League of Legends: Free, Addictive, Awesome!

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League of Legends (known as LoL), developed by Riot Games is a 3D fantasy game that is very much similar to Warcraft 3’s mod Defense of the Ancients (DoTA) or Heroes of Newerth (HoN).  If you have played any of those, you will be able to quickly familiarize yourself with League of Legends, at least when we compare it to the actual game play.  Those unsure of how this genre works should most definitely take advantage of a the games tutorial after starting up your account the first time because as easy as it is to catch on to League of Legends, it is quite difficult to master and the tutorial will give you the basic information you need.  The first thing you need to know (and what most people playing struggle with grasping) is that League of Legends is a TEAM game.  You will not win your battle without strong communication from your teammates.

The fastest way to get started is by downloading the game client.  Once completed, you create your profile and log on for your first time.  Without hesitation you will be prompted to play the game’s tutorial;  say yes, even if you have played Hon or DoTA before.  Now that you have completed the game’s tutorial, you can get started instantly in some real games by simply pressing the big “PLAY” button on the top of the screen then selecting the option to go into battle solo.  Those of you who may have some friends that play can also pre-arrange a team at this same time as well.  Finding a game to play in is relatively short.  During peak times, once you click play, you can usually get into a game within a few seconds.

Once a game is found and you are thrown into the pre-game lobby, you will have 1 minute and 30 seconds to select a champion you wish to play, two summoner spells, and a page of runes.  League of Legends has more than 70 champions to choose from up to date (more being added bi-weekly), all which are unique in their own way.  Each champion has 4 primary skills (3 abilites and 1 ultimate move) and also a unique passive ability.  If you are new to the game, I strongly suggest picking a champion that is tagged as “recommended” because they are the easiest ones to play.  There are eight of those total and if you want my personal suggestion, pick Ashe or Tristana first.  Learn to play the game with them and then move to different champions once you get the hang of things.  The only way you can completely master this game is by knowing what each and every champions is capable of and knowing how to counter them.  As scary as it may sound to learn the abilities of more than 70 champions, it’s really not all that hard with regular amounts of game play.  To not overwhelm your selection of your first champion, there are only a select few that are playable right away.  The rest of to be eventually “bought” with the in game currency known as “influence points” which are earned from playing  games (win or lose).

Summoner spells and Runes are very important to consider when starting a game. Summoner spells are two additional skills that a player can go into battle with.  These spells do not get leveled up throughout the game and usually have a long cool down associated with them.  These spells vary from teleporting across the map to giving you a brief boost of run speed.  Once the game starts, these can not be changed – but you can always change them before a new game starts.  Runes add another layer of customization to a game.  In the pre-game lobby, you may choose a set of runes to equip on your champion that will essentially boost your champion’s potential.  These vary from giving you additional attack speed, cool down reduction, more health and mana regeneration, plus many, many more.  New players do not start with runes as these are something you must purchase with the in game currency.

Once you select your champion, summoner spells and runes, the game will begin.  League of Legends is a 5v5 game, remember that, you can not win a game by yourself.  When the game begins you start at level 1 and your maximum level is 18.  The objective is simple: destroy the enemies base before they destroy yours.  One thing to keep in mind is that each individual game is not persistent to the next; when you begin a new game, everyone selects a new champion and starts back at level 1.  The way to level up during the match is to kill enemy minions and also enemy champions.  Each level earned will increase your champions’ attributes, as well as provide you with a skill point.  These points are spent on learning/improving one of your four unique abilities.  Make sure you read what the ability does and understand what its use is before you go blindly picking which abilities to level up.  An average game lasts 30 – 60 minutes and its important that you have time to finish a game before you start it because leaving in the middle of the game will imbalance it and ruin the game for everyone else.

Another crucial part of each match is the in game item shop. The store is very easy to navigate as everything is nicely categorized into five different sections – Defense, Attack, Magic, Movement and Consumables.  You purchase different items with gold that you earn during the game.  There are numerous ways to earn gold but the most common way is by “last hitting” enemy minions – basically getting the killing blow on them. Killing enemy champions will give you the biggest source for gold, but definitely not the easiest route by any means.  Since every champion is very different from another, some items will work better than others.  For example, it would not make sense to purchase a sword that boosts your physical damage by +45 attack damage when you are playing a caster who gains benefits from ability power.  Luckily, it isn’t hard to choose the wrong items because the game displays a list of recommended items for your champion on the front page of the store.

The more matches you play in League of Legends, the more experienced you as a “summoner” becomes.  Every level outside an actual match will grant you a single “mastery” point, which can be spent in the masteries tab.  Masteries are basically enhancements which will effect a champion’s attributes in game.  Think of them as ”talent points” that you would see in World of Warcraft.  They are account wide, so it does not matter which champion you select, they will always receive these bonuses.  The three skill trees that you will find in the mastery tab are Offense, Defense, and Utility.  For example, a mastery you would find in the Offense skill tree would be ‘Deadliness’.  Every point spent here would grant your champion an extra 0.66% critical strike rating.  The best thing about the masteries is that you can always change where you want your points.  Some champions work better if you place most of your points in the defense tree as opposed to the offense tree.  You can, like summoner spells and runes, change these points before each game.

The only downside to League of Legends is the fact that is extremely difficult to master.  You can get a good handle on how things work in an hour or two; but to truly master this game can take years.  Don’t get discouraged if you get matched with someone who has a lot more games under their belt and oyu get compeltely demolished, brush it off and try again.  However, the game does have a match making system in play where each time you start a match it will attempt to pair you up with opponents of equal skill.  The hardest thing for most players is memorizing what every champion’s abilities are and knowing how to counter them with the champion you selected.  Especially when a new one gets released every two weeks.

League of Legends is a wonderfully developed free-to-play DoTA style game that truly never gets old.  With the cel-shaded graphics and the huge selection of champions and the nearly limitless customization options, League of Legends is the best free-to-play game out there.  The game will most definitely keep you coming back over and over again.  Keep in mind, like all games, League of Legends may not appeal to everyone, but if you have played DoTA or HoN in the past I highly recommend you give this a shot.  Did I mention, it’s free?

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