My whole family plays League of Legends. Reluctantly, I’ll admit that my son is the best player in our family, with me a close second. My daughter is significantly better than my wife Sarah, which causes Sarah no end of frustration. Sarah’s good at everything normally, and she may be a weeeeeee bit competitive.
So, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday and lots of family time, I am now level 21. That sounds awfully close to 30 (when the ranked games start and a visible sign that I’m not a noob), but co-workers tell me that level 22 is the halfway mark to 30 based on experience needed and time commitment. As I said in my last post, this game is hard to master. After a six-game winning streak, I’m currently riding a five-game losing streak. This week I got completely owned by Poppy top lane. Poppy! Aargh. It’s humbling.
Which brings me to my topic for today. I want to talk about my biggest conundrum in League right now: Which Champion to play.
Darius, the Hand of Noxus
Working at Riot, one of the most common questions you get asked is “Who do you play?” which sometimes comes in the form of “Who’s your main?” or “Who’s your champ?” There are over 120 Champions to play in League, and each is more or less balanced in terms of power and ability to win. What seems to be true is that your main Champion is an expression of your identity. People choose Champions for all sorts of reasons—how they play in-game, what role they’re best at, aesthetic and being visually cool, an awesome ability or two, etc. Think of selecting a Champion as equivalent to selecting a shirt to wear.
It’s easy to switch Champions. At any time ten are completely free to play, which rotates weekly. Buying a Champion permanently isn’t a huge investment. Like shirts, though, most players have a set of favorites and, at any one time, a “main” he or she plays more than others.
My main for the past two months has been Darius, an axe-wielding bruiser from the militaristic region of Noxus. Watch this trailer (mostly because it’s friggin’ awesome), and you’ll get a sense of Darius. What’s cool is that Darius is one of the main characters in the trailer, though admittedly he’s pretty grumpy through the whole thing. I’ve played a lot of different Champions, and for whatever reason I “get” how to play Darius. I know when to swing his axe in a circle, when to pull people close to me, and above all when to jump through the air to take out opposing players with my ultimate (or “ult”) ability. All of my best games in League have come playing Darius. It’s who I play when I want to feel semi-competent.
The problem is, I don’t like Darius. He’s a big dude with an axe. I like superheroes, and even better than Superman and Wonder Woman are the X-Men. I like mutants with freaky-weird powers that are innate. Sure, Darius is strong and can leap like a kangaroo every now and again, but that doesn’t feel up to mutant standards. Put another way, Darius scratches my Dungeons & Dragons itch more than my Avengers itch. Both are itches I need to scratch, but wow is the superhero itch stronger than the traditional fantasy one. (and honestly, I’d play a paladin or a ranger more than a straight fighter)
Of course, the other problem is that Darius is a grade-A jerk. Don’t get me wrong… He’s a well-formed, Lawful Evil Fighter (to keep up my D&D reference) with a lot of personality. The reason he shows up in so many places like the trailer is because he’s bad-ass and cool. And his Dunkmaster skin is both fun (you hit people with a ripped-out basketball hoop instead of an axe) and hilarious. Here are some in-game quotes when playing that skin:
“The real athlete is on the court. You can leave now.”
“There’s no “I” in team. But there is one in Darius.”
“Don’t hate the game. Hate yourself.”
“If there isn’t any dunking, it isn’t a sport.”
Funny, right? There is at least one moment in every game playing the Dunkmaster that I crack up. But still, it’s not me. I don’t have any “bad guy” fantasies. I’m not great at basketball. I… I want to fight crime. For truth. And justice. And mutantkind. And… and with… with… spandex.
But alas. Here I am. Seemingly stuck with Darius. Sad panda.
Champions, Champions Everywhere…
I’m not totally useless outside of my frenemy Darius, though. It turns out that I’m semi-unterrible with Xin Zhao…
…who is a guy with a spear. He’s noble, at least. But still no superhero. Dang.
My first Champion was Volibear, a huge freaking polar bear who can call lightning. He, so far, is the closest thing I’ve gotten to the feel I want, though obviously he’s still a ways from being in spandex.
You know who REALLY feels like a mutant from X-Men?! You know who is my favorite Champion, aesthetically? Zac, baby. I love me some squishy, stretchy, mutant superhero goodness! Unfortunately, I stink at playing Zac. Truly. Every once in a while I try again, usually against Beginner Bots. I just can’t seem to get Zac to do anything. I can probably get a lot better with repetition and seeking out other people who play him well, but my sense so far is that some Champions just “click” with players in game more than others. Darius and I clicked. Zac and I, not so much.
Here’s what I’ve figured out through twenty-one levels of League: Aesthetic matters to me, the more mutant the better. Strangely—and I honestly don’t know why—I’m not attracted to the characters from Shurima. I play melee Champions, because I like being close to the action, but I also like Champions who can do a fair amount of damage. I’m most comfortable in top lane, and the jungle is a foreign place for me. Egads, I’m still such a noob!
At Riot Games, any Rioter can submit new Champion ideas. The Riot Champs team, if they like any part of the proposal, will invite the Rioter to do a pitch to the team. You better believe that I’m submitting Champion ideas that fit with my particular, quirky preferences. And if I ever get a “call back,” you also better believe that I’m going to babble excitedly here.
For now, though, who do I play? Who?!?!?
Warwick, Trundle, WuKong, Dr. Mundo, Scion, Vi, Hecarim, Udyr, Rengar, Shaco, Evelyn, Nidalee? That’s the list I’ve managed so far. Some are more mutant-y. Some are more superhero-y. Some are more villain-y, but still of comic book vintage. I’ll slowly make my way through playing them and hope for a match. If you play League and have suggestions based on my preferences, I’m all ears.
For now… C’mere Darius. Let’s go get swing that axe around.
[UPDATE: Patch 4.21 just came out, with Zac getting buffed. All is not lost!]