Other Take

League of Legends - Retail Launch Review

  • Game release: October 27, 2009
  • Reviewed: November 9, 2009
  • PC

Offers only a fraction of what you should expect from a retail product.

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Kevin VanOrd loves strategy games, RPGs, and MOBAs, and he spent many dozens of hours playing League of Legends during its launch window. Kevin's original review of League of Legends was published back when GameSpot only reviewed retail games, and he was disappointed in the boxed offering. He's glad that LoL's free-to-play model helped it become an international hit, but fears leaping back into the fray lest he be accused of feeding.

Have you ever had the feeling that you paid good money for a game that's still in the beta-testing stage? As of this writing, if you buy the $29.99 retail edition of League of Legends: Clash of Fates, you are paying for features that you receive not now, but later. For now, what you get in the retail box is exactly the same as the freely downloadable version, which is a sparse package. Yet you shouldn't dismiss League of Legends outright, for while it clearly appeared on store shelves before it should have, you'll still get enjoyment from this fast-paced strategy game. If you've played the immensely popular Warcraft III modification Defense of the Ancients, you'll already have a basic understanding of what League of Legends offers: an addictive team-based experience that never plays the same way twice. It's a good thing matches are a total blast, given the number of not-yet-implemented features. Developer Riot Games promises these features are coming, but for now, be aware that what you're paying for is highly entertaining but not yet a complete game.

Matches can last up to an hour or more, but they remain fun from start to finish.

League of Legends is easy to learn, though this isn't to say that newcomers will immediately grasp every nuance. At the start of each match, you choose a champion, join a team of up to five players, and set out to destroy the opposing team's central structure, which is called the nexus. However, your real-life foes are not the only obstacle to becoming a true legend: The routes that lead to the enemy's nexus are defended by powerful turrets that are quick to dispatch you if you let your guard down for even a moment. This is where minions come in. A stream of AI-controlled units is frequently released from your base, and by assisting their charge down their predetermined lanes, you can more easily take down the towers--and players--that stand in your way. The click-heavy, Diablo-esque gameplay is simple enough, but the subtleties take time to master. You'll need to learn how to use minions to your advantage, when to push the lane (that is, aggressively charge forward) and when to pull back, and how to best utilize the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen champion. Matches are tense and exciting because there is little to no downtime. The action is quick to get started and the opposition isn't about to let up, so be ready to give each match your full focus.

Successfully fending off an attack means more than just frantically clicking on your enemies. Your champion levels up during the match, and in turn, you earn and improve your four primary skills (you also have a fifth passive ability). These skills determine the role your chosen champion plays during the match. Corki, a mustachioed gnome that flits about in a gyrocopter, is good for crowd control, enhancing his ranged fire with additional machine-gun rounds and area-of-effect attacks. Annie is a creepy little girl who flings fireballs at targets and summons her pet bear to assist in battle. While champions don't have the varied skill trees featured in Demigod, a similar Defense of the Ancients-inspired game, the large number of characters offers more general diversity, and almost all of them are great fun to play. Further diversity comes from the in-game item store, where you can spend gold you earn during the match on equipment and consumables that improve your health regeneration, enhance damage resistance, improve your speed, and much more. If you're confused by the number of items available, don't worry: The game offers smart suggestions based on the champion you choose.

You can practice offline, but the lackluster AI won't put up a challenge.

League of Legends is a multiplayer-focused game. You can practice offline, but even new players aren't apt to be challenged by the pushover AI, which comes in only two difficulty levels: noob and easy. You'll want to join online games as soon as you can, and the matchmaking option lets you find other players who are theoretically around your level of ability. Yet even during your initial games, you're likely to face experienced players who are familiar with the formula's subtleties and are not afraid of vocalizing displeasure with a teammate's performance in--er--profane ways. Thankfully, if you've never tasted this particular game recipe, a tutorial level will introduce you to the basics, including one of League of Legends' unique additions: brush. You can hide in brush to conceal yourself from enemies, and good teams will use it to set up effective ambushes. Like Demigod, League of Legends does not feature any kind of single-player campaign, but online play is buttery smooth and finding a match is quick and easy.

