If you have any interest in the gaming community, you might’ve heard about the biggest Free to Play game out there, League of Legends. There are over a hundred champions, all with different abilities, lore, designs, and much more. As League ages, there’s been a problem rising in Riot’s design philosophy with champions.
I think let’s start with my favorite champions design wise and what they do right as a whole. This helps set a baseline what I’m looking for and what ideas I liked the most. So, let’s start with ZAC!
Zac is just a giant blob of goo that’s come to life. His basic premise is simple, goofy, and his kit shows it well. Even as a tank, Zac’s entire kit just feels good to use and is fun to play with. His E especially, which let’s him launch himself at the enemy team while saying “WOOOOOOOOHOO”. He’s one of the champions I always found myself laughing at, and balance wise he’s always been in a solid spot. Sometimes he’d be too strong or too weak, but he’s always been one of the most balanced champions in League.
Nunu & Willump are the dynamic duo of just pure wholesomeness. This is coming from someone who played a lot of the old Nunu before he was reworked, and I think this is one of the best champions Riot has made. Their lore is amazing (I recommend giving it a read.) and in terms of design, it just works. Even though as of recently people are complaining about Nunu being too broken, I think it’s just a numbers issue, rather than an actual flaw in their design. I mean, the idea of just rolling a giant snowball into someone’s lane is simple, but is extremely fun to play with.
Bard, the Wandering Caretaker. When I was first new to this game, Bard was the first champion I started to main simply due to how unique his kit worked. Bard is essentially the protector of all, maintaining balance and order throughout not just the world but the galaxies. People can’t quite understand what he says, since instead of words he speaks as instruments. His abilities, his playstyle, and design are all so well done. His kit is not easy as well, with his ultimate either winning or losing you the game, and a poorly placed portal could lead your team to death.
Now, let’s talk about what I hate about League of Legends. I won’t be talking about Yone or Lilia, since Yone isn’t released yet and Lilia I haven’t played against enough to really understand her design. I think the first champion I should discuss is one that’s universally hated by all League players, Aphelios.
I think Aphelios was an interesting attempt at something new and unique, since he brought many new mechanics to the board. For starters, instead of upgrading abilities, Aphelios would instead upgrade his own stats, gaining armor pen, attack speed, and attack damage. This is partly due to how his abilities work. Aphelios has only two abilities, but their effects change depending on which guns he has. Without going too in-depth on what they do, let’s just say it’s a lot.
Now, I’m down for complex champions with a lot of information stored into them, but I think a core problem Aphelios faces is what the heck is the design of his guns? Zigg’s Q is a short cooldown, relatively average mana cost, poke ability that can be really hard to hit. Veigar cage has an absurdly long cooldown even with 45% CDR giving you an opportunity to kill him. (Rightfully so, it’s no doubt one of the strongest abilities in the game.) Aphelios’ guns is just, MORE DAMAGE, MORE AOE, MORE SUSTAIN, MORE RANGE, MORE CROWD CONTROL.
People say that his kit is complex but it really isn’t. Each gun is defined by exactly that. So, when you give an ADC access to so many ways of benefiting himself, it makes sense why Aphelios is going to be the worst thing to fight in existence. He has a gun for every scenario. There isn’t that large of a downside to his unique “ammo” mechanic when only one gun, Gravitum, is considered bad, and it’s not even the worst thing ever. So if I’m fighting a hyper carry that can either outrange me, outsustain me, have more damage than me, or one shot my entire team with one ability. What the heck am I supposed to do?
There’s a big reason why this champion is made fun of for Riot stating they have “200+ collective years of game development” because his kit is painstakingly simple, just overloaded. There’s no depth to his weapons. Just cause it has a lot of text and it does a lot of things doesn’t make it “interesting”. It just means they do a lot.
I’d talk about Yuumi, but Riot has made a post on Yuumi’s problems.. so. https://euw.leagueoflegends.com/en-gb/news/dev/ask-riot-delete-yuumi/
So Riot, more does not mean depth. Just cause you cram everything into someone doesn’t make them a high skill cap champion. Yes, high skill cap champs tend to be “overloaded”, but usually there’s a downside that forces them to stay “high skill cap”. Like Vayne despite being a tank buster, her short range forces her to play extremely smart with positioning and having a better reaction time to dodge skillshots.
Now I want to give a short portion of this article to talk about Mages, and why I hate everything Riot has been doing to them. Let’s start with Aurelion Sol. He was one of the most unique champions in League. Despite being a mage, he had an interesting playstyle where you’d constantly re-position yourself to make sure his stars are hitting as many people as possible. Riot decides, “Yes.” So they give him movement speed on his W, make it an ability on a cooldown, and makes it deal more burst damage rather than his idea as a constant DPS mage. Why?
Taliyah, she was a battle mage that played around her worked ground. Ensuring she’s always in an optimal spot, and if in a bad position tries to utilize her passive to get around the map faster. Now? She uses E W and one shots you. Maybe her spamming her Q while running away from you wasn’t the most fun, but it’s not like you have to chase her. She’s shifted from this unique midlaner to a one shot mage assassin in the jungle. We already have Nidalee and Evelynn for that.
Sylas was a unique AP bruiser focusing on long fights. He’d sustain and shield, dealing constant damage using interesting combos and auto cancels. Let’s throw that all away, no shield, no auto cancels, just make him a burst mage. Now he gets to one shot you while healing more than half his health. What is Riot’s obsession with making unique mages into burst mages? Not every mage has to 100-0 you with one rotation unless you’re a tank.
Riot has taken a lot of interesting approaches with champions. They try to make something unique and interesting, and ruin champions who ARE unique by making them into standard burst mages. They try to focus too much on what makes a champion fun, not “Oh is this going to be fun to play against?” Unless Riot changes their design philosophy, many champions will lose their identities, and many new champions won’t ever be fun to play against.