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%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;s base and attacking anything in their path wearing the wrong colours. With these constants, it%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;s base skills %26ndash; which level up as enemies are offed %26ndash; 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 %26ndash; established RPG tropes such as %26lsquo;tank%26rsquo; and %26lsquo;mage%26rsquo; %26ndash; but vague descriptions or seemingly conflicting areas of focus can make it tough to get a quick read on them.
If you%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;s so crammed with heroes and items, combinations are near-impossible to exhaust. It also brings a meta-game where your account is a %26ldquo;character%26rdquo; that levels up, adding a whole new layer to the strategy of the DotA formula.
For players new to DotA, it%26rsquo;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