Ruined King: A League of Legends Story Review – I’d Rather Just Play League

    Title: Ruined King: A League of Legends Story
    Developer: Airship Syndicate
    Release Date: November 16, 2021
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Riot Forge
    Genre: Turn Based RPG

Last week, Riot surprise dropped Ruined King: A League of Legends Story in tandem with the worldwide release of their animated series Arcane. Unlike the MOBA nature of League of Legends, Ruined King is a single-player tactical turn-based role-playing game developed by Airship Syndicate and published by Riot Forge that focuses on the lore between the Shadow Isles and Bilgewater.

If you are familiar with Airship Syndicate, you will feel oddly familiar when playing Ruined King. That is because it’s almost a glaring reskin of their previous game, Battle Chasers: Nightwar. It utilizes reused assets and mechanics such as fishing that stick out like a sore thumb in the League of Legends universe.

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The story is probably this game’s strongest trait, especially if you are invested in League of Legends lore. A sinister force called the Black Mist has returned to Bilgewater, and it is up to Miss Fortune, Illaoi, Braum, Yasuo, Pyke, and Ahri to team up against the entities in the Shadow Isles and put an end to the mist. Other champions, including Gangplank, Thresh, Maokai, and the Ruined King himself, Viego, make appearances. Riot does a great job introducing characters one at a time, in digestible portions for new fans to the series. Optional bond moments are also available at rest points that flesh out character personalities and relationships.

Voice acting is well done, giving each champion a unique persona. Scenes are voiced in comic book-style panels, while others are read in traditional text bubbles. Audio during combat sounds crisp and impactful, with each character’s abilities sounding distinct. Art direction and visuals look a bit outdated but mostly stay true to how these characters are depicted in League of Legends.

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Ruined King’s combat is simple to learn but challenging to master. Unfortunately, the tutorials on all the different mechanics are poorly explained, and I found myself reading the help menu to understand various intricacies better. You’ll have a total of 6 party members at the end but can only use 3 in combat. Every champion has 4 types of moves and a default one focusing on the enemy with the lowest health and generates overcharge.

This instant ability doesn’t cost mana and generally builds towards the following: a better lane ability, a lane ability that costs mana but does more damage, and an ultimate ability. There’s an inspect mode that can be toggled during your turn that can reveal helpful information about an enemy, including skills and status effects. Further, combat speed can be toggled up to 2x.

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Airship Syndicate does introduce some unique concepts to the turn-based mechanics. When combat is initiated, there are three lanes depicted at the bottom of the screen. Every character starts in the middle or neutral lane but can switch to the speed or power lane. The speed lane allows skills to activate quicker but provides less damage output, while the power lane allows your skills to do more damage after a delayed time.

Certain enemies have status effects or shields that can only be broken if you perform a skill in a particular lane. Every fight also spawns a random buff or de-buff, indicated as a slot in the lane timeline. Strategically executing abilities in a specific lane can place you in a buff slot or get you out of a de-buff slot. While this was a refreshing new spin on turn-based combat, the battle timeline is almost impossible to clearly see as it is exceptionally minuscule and blurred.

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You’ll be doing a lot of walking, to the point where it becomes annoying. Fast traveling is not unlocked until about halfway into the game, meaning you’ll be treading upwards of five straight minutes before you reach your next narrative objective. By default, you “walk,” but there’s no use for it, so you’ll find yourself toggling the “sprint” functionality that barely makes you travel any faster. In addition, no mini-map on the HUD points you in the correct direction, so you’ll be opening the map and quest menu often to figure out where to go next.

Further, the game’s overall pacing is boringly lengthy, and you’ll be engaging in combat encounters far too often. There are a ton of micro-mechanics and activities that don’t really amount to anything but pad out playtime. Random collectibles can be found throughout the map, such as lore snippets and treasure chests, and side quests can be taken by talking to NPC’s throughout the world. Fishing comes back from Battle Chasers and allows you to sell fish for a unique currency to buy rare materials and gear.

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Adding on to the questionable design choices, it’s also blatantly clear that this game has not been optimized and needs more time in the quality assurance department. When played on the PlayStation 5, Ruined King crashed numerous times, forcing me to restart my previous manual save, wasting countless hours of progress.

To make matters even worse, the game notifies you of the autosave functionality, but rarely do autosaves actually happen, so I manually saved religiously in fear of another crash. Glitches are also common, such as Pyke running infinitely into a dead end when trying to use his dive ability, forcing me to force quit the game and reboot. Bugs such as these make this experience more maddening than enjoyable.

Ruined King: A League of Legends Story is a competent narrative adventure for fans of the base game, but it barely scrapes by as a standalone game for newcomers to the series. The turn-based combat mechanics are refreshing, and the story elements are there. Still, the number of outdated gameplay components and flagrant unpolish that make progression borderline impossible ultimately makes this an engaging spectacle than an enjoyable playable experience.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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