mode. Long the stalwart of competitive gaming, this mode allows players of all skill levels to observe and learn from other gamers.
While the visuals are a bit cartoony for my personal taste, I did find the game intriguing. It appears to be a title that could easily become addictive. It’s instant gratification combined with the glory of PVP. Furthermore the free-to-play option means that you can try it without spending a dime. If you love hard core PVP, or have ever had an interest in Defense of the Ancients, this is a game for you.
Be sure to read Joseph Sanicky's League of Legends: Free PvP Action For the Masses.