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Mac Game Review: Welcome to the Big League

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013 | Author:

While I have finally uncovered my iPhone 3GS from my pile of miscellaneous electronics, I’ve decided to do another Mac game review. Why? Because while I do dedicate a lot of time to the games I review for the OWC Blog, a good deal of my free time is spent playing League of Legends, and I figured it was time to show it some love. I have to give everyone a fair warning: This game is not for the faint of heart. The community will chew you up, and the learning curve is steep enough to require a grappling hook to climb. It is all about teams of players competing to win, and people (including myself) take this game very seriously. So strap up, turn your red baseball hats backward, it’s about to get intense.

All of this…. to watch 10 people play a video game.

All of this…. to watch 10 people play a video game.

I feel I need to explain the massive scale of this game … this is the definition of an eSport. The competition is fierce and the stakes are high, as pro players compete at live events that are streamed online, and the finals are live events held at convention centers like the picture above. This year, 13,000 people packed the Staples Center, and more than 400,000 People watched the final match online via Twitch.tv. With LoL entering its fourth season in the next few weeks, now is the time to get in on the fun. So what is it? What is this strange game that so many people flock to? It’s a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game, or MOBA. Other games in this series would be DOTA, Solstice Arena, and SMITE, but no other MOBA has the sheer scale of League of Legends.

The game breaks down into teams of 3 or 5 (5 for competition style gameplay), and the teams kill waves of monsters, and each other and eventually go into each other’s bases. The first team to destroy the enemy base, wins the match. Players each select a champion to play from the current pool of 116 different champions that have 4 abilities each. Each week there are 10 free champions to play, which rotate. To play a champion that is not on the rotation you need to purchase them with in-game money, or with real money (which I would tell you to avoid until you really understand the game). Players push through three lanes of combat (one person top, one person mid, 2 people in the bottom lane, and 1 person roaming around in the jungle), destroying defense towers, killing waves of “minions” and trying to kill the other players for gold, which is used for purchasing items, to make your champion stronger. Every time you play the game you start with an empty inventory, and at level 1 (max level 18), and grow as you play the 45 minute (on average) match.

So much happens in a typical match, imagine it like a big game of chess. Ciderhelm put out a great video called “The Impossible Decision” that shows a perfect example of the level of strategy involved from one of the professional level matches from this year’s championship.

The champions in League are vast and varied, in both their appearances and skills. Here’s what some of us here at OWC love playing right now:

OWC Tony –  Draven

Draven is an all-in champion that depends on his ability to catch his axes as they bounce off of enemies once thrown. He has a well-rounded skill set that includes a slow, and his fourth (ultimate) ability can span the entire map of the game, then returns, dealing tons of damage to anything in its wake.

League4OWC Gerald – Teemo

While I hate playing against Teemo, his kit is really well rounded. Not only does his ultimate allow you to put down invisible landmines (in the form of poisonous mushrooms), they also give you vision on that area, and he can place a ton of them. Mix that with a huge attack speed, and poisonous darts, he’s a menace on the fields of justice.

League5OWC Ed – Jinx

Jinx is the newest Champion and does well in all lanes. Using a minigun and rocket launcher, she swaps back and forth to give herself more attack speed. Her passive gives her an incredible boost of speed after destroying a tower or killing a champion, making her a great champion to dive in, grab the last hit, and then get out quickly.

OWC Devin – Mordekaiser

Mord is a brute and can take a heavy pounding before needing to recover, which is good since all of his abilities cost health, instead of the typical mana. His signature ability allows him to curse a champion for 10 seconds, if that champion dies, he is brought back as a spirit, under whoever is playing Mord’s control.

Half of this game is learning all of the mechanics, the other half, is learning all 116 champions’ abilities, and knowing what you’re going to expect from the enemy when you are in a lane against them. There is so much information, and sadly I can’t give it all to you here. If you need some help getting started with how to play a certain champion check out www.mobafire.com and www.lolpro.com for some great guides that help with item selection, ability priority and general strategy.

What League of Legends (commonly referred to as LoL, which is a bit confusing since it’s already a commonly used acronym) brings to the table is a real amount of depth and customization. Characters get six item slots, 30 points to spend in the Mastery Trees, and a pile of runes to equip, making all sorts of strategy and playing characters in unique ways is doable. The only issue is the community will typically frown against a build that isn’t standard, so try it against bots before you start claiming something is viable in a lane.

So in a nutshell? This game is hard, brutal, and will chew you up and spit you out, just the way I like it. But why? Why do I enjoy such a brutal game? Because when you win… when you and your team, defeat the other… it is incredibly rewarding. The other part is that everyone is on the same playing field. Other player vs. player scenarios, say World of Warcraft, you could end up going up against people with much better gear, and get defeated by sheer math, with no amount of skill being able to save you. While I stick by my initial warning, of this game isn’t for the faint of heart, if you can take getting smashed into the ground until you learn things, this is a great game to pick up play, and, it’s FREE.

And for those who would like to game with an OWC employee or those who want to get started and need some assistance, feel free to add my new account “OWCTony” as a friend, and I’ll be happy to assist and play some games when I’m not doing ranked matches!

Graphics:  Rating-Bar4

Not a flawless title, and not for everyone. While the game does have great graphics, it gets a point off for its inconsistency. League has been around awhile and you can see a definite level of improvement over its maps and champions. This leaves older content… lacking. The newest map, Howling Abyss looks fantastic; the towers crumble and decay as they are hit, as does the level itself. That level of detail and attention has yet to be brought over to the main competition map.

Gameplay: Rating-Bar4

There is so much going on, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of everything, and I love it. So, why the 4? Throwing out a 4 because of the champion balance. This goes back to the game having additional content created constantly, that while new flashy move sets are made, older champions like Poppy, Warwick, or Ryze, seem a little flat and uninspired.

Audio:Rating-Bar5

The catchphrases, taunts, jokes, and such are great, the games sound effects are perfect where they need to be, and minus a very small glitch in a previous launch panel (couldn’t disable the login music), I have absolutely nothing to complain about in this category.

Innovation:Rating-Bar2

League of Legends is a major copy of Defense of the Ancients, a Warcraft III map that wasn’t in any capacity an official “game” per say. However they transformed that into a genre and are turning it into a competition level eSport. So while not a flawless victory in this category, a great job in pushing this forward.

Overall:Rating-Bar4

This is currently my favorite video game to play, and likely will be for a long time. While not perfect, it has such a large amount of depth that the strategy and complexities keep me coming back, even after five-game losing streaks. My hat is off to you Riot Games, for putting out a spectacular masterpiece. Just fix Shaco’s walk animation, so OWC Stephen can try using him in the jungle.

NOTE: While the game has a Mac OS client, OWC Devin did notice some issues and had better luck boot camping into the a native Windows OS and using the Windows client. If you experience any large bugs or glitches, please try the same as your account will work over both clients.

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