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League of Legends review

The creators of the WarCraft III mod-phenomenon Defense of the Ancients return to the fray


  • Tons and tons of heroes
  • Multiple maps expand the DotA formula
  • Extensive meta-game mechanics


  • Daunting barriers to entry
  • Cartoony look won't appeal to all
  • Hard to find your perfect hero

The last few years have seen Defense of the Ancients devour millions of man hours, both in its original incarnation as a WarCraft III mod, and in its refined DotA Allstars evolution. League of Legends, by the original team, is here to provide the definitive version.

It’s a multiplayer-only RTS battle between two teams. Each has its own network of auto-firing turrets, and steady streams of allied forces automatically pushing toward the foe’s base and attacking anything in their path wearing the wrong colours. With these constants, it’s up to the player to add their own variables in the form of heroes. Coming in different flavours, from ranged attack specialists to close-quarter berserkers, heroes are common in their ability to turn the tide of battle. Careful deployment of a hero’s base skills – which level up as enemies are offed – plus a sprinkling of magical attacks, can push through a defensive wave of soldiers and into opposition territory. The game ends when a home base is destroyed. Matches are thus tense push-and-pulls, massed attacks and frantic defensive struggles to break a deadlock.

With a number of different games now riffing on the Defense of the Ancients template, choosing LoL is a vote for choice over refinement. The recent Demigod attempted to condense the formula, narrowing choice and restricting the player to a smaller base of selectable characters. LoL goes the other way, throwing a mass of heroes at the player to fight in teams of five. Selecting one is a daunting prospect for newcomers, but even old hats might find it difficult without extensive trial and error to find a character that suits their favoured playing style. Each hero has a list of tags – established RPG tropes such as ‘tank’ and ‘mage’ – but vague descriptions or seemingly conflicting areas of focus can make it tough to get a quick read on them.

If you’re a committed DotA enthusiast, you can ignore a good chunk of the nit-pickery above. LoL is a comprehensive update to a compelling idea. It’s so crammed with heroes and items, combinations are near-impossible to exhaust. It also brings a meta-game where your account is a “character” that levels up, adding a whole new layer to the strategy of the DotA formula.

For players new to DotA, it’s a harder sell. League of Legends has set itself up as a final version of the original game, and assumes a level of familiarity with its concepts. It may be worth learning the ropes elsewhere before diving in, but if defending those Ancients tickles your RPG/RTS crossover gland (found in the mouse-finger), then LoL is a well-stocked playground.

Nov 5, 2009

More Info

DescriptionLeague of Legends takes the three-lane, 5v5 gameplay of Defense of the Ancients and spruces it up with crisp cartoony graphics and an enormously-high skill ceiling. To conquer this PvP, you'll need teamwork and intimate knowledge of your champion's four abilities, as well as those of your opponents.
US censor ratingTeen
UK censor rating12+
Alternative namesLeague of Legends
Release date27 October 2009 (US), 27 October 2009 (UK)
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