When game developers try to create a new game, especially when it’s a populated genre, they normally try to add some twists to it to make it more interesting. Perhaps with a mix of new characters, maybe a unique battle system, or perhaps a story out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, sometimes those same creators get so caught up in adding a new spin to the genre. That they lose sight of what makes a good game to those they’re making it for. In essence, trading for nice, flashy, shiny, things in games rather than making enriching, substantial content within it.
Airship Syndicate shows that they were aware of this issue. Also, given their past body of work, Riot had decided that they’re a fitting studio to pick up the League of Legends universe and have it take on the form of a single-player RPG. They made sure that it has what a good RPG should have, and not just have the bare bones to make it pass as one. The Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, features two of the many regions of Runeterra, Shadow Isles and Bilgewater. In it, we watch the journey of 6 champions as they take on a quest to protect the people around them. By limiting the scope of what they include from the vast League of Legends universe. They were able to create an experience that didn’t only feel dense in content but also cohesive as a story you would follow.
So let me tell you how the isometric adventure was in detail, as I review this commendable venture of Riot to bring their world and characters to more people who wince at the idea of playing another 5 v 5 MOBA game.
Production (3 / 5)
Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, which I’ll just call Ruined King from this point, doesn’t really try to make its graphics or presentation all that flashy. Something I’m willing to give concessions to, considering this was being played on the Nintendo Switch. The maps you get to wander in are still quite intricate despite the hardware limitations. Towns are populated with people walking around and trying to go about their day, some environmental touches are placed to create a better atmosphere for the game. However. This can only go so far with the limited isometric view and the generic, basic-looking models and textures all around. When it comes to actual battles, the models are fully realized and animate much better, so it does make up for it in that respect.
The UI honestly looks like it’s using something I’d call ‘developer assets.’ Particularly with text prompts. I think this area could have used some touching up or at least done a little better in terms of how the text, icons, and menus are laid out. But at the very least they make pretty much cover all the info you need to know at a glance, which is the most important part. I wish I could say the same about the map browsing, I had a bit of a rough time figuring out where to go to finish several quests.
The audio side of this game is pretty top tier, in my opinion. There are plenty of voice lines, which are also available in multiple languages. Yes, you can bet I tried to see what it sounded like with Japanese voices, which I enjoyed. I later switched it to back English dub though, since it somehow felt more natural for me to keep it that way. The low-key star of the show here is the OST, which sports a huge variety of themes, tones, and genres. From the bustling bars of Bilgewater to the ominous chambers of Shadow Isles, and even the tense back and forth of fighting Bosses, there appeared to be a matching theme for every situation in Ruined King.
Mechanics (4 / 5)
In terms of how the battles work, it’s a standard-fare RPG. You get up to three party members fighting on one side and whatever you’re fighting is on the other side. Where you all take turns on what to do.
What’s different here is the use of the 3-lane system. Which I suppose is their way of placing something related to the original MOBA game. Instead of everyone moving along the same timeline while in combat, you can modify your special abilities by placing them on two other lanes. By going into the speed lane, you act faster but lose power, and vice versa by going into the power lane. Mainly, you’ll be using this to adjust the timing of your skills to better suit you in battle. But there will also be points where using these functions will be specifically needed. So yes, inspecting descriptions in battle and having a certain level of reading comprehension will be needed.
Apart from that, there would be several ways to customize each character you have at hand. First, you can boost their stats with equipment. The great part about it is you can further augment your equipment through enchantments, adding extra effects, stats, or just straight up boosting the rarity of any equipment you want. Given you have the needed items to do so.
You can also improve abilities and passives with skill upgrades and runes, which you also gain by leveling up. You can also gain these upgrade points by using tomes of knowledge that you can farm for if you’re willing to put the time in.
These upgrades are interesting since they can heavily dictate how you want each character to play. You can lean them more towards being offensive, defensive, or support, without really compromising how these champions work at their core. Braum can either resist damage better or I can make him deal more damage every time he’s attacked. I turned Miss Fortune from being a pure attacker to a dodge tank. Every casual player’s favorite child, Yasuo, was a crit machine and I decided to keep growing him in that direction.
Finally, each character has some gimmicks that make them interact with specific things around the map. Someone can read ancient texts, another can crash through certain walls, and more. This makes you want to keep mixing up your party or at least know where to fall back in case you need somebody else.
Content (4.5 / 5)
You will eventually fill up your roster with 6 playable Champions. Each one is distinctly different from the other, allowing you to come up with several formations while keeping it balanced. They also have different conversations with each other which you can access at rest points.
Aside from pursuing the rather decent questline of the main story. You can also go on side-quests that net you some decent rewards. Mostly these are in the form of either equipment or just some simple gold. This also overlaps with you being able to hunt bounties in the game, which are basically the optional bosses you can challenge if you choose to. These side activities are engaging enough especially when there’s a bit of a story behind it, though for the most part, it’s just you talking to NPCs and not much else to do but read text with. However, when they try to be a little more than the usual fetch or slay quest, they manage to color the world a bit more vividly. It gave even nameless NPCs character, and just gave you a little bit more to be connected with in the world.
Finally, there’s fishing. Which was quite a basic one but way more rewarding than I ever expected it to be. And as per my own rules, if it has a fishing mini-game, it’s probably a good game.
Features (2 / 5)
Ruined King may have one thing that ruined it for me, it would be the bugs. A few times every play session, the game might crash after a battle, or after switching characters, or going to another area. Sometimes your character can’t move after a battle. Sometimes the cursor just goes missing while browsing equipment. It’s very annoying, especially since starting the game back up takes a while. The silver lining here is that the auto-save system saves very often, so you don’t lose a lot of progress whenever you must do a hard restart. It also tells me that they’re quite aware of the problem and that was probably their fastest way to fix it. The whole constant crashing ordeal was something I’m sort of used to with PC releases, but on consoles, it came to me as a surprise.
The game doesn’t really carry a new game plus, but it lets you pick the game right up before the final battle, in case there are secrets you want to unlock or explore.
Ruined King: A League of Legends Story is definitely put together by a good composition of classic RPG elements. And pretty decent ones at that, it tries to keep it self-contained. Giving the story a satisfying ending, leaving just enough for you to look forward to possibly new adventures within the universe. But I can’t help but see that this game was made with perhaps, too much restraint. The cast may have gone through some sort of journey which they say, has changed them. But the conclusion of their stories felt pretty lacking at the end for me. Perhaps had they done something more definitive, or affected the world in a bigger way, this would be better. But it’s hard to say for sure. Maybe Riot just was holding them back, telling them there are limits to what they can do with the champions and the world. Which makes sense, looking back. So, I hope they come up with something bigger and grander when a new, similar game comes out as a result of this one.
If you’re looking for a classic experience of RPGs, and you want something that’s easy to pick up and put down, this is probably a good match for you. It doesn’t try to do anything too fancy, which may disappoint those who are looking for games that go the extra mile. But it does manage to hit the goals it set out to do in one neat package.
Ruined King: a League of Legends Story manages to stay afloat with a score of 3.5 / 5
The game was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch
Also available on PC, PS4, Xbox One