League of Legends 2014 Review
By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Things We Already Know
League of Legends is the MOBA everyone knows, and loves. Or perhaps just knows. I myself have been playing since the beginning of Season 2, and I have played enough to know that I am still horrible at the game. Be that as it may, everyone else on the team decided to haze the new guy, pitting me on a weekend bender of MOBA games. So, here I am! League of Legends is on its fourth season of competitive play, and at current has well over a hundred champions, each with its own style of gameplay. Many things changed between seasons 3 and 4, but the gameplay is still very consistent, offering the same three lanes, and for the most part, the same jungle. There have been changes, but not for changes’ sake, but for the betterment of the game. The same game modes exist, with 3v3 (a reworked version of the Twisted Treeline I knew in season 2), 5v5 (Summoners Rift, Dominion, ARAM), though as of this writing, two game modes have come and gone, which will be given a bit more detail later.
In League of Legends, as in any MOBA, the goal is to use teamwork and skill to go from your side of the field to the enemies, knocking over towers, completing other objectives, and ultimately, destroying their base. This has not changed. How one gets there however, certainly has. Several important changes have occurred in the game, outside of character balance. I will be skipping things like that since one can simply read patch notes or LoL dedicated sites to get caught up on them. Instead, I will be focusing on the main brunt of changes that have occurred between the seasons.
I would also like to take this time to thank Lady Mowgli, for taking the time to play with a baddie like myself. It was a pleasure, because I do not play many ARAMs, but they were a ball, even when I was horrid, because she reminds me that it’s all in fun. There are many who would do well to remember that. I’d also like to take this time to shamelessly plug her amazing cosplay, on Facebook at “Nox Going Wolf.” She’ll be at PAX East this year (and I will be jealous, and not!) with a variety of cosplays on display, such as Nasus! See? It’s even topical.
Lost, But Not Forgotten
There are several game modes that have stuck around throughout the lifespan of League of Legends. The standard 3v3/5v5 are still around, though the Twisted Treeline 3v3 got a much needed overhaul in season 3. There were several things added, which I do believe I alluded to in a previous article, such as the spirit wells that provide buffs to the entire party, which adds another layer of strategy to the team-based game. 5v5 has also received some minor quality of life improvements, though only the dedicated players will probably even notice the advantages they offer. There are however, a few modes that are no longer around, which I find to be both fortunate and unfortunate.
All For One: This short-lived mode was probably the most entertaining extra mode I have had the pleasure to play in. In “All For One,” players on each team had three bans, as in draft mode. Then everyone voted on a champ that they felt the entire team should play. Certain champs were autobanned, like Karthus, and Teemo. I personally do not see why. I mean, Five Karthus is totally fair, right? The highest vote wins, and in the case of a tie, I believe it is randomly selected between the two. I think the craziest thing I saw was my friends and I teaming up as five Soraka versus five Karma, and dominating them the entire game. It was pure chaos. The map was the normal Fields, 5v5, and the goal is the same: Get to the Nexus. It provided some very entertaining times, and I for one, was sad to see it go.
Hexakill: This was a mode I sadly did not get an opportunity to play. I was much too busy to enjoy this mode, as I was in the process of learning to hate ranked mode all over again. From what I understand, there were lots of problems with the matchmaking process, and lots of disconnects midmatch, leaving many people (me) frustrated. Regardless! Hexakill was another mode on the Fields of Justice, where six players on each side did battle, with the same goal as always. It was a really lovely idea, and from what I’ve seen of it, it was even more chaotic than all for one while providing junglers the new challenge of trying to gank lanes with three people in them. This mode did not appear to last long at all. I blinked, and it was gone! Such a shame.
A Vision of The Future
One of the most controversial changes has to be vision. In Season 3, players could (but did not) carry up to five green wards (which offer standard vision in hidden areas) and five pink wards (which offered visibility to units that were invisible; same vision turrets have). This was an interesting idea, but it often did not work out. More often than not, the only person warding was the support, and maybe the jungler, and it was an incredible burden to try and build a set of gear, while spending all their money on wards, or Sightstones. The money offered to support players was low, and it was overall a horrible system that was in dire need of a change. In Season 4, more gold was given to support players…
The old gold-per-five items were done away with, and new ones, with a variety of utilities were born. The swiftly-nerfed Targon’s Brace, the Ancient Coin which implements the now defunct Shurelya’s Reverie (Speed Boost), and Spellthief’s Edge, the answer to AP Supports who wanted a little gold in their diet. In addition, support streaks, awarded to players who had more assists than kills also helped this. But that is not the brunt of where the change lies. In Season 4 players can only use three green wards, and one purple ward at one time. Period. Purple ward prices dropped, but are not invisible, and have infinite duration (or until broken). Now, this, in theory is a terrific idea. It can provide teamwork, and force players who normally did not ward to consider doing so. It makes it so the entire map is no longer lit up, allowing for more strategy.
At least, this is the theory. In high-level gameplay, this is more likely. But, at the lower levels/casual gameplay, people still expect the support to do all the warding, and become frustrated when there are not a ton of wards across the map. Perhaps people don’t read patch notes. Now, there is a trinket (a new slot, that does not take up the normal six) that allows you to place wards every x amount of minutes. Lots of people buy it, but most do not bother to use the ward that is there! So, in theory, I love this. In practice, not quite so much. I realize this is can be a slanted opinion, but from personal experience, this happens a lot more than I’d care to admit.
Who Needs A Map?
