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League of Legends: Clash of Fates Hands On Preview

Riot Games' soon to be released title, League of Legends, is taking the Defense of the Ancients gameplay mainstream

Back in 2003, a custom game scenario called Defense of the Ancients (known by fans as DotA) was made for Warcraft 3. This modified multiplayer map basically took the game’s hero classes, and made them the core game mechanic with support from AI controlled minions. The scenario was an instant hit and within only a few years the game reached worldwide popularity. It became arguably the world’s most popular unsupported game mod, even finding its place in tournaments like the World Cyber Games. Now in 2009, developer Gas Powered Games is trying its hand at a modified version of the game marketed towards more than the mostly hardcore audience that has enjoyed it to this point.

League of Legends has taken the most popular version of the DotA scenario, DotA: Allstars, and modified various rules and game balancing aspects to make a faster, more action-oriented version of the title. Riot has partnered up with DotA talent like Steve "Guinsoo" Feak and Steve "Pendragon" Mescon, to make the title as close to the original while still making enhancements to the classic formula.

The game is in a closed beta version at this point, which I was able to play at this year's Tokyo Game Show.

Your main character in the game, the Champion, is selected from over 40 character builds. Each one sporting different unique powers and abilities that allow for every type of strategy players could want. Depending on the Champion, players can be anything from a rogue that deals damage like it’s nobody’s business, to a tank that eats damage for breakfast.

The game plays out similar to the click and cast style of World of Warcraft. It keeps the spell list down to six, which through my experience with WoW, allows players to easily improve their skills with different characters. Players get XP for killing enemy grunts, or other champions, and as players levels up during a match, they choose which of their four main skills to upgrade, giving a nice and fast paced RPG mechanic to each match. In addition to XP, players use gold from enemies to buy items that upgrade the Champion’s stats during a game.

The game also features a general level up mechanic where players will earn XP just for engaging in a match. This can be used to increase stats before another match starts.

In the version I played, the gameplay was definitely solid. Spells and attacks were fun to use and leveling up my character was always a blast. The combat is medium paced, similar to that of an RTS and proved satisfying.

The huge list of Champions is great, as I quickly found a character that matched my style of fighting. The RPG-style leveling of abilities also lent to the game’s addicting nature. Area of effect spells are as fun as ever to use, and slaughtering hundreds of minions with your maxed out Champion is an awesome feeling to say the least.

The game seems to have some serious drawbacks though, in its online aspect. League of Legends is primarily online, and all matches are head-to-head. This inevitably leads to a difficulty curve presented by the majority of players in the game, which is in short, considerably steep. Most people playing this game are veterans who have been playing DotA for years, and that definitely shows in the matches.

While the developers have tried to offer a matchmaking system so that newer players can only fight those of equal skill, my time with the game did not reveal a thoroughly working system. Nearly every question I asked in the chat resulted in the typical "noob" name calling, and winning a match was basically impossible.

The average match time is a huge issue as well, with games lasting forty-five minutes at their shortest, and hours at their longest. It will be interesting to see how this game fares with the average gamer, with it taking tens of matches to level up your player only a few times.

At this point, it looks like League of Legends is improving the DotA formula by making the gameplay more balanced and fast-paced. Hopefully the final version can ease the pain of newer and more casual players by improving matchmaking and possibly adding modes that allow for quicker games.

PixlBit will be providing a full review of the game shortly after it releases October 27.



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