If you are familiar with Battle Chasers: Nightwar and its particular aesthetic (by none other than Joe Madureira), then Ruined King: A League of Legends Story will look more than familiar. If, in addition to having a clear understanding of what we are talking about, you have played, and appreciated, the turn-based RPG developed by Airship Syndicate, then you will have no difficulty in letting yourself be captured by this small, but fascinating extract of the rich narrative universe of League of Legends which, thanks to the Netflix series Arcane (review here), lives a new, well-deserved glory.
It is always a turn-based role-playing game, whose mechanics do not differ from Battle Chasers, and therefore they may seem to you two products that are all too similar, however the heart of Ruined King beats more thanks to the narrative component. Which is not to be understood in the least as a demerit on the gameplay side, but as a specification on what, on balance, completely differentiates the two games.
To find out in more detail, Ruined King: A League of Legends Story review begins.
A League of Legends Story
After an introduction set just over a millennium before the events narrated, we are in Bilgewater: Sarah Fortune has for some years obtained the city for herself, taking it from the control of the cruel Gangplank after killing him, avenging the death of her mother at the hands of the pirate same. Her rule over the city has yet to find balance and the presence of the Shadows from the nearby island is not helping. A victorious exit, not without massive losses, from a previous Harvest (the moment when the Shadows unleash out of control on anyone nearby), Sarah will face an identical threat if not worse. Together with her, once again, the priestess of the Kraken, Illaoi, and a series of new companions who, for one reason or another, will walk the same path. The objectives are different but all seem to lead to the same place: between unlikely alliances and ancient enemies, the story of Ruined King takes shape.
Told through beautiful films to behold and dialogues supported by portraits of the equally excellent, albeit static, characters, the events take their time before taking off. There is a way to get to know all the characters well, from Sarah Fortune to Yasuo, before going to where it all seems to originate. The dialogues are well written and the dubbing enhances them even more in the tones, making them pleasant to enjoy even at their own pace. The same goes for optional conversations, small events that unlock during the rest phases and allow both to better understand the characters and to see how they bond with companions. Overall, we are satisfied with the narrative which also sees some NPCs voiced, giving the game world even more depth.
The question that arises at this point is: can a League of Legends neophyte play Ruined King without feeling defective? Without a doubt: the beauty of this game is right here, in the fact that you don’t necessarily have to know characters and events to enjoy the story. The latter is, in fact, set after the events of Burning Tides, a tale used to introduce the city of Bilgewater, but knowing them is irrelevant to understanding the plot – as is knowing Sarah and the others. It can be useful to better appreciate certain nuances but if we talk about the plot of Ruined King itself, you can go easy.
The playful structure of Ruined King is the most linear it can be. It collects with both hands from the previous Battle Chasers and brings back to the screen a simple experience in its display but no less fun than others we may be used to. There is the main mission to follow, any secondary ones to unlock, some bounties here and there and a lot of exploration, especially if we think that the main settings of the game are two. The game knows how to hold us back, especially thanks to an already challenging level of challenge in normal mode (it can be changed at any time): the fact that above this there are two others makes Ruined King the excellent test bed for those looking for a challenge of a certain level. At your own risk, however.
Although similar to Battle Chasers, the title is not a carbon copy and, on the contrary, it evolves in many respects; first of all, the growth of the characters. With each level increase, our champions gain consequent benefits that can range from learning skills, to obtaining runes, enhancement points and, finally, the possibility of increasing the effectiveness of both the runes and the skills themselves. This all works quite simply and is, at any time, subvertible to search for the most suitable combination in battle. All skills are learned independently by leveling up, while their effectiveness is dictated by us through a tiny development tree (the same in form but different in substance depending on the skill): by spending the upgrade points we can improve the aforementioned ability to depending on the path that suits us best, choosing A or B each time according to the effects applied. The variety may seem limited, but the difference in the struggle is felt, thus not making an unnecessarily elongated development tree necessary.
The skills are then accompanied by the runes, which have a dedicated menu and follow the same concept of the upgrades for good or bad. They can be improved by spending rune fragments, but the latter must progressively be spent in greater quantities to be able to unlock the next skill. They are also locked until a specific character level is reached, making grinding necessary if you want to upgrade your champion to the max. Like power-ups, runes also have two possible approaches to choose from to develop the character, with the difference that one does not preclude the other. It just takes more time to improve as you want.