League of Legends' core gameplay is an excellent take on a formula that's growing in popularity. However, the retail product is not a good value--at least, not yet. The game is freely downloadable, and a player store (not to be confused with the in-match item store) is set to go live later this month. At the store, you will be able to purchase champions and champion skins, as well as runes, which can be slotted in a rune book to further enhance your battle potency. The retail box includes 20 champions unlocked from the start, four runes, and $10 in store credit--$10 that you can't yet spend. Right now, the lack of a store means that the rune book is unusable, and because all 40 champions are temporarily available for the initial launch period, the value of the retail box is based around future features, which is a questionable and confusing pricing strategy.

Much of League of Legends' value, in theory, will stem from the so-called "metagame." Players, known as summoners, will level up and earn points to spend in the player store (again, features not to be confused with the leveling and purchasing performed during matches). The value this metagame will offer, however, is unknown. Due to the store's absence, the only metagame benefits to leveling up are points that can be spent on masteries, which are universal branching perks similar to talent trees in online role-playing games. In other words, if you buy League of Legends now, you're buying a game that is effectively still in beta testing. The slim selection of maps further makes League of Legends feel stripped down. While the map selection screen makes it clear that more arenas are planned, there are currently only two maps on which to play, though one of them comes in two varieties--summer and winter. The other arena is still labeled as a beta map, and is not available in matchmaking play, only in offline and hosted matches.

Get used to this map: you'll be seeing a lot of it.

At least Defense of the Ancients refugees will feel at home on those few maps, which are obviously inspired by Warcraft III's colorful art design. League of Legends is a good-looking game, not because it pushes the capabilities of modern graphics cards, but because its vivid color palette and stylized environments jump right off the screen. Exaggerated animations give champions a lot of personality, while spell effects are vibrant without being distracting. Most importantly, the game runs smoothly and maintains a consistently high frame rate. The cartoonish look is further enhanced by hammy--and only occasionally annoying--champion quips, along with fitting sound effects and music cues.

In its current form, League of Legends' patchwork of features has yet to be stitched into a finished product. The clear focus and passion of the development team have instilled a lot of faith within the game's dedicated community, but in this case, promises come with a price tag. Taken on its own terms, League of Legends is a rousing and addictive skeleton of a game that isn't yet ready for prime time.

Editor's Note: The preceding review is based exclusively on the League of Legends "Collector's Pack" being sold at retail. A free version of the game can be downloaded from the official League of Legends Website.

The Good
Fun and addictive gameplay
Lots of different heroes and a ton of ways to customize them
Smooth online play
The Bad
Multiple features have yet to go live
Too few arenas
Easy AI means there is no reason to practice offline
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for League of Legends

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd loves strategy games, RPGs, and MOBAs, and he spent many dozens of hours playing League of Legends during its launch window. Kevin's original review of League of Legends was published back when GameSpot only reviewed retail games, and he was disappointed in the boxed offering. He's glad that LoL's free-to-play model helped it become an international hit, but fears leaping back into the fray lest he be accused of feeding.

Discussion

109 comments
Prats1993
Prats1993

Still a shit game. Play DOTA 2 instead.

Wladxq
Wladxq

good and fair review! we love you kevin! 

ravenpl7
ravenpl7

November 9, 2009?

This review is OUTDATED FOR 3 YEARS ;)

advocacy
advocacy

The League of Legends community is filled with friendly, sympathetic individuals that will gently guide new players into understanding the complexities of this highly competitive game.  You will definitely not be screamed at, cursed, or insulted in any way if you enter the game without any experience. - From Internet Explorer, written 2009

Bellyspeak
Bellyspeak

BAD review. Have you even played LOL before you gave a review? @.@


Tomsha
Tomsha

He must be eating his hat, Mr. senior editor.

It's the most popular game in the world.

ChaosUndivided
ChaosUndivided

Just got LoL and Dota 2 at same time. LoL is a much better game. One of the main reasons is it's not full of trolls who can't play yet abuse others. Other then that the games are practically identical with Dota2 having better graphics.

salqadri
salqadri

A 6.0! Wow. I've played a lot of games in my life, but none has ever been as addicting for me as League of Legends. I have played a lot of DOTA before LoL, and some DOTA 2 during its beta, and I must say, I found LoL to be MUCH more fun. I am literally shocked at the rating, because for me, it was as addictive as Civilization II. Its the truth.

SchwarzerRitter
SchwarzerRitter

If u start with LOL you gonna like LOL more and if started with dota 2 you will like dota 2 more. It´s as simple as that.

