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Now Playing: League of Legends

While playing StarCraft 2, I often saw the rumblings between its e-Sports community and the much larger community of League of Legends. I first played League of Legends a few years ago and quit after about twenty minutes. At the time, I remember receiving no helpful instruction or indication of the main goals. And just like many other free-to-play games that leave a bad first impression, I quickly gave up.

I typically don’t stay attached to free-to-play games for very long, and with no obligation through monetary ties, League of Legends didn’t fare any better. For the past month however, I spent a lot of time with League of Legends. When you know people who willingly help you and will stay patient (for the most part) while you learn how to play, the learning curve doesn’t seem so steep.

League of Legends, inspired by the Warcraft 3 mod – Defence of the Ancients, puts players against each other who both aim to destroy their enemy’s Nexus: located at the centre of each base. In a straight forward layout of a map, players control Champions who work in conjunction with computer controlled minions that spawn periodically from each base. Along the paths to the Nexus, Champions will engage in battles with other Champions, minions and powerful (but destructible) defence turrets.

Each game can last upwards of 30 minutes and often feels like a battle of attrition. From what I found, those who stay patient and look to exploit the mistakes of their opponents, will often dominate. Killing Champions and minions rewards gold. With the gold earned, Champions can buy consumable items and equipment to improve a Champion’s stats. In addition to the items, each Champion gains experience points on level up, which grants ability points to upgrade more powerful abilities.

Much like StarCraft 2, the management of items and progression of a Champion, overwhelms for a long time. With nothing beyond the basic functions introduced by the few tutorials, players will need to learn on their own through reading guides and listening to advice from other players. For as much as I played in the first month, I still don’t feel comfortable veering away from already established guides and strategies.

Guides will show you the best optimal build orders and general ways you should play a Champion, but nothing truly teaches you. Learning through experience might make sense to some, though some direction and guidance from the developers would help reassure players of what exactly developers intended or envisioned.

With so many Champions to choose from, trying to find the one that suits your play style can produce frustration. I currently use Champions such as Cho’ Gath – a lizard-dragon looking Champion who won’t get a lot of kills alone, but can drastically change the outcome of a team fight (a fight between multiple Champions). Miss Fortune, the second Champion I use, will shoot enemies from afar in her scantily clad pirate outfit. She will grant more kills than I would accumulate with Cho’ Gath, but her minimal health will make her easy target to kill, especially when you get too overzealous and lose focus.

But to combat the indecision, the selection of Champions stays permanently restricted. About 10 champions become available for play for every user, and each week they will be cycled out for another set of Champions. This cycling encourages experimentation with many different characters.

While you may prefer to use a familiar Champion, playing with a variety of ranged characters, support characters and melee characters can help narrow what aspects of a Champion you prefer. To purchase Champions, you can either use the in game currency (IP) earned through playing matches, or you can Riot Points – purchased with real money.

With Riot points you can unlock alternate appearances for Champions, or the character themselves. Riot Games does not force in-game purchases at all, which ironically, tempts you to purchase that cool robot skin for your favourite Champion.

 I continue to wait for that one character that will completely resonate with me because, to be honest, I really want to buy a skin. But I know as soon as I buy a skin, the sense of obligation to play that specific Champion to show off the skin, will ruin the discovery that unfamiliarity allows.