For the rest, between inventory, fishing, map, diary entries and so on, Ruined King is similar to one of the many role-playing games out there. It should be emphasized that during the progression there is no indicator on the screen that indicates the direction to take, either during the story or in the middle of a secondary mission. From time to time, it is necessary to open the map and check where you are based on the objective – that is in fact reported but the tokens are the same for story and missions. It is up to us, based on the indications, to understand which one corresponds to our needs of the moment. Moving through the different environments is quite fast, the characters can run or keep a slower pace and depending on who we are using it is possible to notice a slight difference in speed. Within Bilgewater you can also use rapid movement to macro areas of the city, while dungeons tend to have shortcuts to unlock along the way.
Overall, while familiar to those who know Battle Chasers, Ruined King offers a fresh, if not new, approach in line in some respects with the mechanics of the original League of Legends – such as the runes.
However, there is a real novelty within the Ruined King system and it is found in its combat system. Conceptually, the game once again looks to the past and brings us back instant attacks, abilities, waves and overload mechanics. The real strength, the one that rewrites a bit the approach to the RPG and is the basis of the whole strategy in game, is the mechanics of the Lane. There are three in total: Lane of Speed, Balance and Power. The names are quite explanatory in themselves, but if you are wondering, the first allows you to position yourself favorably along the timeline and act quickly at the expense of the damages, which will be slightly less; the second, on the other hand, is well balanced both in terms of speed and damage caused; the third is all about brutality and, sacrificing speed of action, delivers devastating attacks.
The entire combat system is built around the Lane not only as a matter of priority, but of structure. In fact, the enemies have skills that often require careful lane management to emerge victorious and it is here that we must make good use of the possibility of examining the enemy. Some fights in particular require the use of specific lanes for the duration of the fight, or to switch from one to the other depending on the need of the moment; in some cases, there are even closed lanes not so much because they are literally so, but because exploiting them would lead nowhere. Each new fight, as long as the difference between the levels is not sufficient in itself to ignore some logic, is a challenge, in particular because Ruined King hardly puts us in a marked advantage.
As we wrote, already at normal difficulty the experience is demanding and sometimes a trifle is enough to find yourself defeated. This is not mere brute force, Ruined King requires careful use of champions and their skills, whose chain of effects can be the dividing line between victory and defeat. The fact, then, of seeing the weakest enemies escape in front of us helps to understand which battles are worth facing: a not so obvious implementation, that of premature escape, since not all RPGs apply it and there are times in whose enemies ignore their safeguard in order to commit suicide. In this case, however, we know in advance which battles may be worthwhile, especially since the grinding is heavy – and is perhaps the main criticism of Ruined King.
The experience points obtained are more or less equally divided among all members of the group, active or not. The maximum cap to level up is always a thousand, which softens the matter a little, but when the members of the group start to increase the weight of a rather invasive grinding is felt even more. This is especially noticeable with bosses or an “evolved” version of the base enemies: their strength, even at the same level (or even lower), can be enough to kill a champion on the spot but the experience points obtained at the end do not make justice to the commitment necessary to emerge victorious. We would have preferred, with a similar system, greater generosity in exps if only with the bosses, but also minimally with the most common clashes, given the appreciable basic difficulty. We understand the need, given the level cap, nevertheless it would not have spoiled a greater balance.
Technical and artistic sector
As anticipated, Ruined King is a game that boasts the artistic direction of Joe Madureira and for this reason it is very appreciable. There is not much variety in the settings, being basically only two macro areas of the adventure (Bilgewater and the Isle of Shadows), however there is an undeniable attention to detail that offers an added value to the total yield. Design of the characters and monsters excellent, whether they are portraits during the dialogues or the models in the game, and as already mentioned the dubbing makes everything much more appreciable. With regard to the soundtrack, progress has been made compared to Battle Chasers and some tracks are pleasant to hear, even if they do not shine to the point of being etched in the memory. From a technical point of view, we have not seen any uncertainties whatsoever: the game is fluid, no crashes or bugs.
We started the game and we were a little disappointed because the game is not a AAA game, but as we continued playing it, we started getting attached to it little by little, so far, we can’t make a final judgment on the game but for sure we’re not frustrated with the game in any way at the moment.
The game from the beginning has many very good elements such as the fighting style, the artistic direction in the drawing in addition to the voice performance of the characters, but so far the story has not caught my attention because we knew many details related to the story originally, such as the relationship of Miss Fortune and Jungblank, or the story of Vigo itself, But we expect as we continue to play, the story will branch out and become more interesting, which we will reveal when we review the game fully.
Game zone star judgment
- Visually gorgeous
- Very valid dubbing
- The game structure has evolved
- The strategy is fundamental
- The mechanics of the Lane are excellent
- A little excessive grinding
- Exp distribution sometimes unbalanced