KHE3HC
KHE3HC

Now after i spent hours playing (learning items etc...) Dota 2, i love LOL even more... What a disappointing time waster Dota 2 is. Except for Original Dota fanatics i suppose ;) And PLEASE review League of Legends again. Thank You.

samsungx360
samsungx360

League is short and repetitive. I bet Dota 2 isn't :)) . And I also bet Dota 2 has more arenas than league.

wongph
wongph

Dota 2 review is out

LoneCzar
LoneCzar

trying to get into this game is like trying to get through airport security with a gun, its completely different from any other games that ive come to love, it has absolutely nothing good to offer onlycheap gameplay, poor combat mechanics and a sloppy system of balance, for some of the playable characters are definitely more powerful than others which is unfair. 2.5/10

ConciliarAxis
ConciliarAxis

They really should update the review and that awful 6.0

Cat_Astrophy
Cat_Astrophy

typical gamespot score for good games...giving shit games high scores...this game was better than HoN out the gate...if this is your most popular game you should be updating this you unprofessional POSs

jerusaelem
jerusaelem

OMG! Plz RE-review this three and a half year old game to validate my current opinions on it! The Vortruvian doom cricket that has taken residence in my brain has informed me through increasingly threatening whispers that should you replace the original number in your review with a slightly HIGHER arbitrary number(say 7.5 or so), he'll stop making me set fires and scream mythologically inspired racial profanity at passing airplanes. I simply will not be at peace until you've atoned for such a grave injustice! Perhaps if you'd wait a good two to three years for extensive patching and updates before reviewing games, you wouldn't have made such a complete fool of yourself...YOU HAIRY NECKED, COW FACED LANYRINTH MONKEY! 

...that last bit wasn't for you. A cessna flew over the house. Where was I? Oh right! And THAT'S why I think the emperor of France is actually a lizard person. The end.


sahar90900
sahar90900

This game is really good and adictive , it gives new members in DOTA games an easy way to learn how to play , because WC3 dota and DotA 2 aren't really new player friendly .

i think this game deserves 7.5 because it's a great game and really addictive but it also have alot of bugs and lag problems , and a really doll managment , you can see tons of trolls every game and it really destroys the game . 

raheel134
raheel134

gamespot should reconsider this score. This game is completely different now  it deserves 9.

rsfarmer0928
rsfarmer0928

This game is good and easy to learn, I like it!

saadomar90
saadomar90

This thing does not need an update. The game is as repetitive as ever, new champions really dont change much, u can't have a single skin other than the original for free. Each skin costs far too much for a novelty item, and there is barely any variety in maps bar the seasonal changes (which are small). Horrible game, deserves the terrible rating. 

andrescapo_
andrescapo_

This review needs a serious update...

ricardofs
ricardofs

please rework on this review. thank you.

Detriiment
Detriiment

@Tomsha Basically this.  Kevin's reviews are usually pretty good, but this one is just complete trash.  I mean, he reviewed this game while it was still in the beta stage.  WTF did you expect.

Most played/most popular game in the world, biggest game in eSports, and it probably generates half of the traffic to this site, for its LoL esports interviews.

Kevin, you royally fucked up on this one.  Lol.

KleenexK
KleenexK

@SchwarzerRitter I started with LoL, moved to HoN, moved to Dota 2. I think all games are good in their own right but I think Dota 2 is more dynamic and diverse in terms of items, heroes, possible tactics, etc. But don't get me wrong, LoL isn't 'easier' or less fun. I still enjoy a game of LoL here and there but I really like Dota 2 at the moment. It's more interesting to me, especially when it comes to watching the competitive scene. It really does show it is a very complex game.

shellmon
shellmon

@samsungx360 Then you found out that DotA 2's game can be shorter than League's and has less arenas than League :P

Saidrex
Saidrex

@Cat_Astrophy nah, this makes no sense because this game is crap, so your statement is incorrect

Millard11
Millard11

@Cat_Astrophy Look at the date of when the review was written as well as what version of the game that was being reviewed. Why would he update a review from 2009?

Lionheart199020
Lionheart199020

@saadomar90 

1. Characters change EVERYTHING in a game like this. Say what you want about the balance, but they've at LEAST tried to innovate each champ with a different mechanic that makes them unique. This in turn creates so many game possibilities, outcomes, and strategies.