There were a variety of changes to the map and to the jungle in this season. Now, I’m not much of a jungler, but I do it on occasion. The changes to the map can be considered good for lane members, and in theory, can be very bad for ganking from the jungle. Now the mobs in the jungle have a level and increase in strength as the game progresses. Weaker junglers may have a hard time getting started, but if they fall behind, the increased exp is a great boon on their behalf. Also in the jungle is a new enemy, a large Wraith that sits near the wall, away from the camps. It can be tagged over walls quite easily, allowing for some pretty interesting counter-ganks, or pulling it away from a jungler to deny them exp.
Also on the map are shorter bushes. It looks to me like the lawnkeepers got tired of the scraggly, long bushes and decided to tend the Fields of Justice a little better. I like this, personally, because it forces people to think about what their goal in a particular lane is. Gone are the days of super long bushes, where one ward will not accurately offer illumination, or when two players could wander the same bush and not see each other to initiate combat or offer assistance. That was one of the most absurd things to me, and now that it is cleared and fixed up, it makes life a lot more interesting in battle.
Everyone’s got a Price
And everyone’s got to pay. Money, as stated above, has changed quite a bit in League of Legends. It is still the same manner, in that you kill creeps, use items, and runes to allow a heavier flow of currency, but a few things have changed about it that players should be aware of. One of the big things that turn the early tide of a game are kill streaks, bounties, and assists. In the early parts of the game, the extra gold gained from these can really make the game feel insurmountable, with one side getting lots of kill streaks, offering them impressive items that allow them quite a bit of room for error to prevent their enemies from breaking the streak to gain a bounty bonus. With this in mind, Riot made these starter items a little less overwhelming, keeping things fair at least in the very early stages of a match. I am of two minds on this: when on the winning side, I hate it! I’m only human, after all. But when on the losing side, the lesser effects are gratifying. It allows for a little hope.
Controlling Dragon kills can be a steady way to get the game back in your favor as well, or secure your lead into a quick victory for the winning side. However, the Dragon offers differing values of gold and experience now, depending on how long the game has gone on. Local experience is also granted to those who participate. Those who are at a lower level get a little more exp too, offering a chance that they can catch up and recovery from a rough start. The global gold is pretty fantastic, to boot. Speaking of global gold, the global gold gained from turrets and inhibitors could sway early to mid-game, and the devs realized this after early push tactics began dominating the e-sports scene. To counter it, the global gold was reduced a bit, to prevent some lanes from getting out of control when they did no work. However, the local gold for the people who actually pushed the tower/inhib went up! Overall, gold is a little easier to get for many roles in Season 4, which I highly appreciate/approve of.
And since I could not think of another place to put it, I will make another mention here of an important change to early-game League matches. Death Timers in the early going have been lowered, to help players get right back to the fight, and stop the super early tower push, offering a bit more help to players who are getting bullied under their tower straight away.
Ragachak And The Magical Adventures of Cardboard 27
There have been a few changes to Ranked play as well. I do not have much concrete information on Ranked this season, since after my personal experiences, I decided a break was necessary. Towards the beginning of the season, we learned that no longer can you gain immunity from dropping from one league to another. This can be good and bad, again. There are almost always two sides to this. No longer can people troll Silver V and expect to never get booted back to Bronze where they perhaps belong. However, my personal experience has been that in the beginning of the season, it was not a good idea to play ranked. The matchmaking seemed very off, with players who did not belong in your ELO carrying teams with unbelievable skill and awareness. Combined with plenty of people ragequiting and server instability causing disconnects, it made for a very sour ranked experience.
I will be the first to say I am not a great player. I’m average, or less, at best. But I play games because I enjoy them. When I could no longer enjoy ranked play, I went back to playing normal, and ARAMs, because, thanks to a few good people, I remembered the reason I played League in the first place: To have fun. If you do not have fun in a mode, do not do it! It is ill-advised to make ranked a hassle for others by trolling and afking on purpose, just so others cannot have fun. No matter how bad things get, there’s always something to look forward to. It is an unfortunate aspect of League of Legends community, that it is incredibly toxic. There are a plethora of good people, and I have had the pleasure of knowing many of them. But for every one good person, there are three ready to name-call and harass. Again: Play the modes you have fun with. There is no reason to ruin someone else’s fun because of your hangups. That’s enough of me sitting on my pulpit. . . it is however, one of the most harrying things about MOBA games in general.
Score – Great
The graphics engine of League of Legends has come a long way since its inception. With each passing patch, new ideas for character designs come about, and slowly but surely, a lot of those old champions are getting visual overhauls to update the graphics. Not all of them have been done, but the ones that are upgraded are always fantastic. The folks at Riot do deliver a pretty to look at product that can still be enjoyed by virtually all levels of PC power.
Pretty standard MOBA controls, but they to me are generally very tight. You can adjust mouse sensitivity in game, and even smart-casting (casting wherever the mouse is pointed instead of hitting the button, then clicking) is strong, except in a few instances, such as Thresh’s flay. Not perfect by any stretch, but strong nonetheless. The dial for Missing/On The Way/etc is a little wonky if you aren’t used to it, but it grows on you and becomes a steady part of your gameplay.
While I laud Riot for making cool features and game modes like ARAM (All Random), the other cool modes often vanish as swiftly as they appear. I did not even get to enjoy Hexakill, and All For One disappeared just as fast. The downside of playing MOBAs is that there is not a lot of variety in game modes; you log in, and you play the same maps you play every time. This can become incredibly tiring, no matter how much you love the gameplay.
While I do feel the music for the loading screens is fantastic, each champion/patch having its own unique, flavored music that fits their character (See Jinx as one of the best examples), the ingame music I tend to turn down, as well as some of the other sound effects. Not because I think they are bad, but because they distract me from the game at hand. Listening to the same music for hundreds of matches can grate on anyone’s nerves. I am no exception to this. So while I do think they’re pretty great to hear, after a while, I just want to tune them out.
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