Even twelve years after its initial release, League of Legends tops the esports pantheon as one of the most popular competitive games in the world. Ruined King: A League of Legends Story takes some of the notable characters from the much-loved MOBA and drops them in an entertaining, if overly long, role-playing experience. Skill-based progression, explorable hubs, and turn-based combat can instantly thrill fans of developer Airship Syndicate’s debut project, Battle Chasers: Nightwar. However, Ruined King’s implementation of these features is often mediocre. Nevertheless, the overall package is an adequate single-player alternative to Riot’s multiplayer-focused titles.
Unfortunately, the green prairies of Runeterra are missing in Ruined King. Instead, I spent several hours, mainly through the port city of Bilgewater and its adjacent region, the Shadow Isles, finding and defeating forgettable antagonists. These locations are home to vicious pirates, wild beasts and restless ghosts. Ruined King’s faded gray and sickly green parallel grim motives of revenge, greed and displacement. But after several hours of retracing my steps through the same shadowy caves and gloomy harbors, that subdued color palette took its toll; the many marketplaces and temples grew more and more lifeless and dull.
This is a shame, because the cast of the ensemble – Miss Fortune, Illaoi, Braum, Yasuo, Ahri and Pyke – have fun and diverse personalities. Silly banter and tense disagreements between the protagonists keep Ruined King’s predictable story interesting. Each legend interacts with the game world differently, making for some compelling interactions. Pyke’s expertise as a harpooner allows him to dive into deep waters to access hidden passageways. At the same time, I shot Ahri’s magical orbs from different angles to activate distant switches or solve environmental puzzles. These skills have always been valuable, especially when scouring dungeons for rare gear and knowledge documents. Of course, collectibles weren’t the only things that awaited me while completing main and side quests.
Most areas harbor a host of enemies, from undead warriors with long beards to stone giants, and fighting these monsters helped make up for the uninspired level design. When a battle starts, an “initiative bar” at the bottom of the screen indicates turn order, but a “job” system – inspired by League of Legends mechanics – spice up the formula by letting characters move up or down in the initiative bar to believe. A sword sweep or magic blast from the speed track will strike sooner with less damage. Conversely, firing gunshots or shield slashes from the power path takes longer, but they are extremely devastating. “Zones” that appear along the bar have the chance to apply buffs or debuffs, so using lanes to obtain or avoid these random conditions added even more depth to the action. While I wish enemies were more challenging, the clever rhythm of Ruined King’s lane system made me want to go looking for brawls all the time.
I loved using Braum’s “Stand Behind Me” ability in the power lane to cast mighty shields over the entire party. And when I didn’t feel like waiting for a driving skill, I relied on standard attacks for instant gratification. An ultimate gauge builds up during quests, and activating these super abilities often meant the difference between beating a beefy boss or losing the match completely. Unfortunately, I couldn’t replace party members in or out of battle, leaving little room for experimentation on the list. Plus, during various combat scenarios, I felt like I was being punished for any tactics that didn’t include the typical healer or tank-oriented setup. Traveling quickly to a resting place to make emergency swaps and solve this problem was a constant immersion.
Defeated opponents drop gold and, more importantly, materials to spend on weapon and armor enchantments. I collected an impressive number of enchantment recipes as I traveled off the beaten track, and my combat power against the second half of Ruined King took advantage of this. I often changed my gear to increase the critical ratings so that my katana-wielding Yasuo and gun-carrying Miss Fortune had significant attack rates. I also earned skill points for leveling up my party (experience points are shared), which I would use to boost standard and lane powers. “Rune Shards” were also doled out every few levels and, once equipped, they introduced fun mods that boosted the stats of my choice, such as Illaoi’s healing or Pyke’s evasion. I appreciated having many routes to upgrade my favorite fighters and customize their respective kits.
Ruined King is a conventional RPG set in the League of Legends universe with an exciting lane system that cleverly recreates the standard turn-based loop. Still, a forgettable story of good versus evil and repetitive backgrounds are obvious drawbacks. The action and imaginative characters do their best to keep the 20-30 hour game enjoyable. Still, players who aren’t already fans of Riot Games’ flagship franchise should skip this entry.