2. Skins are optional. They're not required to play the game, and they give no buffs, boosts, or unfair advantages. Don't see how that makes this a bad game. The damn game is free for Christ's sake, and I've played this more than any game I've ever played. Pretty damn good value if you ask me, even a steal some might say.

3. There's Summoner's Rift (Summer, Halloween, Winter/Christmas), Twisted Treeline, The Crystal Scar, and The Howling Abyss. 4 maps.

volc-123
volc-123

@Detriiment @Tomsha You can't be this shallow... Kevin gives bad scores all the time. You only got butthurt this time cz its your fav game. I don't blame Kevin, i blame people like you who take reviews seriously.... Reviews are personal opinions. I once did take reviews seriously and it gave me a bad time.

RAD_RADIO
RAD_RADIO

@WantYouBad @Cat_Astrophy First of all... you can't buy your way to victory in LoL. It's literally impossible. There is nothing you can buy with real money that can improve your chances during game-play.

Also, the fact these those two games are so often compared is utterly ridiculous. I've come to the conclusion that the only people that do compare them, only have any knowledge of how one of them works, and for no apparent reason despises the other.

LoL is a fast paced arena (almost Team death-match) MOBA game. You have your champions, and their items and that is it, whoever has the better team co-ordination and game-play mechanics wins. It's an incredibly fun and difficult game to master, with how quickly things progress in any given game. It's not a 'noob version' of DoTa, that's just something stupid people say.

In DotA, it's more methodical, there is much more emphasis on the RTS elements. Unlike in League, in Dota you actually have to select your champion to perform actions with it. There's much more emphasis on overall map strategy and unit control (with denying creep score  among other things) and planning rather than execution, what with trees and different map mechanics. The game even feels like it's still a MOD for an RTS like Warcraft. Not saying that's a bad thing, it was probably done like that on purpose, with sequel integrity in mind I imagine.

Simply put, they're two very different games, with two different target audiences. I for one enjoy both games, and I think comparing them in the sense that one is weaker is just a foolish thing to do.

master_zidane
master_zidane

@Millard11 @Cat_Astrophy It was wrong even for when it came out. They reviewed a 'value added' box, not the actual game. The whole review is completely out of perspective, since its not for a F2P game. The full game was available for free to everyone even then.

Tomsha
Tomsha

@SKaREO @volc-123 @Detriiment @Tomsha Guys take it easy :p

Detriiment is right. The game was in it's early stages back then. There were many problems with the game. Needless to say they were fixed and now it's a great game :)

Peace and Love to all (Kevin too <3)

3peater
3peater

@ConciliarAxis @chaulotj I'm not saying I'm a DOTA fanboy or a LoL one. But when it comes to learning curves, I personally think DOTA takes the cake on that front. League has a much larger community, but that just means you also have a larger percentage of trolls and people set out to make the game less fun (especially for new players). Granted, DOTA definitely has that too (We call those folks, Russians..).

I definitely think it's worth an 8.5

VGjunkie87
VGjunkie87

@WantYouBad League of Legends is superior to DOTA, plain and simple.  It's not a conspiracy or hype, the game is just better and more enjoyable.

poriland
poriland

@WantYouBad kiddie game with highest reward in championship in MoBA genre? Why not? That tells a lot how strong the developer and management are. It's fast growing moba game, with farious new concept, and give new experience of playing MoBA genre.

Much stronger than Valve with HoN or Valve with DoTA 2, I believe.

If you prefer to play old school style of  DoTA with no improvement except it's graphic issue in DoTA2 or HoN. go ahead. There won't be something new in those game, so I won't bother you or your opinion. 

WantYouBad
WantYouBad

@RAD_RADIO @WantYouBad @Cat_Astrophy 

So all the champions are free now, I take it then? That is much better than being limited to certain players if you don't open your wallet. So I guess that is a fix.


But sorry friend,  it is widely known that LoL is the dumbed down kiddie version of Dota.

League of Legends More Info

  • Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    League of Legends combines elements of role-playing and strategy genres with addictive battle action that brings accessible, replayable and competitive gameplay into a whimsical universe that deepens with the player's commitment.
    8.1
    Average User RatingOut of 3163 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    Riot Games
    Published by:
    TransGaming Inc., Garena, Riot Games
    Genres:
    Free-to-Play, MOBA, Strategy
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco