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“League of Legends”: Low on commitment, high on fun

By Zach Reid

Section: Arts

March 16, 2012

When I came to Brandeis, I assumed that video games would become a very minimal part of my life, that would only be played occasionally with friends—something that seemed perfectly fine to me. Within the past few months, however, I have found that one game has brought together many Brandeis students for hours upon hours of mutual enjoyment through their computers—“League of Legends.”
“League of Legends” (“LoL”) is a free-to-play online game that pits up to 10 players against each other in Player vs. Player (PvP) games as well as games against computer-controlled foes, or “bots.” These games typically last between 15 and 45 minutes, depending on the game type, although games between evenly matched teams can last for more than an hour. The ultimate objective of Classic Mode is to destroy the enemy team’s Nexus, a crystal in the heart of their base. To do this, players must fight through waves of less-powerful computer-controlled soldiers, called minions, and destroy turrets across the map.
Different game modes help to add variety to a player’s “LoL” experience. If the lengthier games of Classic Mode don’t appeal to players, Dominion offers fast-paced, capture-the-flag-esque gameplay, with the objective to hold as many as five control points as possible, similar to the Conquest game mode in “Star Wars: Battlefront II.” Games usually last between 10 and 20 minutes and consist of many more PvP, as opposed to bot, skirmishes. There are bots present in this gametype, but their role is mainly to serve as distractions for players, as opposed to being a significant threat for damaging the player or capturing control points.
Graphically speaking, the game is pretty solid. It has an almost cartoonish look to it, thanks to the comical nature of the minions and some of the champions (the miniature Teemo, for example, looks more like a plush toy than a powerful hunter). This element of amusement serves to enhance the experience; however, it also helps to maintain the enjoyable, more light-hearted atmosphere of the game as opposed to more intense games such as “World of Warcraft.” In terms of hardware capabilities for “LoL,” there are options for tweaking the graphics in order to provide a greater opportunity to customize the player’s experience based on their computer’s capabilities.
The major downside to “League of Legends” is the hardware requirements. This game cannot be played on a Mac computer without Boot Camp, a program which runs Windows software on Apple hardware, and thanks to its 2009 release date, some computers have difficulty running the game without lag. Lag can cripple a player mid- or late-game because of the game’s fast-paced action and deters some Mac users from playing.
It is with regard to the game’s Champions, however, that developer Riot Games truly shows their genius. There are more than 90 Champions released to date, and a new Champion is usually released every one to two weeks. Champions can be acquired in the “LoL” store by using Influence Points (IP), which are awarded based on the player’s performance in games, or Riot Points (RP), which can be bought for varying sums of money. Games maintain interest by the sheer variety of enemies the player encounters as well as the Champions they can control. While Champions have a general role on a team (damage-dealer, healer, anti-spell caster, etc.), each one has unique abilities and specialties that offer many ways for a player to use them.
In addition to this continually expanding variety of Champions, Riot has instituted a system called the Champion Rotation, in which it makes 10 Champions free every week, to give players a chance to try out new characters. These free Champions range from cheap to incredibly expensive (450 IP to 6,300 IP), ensuring players the chance to play with Champions that they wouldn’t normally have access to, as well as giving them a better feel for how they operate for when they come against those champions in games.
Gameplay has an appealing if slightly repetitive feel to it and is fairly easy to pick up. The first 10 minutes of each match consist of “farming” (killing enemy minions and neutral creatures to obtain gold), “pushing” (killing enemy minions quickly so allied minions and champions can attack the enemy turrets in your lane) and “ganking” (ambushing an enemy champion to secure the kill). Once players get past this point, the game becomes more focused on killing the other team’s players, as opposed to bots—the true enjoyment of the game. The battles the player finds him or herself in are radically different each time, based on the makeup of the other team and the player’s own character. The mage character Annie, for example, can easily demolish a melee character at range but is no match for Veigar, a diminutive anti-caster. Factor in five characters to each team and 70-plus characters for each player to choose from, and you have a nearly infinite number of game variations, never mind how individual player skill factors into the games.
Overall, “League of Legends” is a solid game and is a great choice for a college student looking for some casual gaming. While it isn’t as intense or popular as other games that are currently on the market, it’s completely free to play, which more than makes up for these slight disadvantages. Best of all, there’s already a healthy community of LoL players here at Brandeis. Personally, I know of more than 20 players—and I know there are others—given that a group of first-years were very nearly successful in making a competitive team for a collegiate league, known as IvyLoL. So, if you’re looking for a good game to kill an hour or so with, or if you’re trying to meet new friends in a way that’s adequately nerdy for Brandeis, look no further than “League of Legends.”

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