One of the greatest things about going to GDC is finding the diamonds in the rough, those underappreciated titles that have received little fanfare but are set to take the gaming world by storm. When I got my schedule, there were a lot of games I was excited to check out, but in all honesty, I had never heard of League of Legends: Clash of Fates, and all I knew about it was that it was based on a Warcraft III mod. I went into the appointment with fairly low expectations, and then League of Legends stepped up to the plate and blew my doors off. I normally don't play PC games, but this is a title that may just change that.
League of Legends has arisen from humble beginnings, basically owing its existence to a fan-made mod that caught the attention of some guys looking to start up a development studio. You see, a couple of guys (Steve "Guinsoo" Feak and Steve "Pendragon" Mescon) were some of the people who were involved in the creation and upkeep of a Warcraft III mod known as "Defense of the Ancients Allstars." Despite being a fairly simple concoction (only one map, no real player balancing or matchmaking to speak of), the mod has done extremely well within the community and is still played by millions the world over. Now, Riot Games has tapped the guys to come on board and make a game with the full resources of a studio behind them, and they are clearly up to the challenge.
The beauty of League of Legends is that it's exceptionally simple, yet it's so addicting and deep that many gamers will likely be hooked for months or even years exploring all the content available. During our time with the title at GDC, we sat down for a LAN party with six stations running the game and each group being split into teams of three. We were then given the opportunity to select one hero who we would control for the duration of the session. The characters varied from a powerful Minotaur, who would gladly smash all enemies in his path, to a creepy little girl, who carried a stuffed teddy bear and could wreak all sorts of unholy havoc. For my part, I chose the Cardmaster, a ranged combatant whose skills included a spell that both silenced enemy heroes and damaged them over time and the ability to instantly teleport to any spot on the map, making me a master of the hit-and-run. There were 15 different heroes to choose from in our demo, and we're expecting at least double that number when the game actually ships. All of the heroes are different enough from one another to accommodate almost any play style, so you have a game that virtually anyone can enjoy.
Gameplay is a simple matter of storming your opponent's base and wrecking it completely. Starting off, you spawn next to a shop where you can buy consumables or upgrade your weapons and other gear, and after every subsequent respawn, you'll appear right back in the same spot so you're always near your stronghold and never dropped into the middle of a fierce battle you have no right to be involved in (unless, of course, the enemy is currently attacking the main structure at your base, in which case you're pretty much screwed). After you stock up, it's a short jaunt to one of the likely several battles that are raging, where your presence can turn the tide and drive back the opposing force. Aiding you in combat is an endless troop of minions who will continually battle to a standstill along the various routes on the map. However, with you there to support their assault, they can actually gain a good bit of progress, and wiping out enemy minions is a wonderful way to earn experience and level up quickly to unlock stronger abilities.
Without boring you with specifics, I can unequivocally state that not only is League of Legends easy to pick up and play (all heroes start at Level 1 in every match and level up over the course of a session), but it's insanely fun as well. The controls are extremely simple to learn, and upgrading equipment or skills takes little more than a couple of mouse clicks, and you're back on your way. Even though I'm a total noob when it comes to these sorts of games, after just 10 minutes, I felt that I understood the mechanics well enough to put up a decent fight. Even better, when our roughly 35-minute bout was over, I was cursing the fact that I had to leave for my next meeting because I wanted the chance to play again with a new hero on a different battlefield. That's truly the mark of a great game, when after you've worn yourself to a frazzle to earn the victory, all you want to do is go back for more.
With the promise of taking everything that made DotA Allstars great and improving it for League of Legends: Clash of Fates (more maps, matchmaking features, a metagame where players take on the role of summoners and wins earn them new battlefield powers and prestige), the title has all the trappings of a surprise hit just waiting to spring itself on the world. It's great to see what promises to be such an incredible title coming out of a new studio, and it makes me believe that there may be room in this industry for the little guy with a great idea after all. Remember the name Riot Games because they are going to be responsible for killing all your relationships and owning your free time once League of Legends ships.
More articles about League of Legends