Beginner’s Guide to League of Legends
Want to try one of the biggest games in the world? Uncertain how to start? Read our handy guide for all you need to know to prep you for the exciting, competitive fantasy world that is League of Legends.
There are a lot of multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) out there – Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2), Heroes of the Storm, Smite and Arena of Valor among them – but it’s League of Legends that rules. Released in 2009 by Riot Games, by 2011 it already had 11.5 million players per month. Fast forward to 2018 and that figure’s risen to more than 100 million monthly active players worldwide. It’s massive, one of the biggest games in the world.
But what is League of Legends? Indeed, what’s a MOBA? Well, for starters a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) is a team-based real-time strategy game. There are elements of RPG, with player characters levelling up and acquiring new abilities, and even elements of action games due to the sheer dynamic nature of the combat.
No Laughing Matter
League of Legends is abbreviated as LoL, but it’s no laughing matter. Not only is League of Legends one of the biggest games in the world, it’s big business in e-sports. With their team-based gameplay, MOBAs lend themselves perfectly to competitive action. There have been professional LoL tournaments since 2011 and in that time total prize money has reached around U$30 million.
As with many games, the basic concept of League of Legends is simple, but actually playing the game, learning the details of the mechanics and achieving any sort of mastery isn’t. As it’s a competitive team-based game, the pressure is on from the moment you start. Luckily, these days Riot does provide a tutorial to educate and encourage new players before you start working your way up to the more competitive stuff.
Each time you start a game you create a player character called a champion and enter the maps, where you control your character from a 3D perspective. The most popular game map is called Summoner’s Rift, another is called the Howling Abyss and it’s here that new players do the tutorial. Before things get too serious, you can even play against AI, then can join real games, initially via automated Normal Matchmaking and, after the significant level 30, via Ranked Matchmaking, when things get properly competitive.
Choose Your Champion
There are around 140 champions in the game, but they fall into certain types, categories that will be familiar to anyone who’s played a fantasy RPG. Different classes have varying damage and defence characteristics. For example, marksmen have strong ranged physical attacks but have weak defences – or in technical parlance, they’re squishy. Mages have magic damage and crowd-control skills, but they’re also squishy. Assassins are highly mobile melee fighters, striking quickly against squishier targets before beating hasting retreats to avoid taking damage.
Tanks, on the other hand, get right into the thick of it, taking damage and purposefully becoming a target, while not dealing much melee damage themselves. Fighters can both take and deal damage but their short range and mobility are their weaknesses. Support champions handle healing, crowd control and amplifying their allies’ power with buffs, although they’re weak alone and are susceptible to damage.
Working together is key to the strategy of League of Legend matches, as champions’ various characteristics are inter-reliant. A tank champion can take the damage but would need a damage dealer like a marksman or mage to actually kill the foe. As with so many video games, there are elements that can be traced back to ancient games like chess, or paper, scissors, stone.
That’s the basic gameplay mechanic, with your teams of five players spawning (and respawning when you die) at a safe-ish place called the Fountain before heading out into the map. Each map has an objective, and teams must work together not only to defeat the enemy players but also reach that objective. In Summoner’s Rift, that means destroying the Nexus, a structure found in the enemy base. Destroying the Nexus ends the match, usually within an hour. But there are further complications.
Summoner’s Rift is a jungle with three paths through it. Along these paths you’ll not only encounter enemies, but also AI enemy minions and the native wildlife, jungle monsters. There are also structures such as turrets that deal damage. Destroying them deals experience points (XP). You also gain XP from killing enemy champions, enemy minions and monsters, and from assisting in a kill. XP is as important here as in an RPG as, yes, you do level up your champions, making them more powerful, unlocking abilities.
You can also gain an edge from buying items from the shop with gold, the in-game currency. You start with some gold, accrue it passively, and also gain it from various other means, like kills and damaging structures. Items and levelling up give you differing skills and spells, depending on the type of champion you’re playing. If it gets complicated, the game gives recommendations, so you’ll gain confidence and knowledge even if you’re still overwhelmed and confused. Thankfully, the ranking and matchmaking
systems place you in matches where you fight players with similar skill levels.
Try it and you’ll soon see why League of Legends is such a world-conquering game, a cultural and e-sports phenomenon. As Riot says itself, you basically ‘get money, buy stuff, and wreck [the enemy] base, all the while battling a team of opponents trying to do the exact same things to you.’
It’s fast, feisty, and ever-changing. Riot has a policy of improving its games, rather than rushing to churn sequels, so League of Legends is continually being improved. New champions are added and even the backstory is revised to fit in with the game’s expansion.
Oh, and although it’s free-to-play, too. You can buy in-game items – Riot isn’t a charity, after all – such as Riot Points (RPs), which you can then use to buy skins, emotes and even champions. You can’t buy items to make you invincible, but you can buy XP boosts or the option to jump straight to level 30. The main way to enjoy, and hopefully win, League of Legends remains playing it, practising and mastering it. Download it for free, try it, and see what works best for you.