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Having Fun Despite the Noobs

(Disclaimer: In my defense before some Starcraft nut decides to shoot me, I never got into SC until the last year so i missed the boat by about a decade. I apologize if i can not appreciate it for what it has done, but I do respect what it did.)

I was recently turned onto this game by my friends who were just as bored with the usual line-ups as I was. Before I begin, however, I need to stress two points:

First off, I do not like RTS games. Few exceptions to my general dislike of this genre are: Warcraft III; maybe some old Command and Conquer; Starcraft 1 was pretty bad; I disdain the Sims; and Civilizations can go to hell.

Second, this game is FREE. Free like living under an overpass. No money was paid. 

The gameplay is a variation of the usual hybrid MMORPG/RTS. The best aspect of this comes from the fact that you do not control your army. Your base has a "nexus" which continuously spawns waves of minions every few seconds. Your job is simple: control your "champion", an avatar which you choose at the beginning of the match, and turn the tide between your army and the enemies' while fighting, and hopefully defeating, the enemy champions. It is cut and dry stuff for a tower defender. The field is littered with towers that can cut your army and you, at lower levels, down with their magical barrages. Defend your towers, kill the enemies, and tear their defenses apart in order to earn gold and experience to level up. 

Where this game really shines is the detail to the champions. You have a colorful cast of characters that fill every job from the usual heavy armored tank to the magical support. There are even some champions that mix and match duties to create their own little role. Each champion is rich with detail and always unique.

The maps offer more to do than just kill the enemy champion and their minions. In the "jungle" the areas between lanes in which the minions travel there are "creeps", NPC monsters that offer gold and the occasional buffs to those strong and cunning enough to kill them. The thrill of victory is overwhelming when you crush an enemy player or when your team dominates the other, but defeat is bitter and cruel when your team is decimated and your base destroyed. The game hits all the high notes that you expect for a PVP oriented game, and mixes the elements of a fantasy based MMO.

However, the downside is learning everything in order to play the game well. Of course it takes a little time, but learning the terms, the classes, the champions, the strategies, the items can all be overwhelming to begin with. You are urged to play the tutorial which breaks you in gently, and every time you play a champion you are given a list of recommended items. The tutorial is far from everything that you need to know, especially if you're playing a character in a different fashion than the "traditional" build, but it can can be beneficial to use in order to get a feel for the mechanics of the game. You can make practice games against computer played characters, but the computers are just so piss poor easy that it really just makes it a shooting range.

You are awarded points for each match so win or lose you walk away with something for the effort. These points are used to buy new champions and runes; these runes go into a book which improve your champion's flat stats by a certain amount depending on what you buy. This sounds like a good thing, right? It isn't when all these runes are as expensive as some of the champions, and someone new will make a terrible build which doesn't benefit anyone save the person killing them.

That is not all the flaws that belittle this game. Currently there are only two modes of play; 5v5 and 3v3.This may not sound bad, but it gets bad when there are only two maps in the game, one for each game style. How exciting is that? One map to play over... and over... and over. Eventually, all the surprise wears thin and you just get jaded. Riot games has promised that more maps and game styles are on the way, but until then it is just more repetition.

New champions come out every two weeks or so which really is a good thing. The new characters are always keeping you on your toes. Some champions are so gimmicky or difficult that you just frustratedly facepalm every time you die at the hands of one or every time some newbie on your team decides to try him out without having the vaguest notion of what they are doing. I could go in depth about the community, but honestly if you have played other MMOs then you will already know about the baddies that are lurking out there. Nothing is more demoralizing than a team full of squishy characters who run around like sheep against a balanced team that knows how to coordinate their attacks. The matchmaking system will prevent any players that are top notch from joining a queue with someone who has only played two games before, but it still doesn't matter as bad players level up all the same.

In closing, the game is good. For a free experience you can't ask for anything better. It is fun, easy on the hardware, and not overly hard once you get the hang of it. It is, however, repetitious, sometimes infuriating, and unforgiving to the newcomer. I personally thought the challenge only served to interest me more rather than discourage me, but someone who plays casual games like Peggle will ultimately throw up their hands and uninstall.

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