When Niels got the chance to play a full-fledged League of Legends single-player game for the first time, of course, he couldn’t say no. To experience in a different way the story of the champions he has played within League for years is very special. But is this first game from Riot Forge actually good?
In 2019, Riot Games announced that it had established a third-party publishing label called Riot Forge, an opportunity for third-party developers to create story-driven games in the League of Legends universe. As an avid League of Legends player who also likes a strong story, this is potentially a dream come true.
Developed by the Airship Syndicate unknown to me, however, I tried to keep my expectations low. Although Riots is of course connected to the game, they did not make it. But when you stick the name League of Legends somewhere, a certain standard is expected. So the question is, does Ruined King deserve to bear the League of Legends name?
Turn based combat
Ruined King is a turn-based game. Gamers will react differently to this because it is a genre that does not fit everyone’s street. It takes a few duels to fully master Ruined King’s combat, but after that, it all speaks for itself. In a party of three champions, you compete against three enemies. Each champion has lives and three types of abilities that cost mana to cast: Ultimate, Instant, and Lane. The Ultimate ability is of course the strongest but requires a full meter to cast. Then a flashy animation plays and you often deal fatal damage. Instant abilities are the most used because they are fast and do not cost mana. They, therefore, inflict less damage, or in the case of a tank, offer less protection. The Lane abilities are the most interesting.
Those Lane abilities are shown on a bar at the bottom of the screen and can be cast in three ways: in the Speed Lane, the Balance Lane, and the Power Lane. On the bar is a zone where the ability is even stronger. So if the enemy is in that zone, you’ll want to choose a Lane ability that’s also in that zone. So when casting each ability, it’s important to take into account the position of the lanes, the enemies on the bar, and the speed of the ability you need.
You can further fill a party with a number of well-known League of Legends characters: Miss Fortune, Yasuo, Illaoi, Braum, and Pyke. To have a better chance against the enemies, it is important that you choose the right team balance. For example, you don’t want to throw Yasuo, Pyke, and Miss Fortune in one party, since all three champions do a lot of damage, but have few lives. Illaoi and Braum are two tanks that can draw the focus of enemies and heal their teammates, so it’s a good idea to have one of them on your team. For League players, the abilities of each character are very recognizable, certainly a plus when you play the MOBA.
Ruined King also contains the necessary RPG elements. You can customize the champions in your party in different ways. Not in terms of visual style, but by loading them with items, runes, and other types of gear to give them better stats. Personally, this didn’t interest me that much; I preferred to continue exploring the world and experiencing the story as soon as possible. As a result, I often spent the points I got just to get rid of them. But I understand that some can get completely lost in this, and if you are such a person, there is plenty to delve into.
Despite it all sounding complicated, the combat system isn’t very challenging – and increasing the difficulty doesn’t change that. Combat, therefore, feels monotonous fairly quickly, since in practice you always spam the same abilities to get through the enemy’s life bar. That makes combat the least attractive aspect of this game.
If you, therefore, do not always find the combat interesting, fortunately, there is also an option to double the speed of the fight. That’s a good tip anyway because the duel only feels smoother because you don’t have to sit through the same, sometimes slow animations every time. If you’re not really into combat at all, you can skip it completely after a lost duel. Then you don’t miss anything of the story, but of course, you skip an important element of the game.
Bilgewater and the Shadow Isles
Ruined King focuses on the Runeterra regions of Bilgewater and the Shadow Isles, which are home to champions such as Miss Fortune and Gangplank. So how do champions like Yasuo, Braum, and Ahri – who live far away from these regions – end up here? The story gives reasons for that, although it’s clear that the developer probably wanted to use popular champions to attract more attention. Fine, in my view.
The champions each have their own motivations for going out together in a battle against the darkness of the Shadow Isles, and the dangers that lie hidden there. Yasuo is hired as Ahri’s guard, but when she suddenly disappears at night, he goes looking for her. Miss Fortune, a famous captain of Bilgewater, wants to ensure that her Earth rival Gangplank is actually dead.
It’s for reasons like this that the group comes together, but in addition to their own problems, the mysteries surrounding the Shadow Isles and a so-called Black Mist turn out to be an overarching problem, from which this game owes its name. Viego, the Ruined King himself, is a formidable adversary that the heroes of the story must face. So you explore the world, meet both friend and foe, and alternate story scenes with turn-based combat.
As far as I’m concerned, the narrative elements of Ruined King are the strongest aspects of the game, partly because it features characters I’ve been familiar with for years. The constant conversations between Yasuo, Braum, Miss Fortune, and the rest really add to their backstories, making you bond with them. In between all the hectic, you can also regularly hear a campfire story between two characters, which does nothing to promote the plot but does deepen the characters enormously. The beautifully drawn champion portraits, which look a lot like the portraits of the gods in Hades, add something too.
Finally, Ruined King knows how to put a smile on my face because of the good audio design. Both the atmospheric music and the good voice acting (including Laura Bailey) ensure that you are really sucked into the game. The champions are voiced very strongly, and I actually had to check whether the voices were recorded by the same people as in League of Legends. That’s not the case, but the fact that I had to check it says it all!
So, does Ruined King deserve to be called League of Legends? Yes, of course!