Let’s get one thing straight: I haven’t given up on Dota 2. In terms of MOBAs, I still identify as a Dota 2 player. It’s just become a little overfamiliar and a little frustrating (please do not go Midas into BKB on Phantom Assassin or I will be sad), and so for the time being, I’m taking a break in the hopes that it’ll seem fresh and shiny again whenever I go back.

I still miss the MOBA gameplay, though, so I thought I’d try something else. There’s always SMITE, which is usually my second MOBA of choice, but I wanted to try something I hadn’t really played before… so, League of Legends. It’s been an interesting experience; it’s fun to play a MOBA with different heroes (sorry, “champions”) and different mechanics and all sorts of other little twists.

league of legends 5


Now, I had played League of Legends before, but not extensively. I mean, my Summoner profile was up to level 4 or something, so for all intents and purposes I was still a clueless newbie. And still am, in fact. Here is a list of mechanics which horribly, horribly confused me at first:

  • Why can’t I block creeps?
  • Why can’t I deny my own creeps?
  • What the hell is the current laning meta?
  • Wait, you can buy items that increase ability power?
  • You can hide in bushes?

I say they confused me “at first”, but some of these – the creep blocking and denying in particular – still get me every now and then. Pfft. Dota 2 players are such noobs.

To answer one of those questions: right now, it looks like the laning is intended to be a solo top, solo mid, two in bot (a right-click carry, or “ADC”, and a support), and one jungler. This is absolutely not what happens in games at my level, because nobody can actually jungle, so we wind up with… different lanes. Which might involve three people going mid. We’ll get to that.

league of legends 8

I forgot to take screenshots, so you’ll have to deal with ones I pulled from the official site. With that said: WHAT’S GOING ON

My early experimentation with League of Legends has led to two discoveries. The first one I want to talk about is champions, and the ones I’ve decided I like.

Now, my usual techniques when learning a game as in-depth as this is to assume that everyone is better than me, because I have no idea what’s going on. When people are picking heroes they normally shout things like TOP or MID or ME ADC or whatever, so they certainly make it sound like they know what’s happening.

Barring the occasional smurf account (a high-level player creating a low-level account for newbie-maiming fun) they are filthy liars. Or at least horribly misrepresenting themselves.

league of legends 7

I don’t know what the fuck this thing is, but I’m not looking forward to running into it. Especially not because this picture is called “spider_3.jpg”.

With all of this arguing going on, I pick a support. It’s the one role that people very rarely want to play, and it doesn’t have quite as much responsibility in terms of farming as most other roles. You can help people out in lane, and wander around to other sections of the map, and generally make the enemy team hate you while keeping your team alive and safe. I’ve tended towards two in League of Legends: Lux and Soraka.

I really like both of these champions. Lux makes me think of a World of Warcraft Priest, which may be down to her looks more than anything… although she does also drop shields on people. Plus, her ultimate is a screen-spanning laser, which is the sort of thing I’m always happy to see. Soraka, on the other hand, is a phenomenal healer who is really, really good at keeping people alive in lane, and can follow that up with damage, slows, and silences. She’s also a magic space cow – which is the sort of design that always leads me to stroke my chin in approval – and doesn’t seem to be as fundamentally useless as Dota 2‘s own magic space cow.

Digression: I tend to mentally peg the champions as combinations of Dota 2 heroes. Ashe, for instance, is Drow Ranger (because that’s what she looks like, plus she can slow people) combined with Medusa (split-shot) combined with Mirana (her ultimate is a giant skillshot arrow that goes across half the map and stuns people). Soraka has Chen’s ultimate, and her silence is like a non-damaging Static Storm. Teemo (usually referred to as “fucking Teemo”, from what I can tell) is like some horrible amalgamation of Techies, plus stealth and actual combat abilities, to the extent that he’s basically the in-game equivalent of having screws jammed through your fingers. Evelynn is a bit like Riki. Sion is a bit like Abaddon. Annie has Warlock’s ultimate. Etc.

league of legends 1

Blitzcrank is Pudge plus Tusk, while Amumu is Clockwerk plus Leshrac. I think.

Anyway: the problem is that I’m not actually bad at MOBAs. I’m unfamiliar with League of Legends, yes, and to a large extent that makes me “bad” at it… but I’ve dumped 1700 hours into Dota 2. You can still certainly argue I’m not actually good at Dota 2, but I don’t do things like “attempt to dive two people at an enemy tower, at level 1, with no creeps.” I know the importance of last-hitting creeps in lane. I might not know what these champions can do, but I’m not likely to get completely caught out due to horribly overextending. The people I’m matched up with, on the other hand…

One game, the first death actually happened before creeps had spawned, because he ran into the enemy mid tower and waited until he died. His lane-mate (because two people at mid is a common occurrence at my level) managed to die to the enemy mid hero about 20 seconds later. Our mid lane was something like 1-15 by the ten minute mark, and one person in our top lane had died 8 times during the same period.

For what it’s worth? I was playing Soraka, this game. Soraka, solo, in the bot-lane. Because with everyone fighting over mid or top, I assumed at least one person might’ve wanted to lane with the only support on our team and get some guaranteed farm in relative safety. Silly me.

Tales from the trench, etc.

league of legends 6

I doubtless could’ve done more and itemised better, but I’m still not taking the blame for this one.

This was about when I stopped playing Lux and Soraka. In Dota 2 my preferred heroes tend to be slightly unorthodox semi-carries; I like heroes with a fair amount of mobility who can support pretty well without items, but become combat monsters if they get some farm. It lets me play around my team no matter what’s picked; if my team is doing fine then I can play a hard support, while I can also step up to the plate if we need some damage or sustain or whatever. So now I’m tending towards Morgana.

Morgana broke my brain a little because I can’t really think of any Dota 2 analogues for her. She’s sort of got Abaddon’s Aphotic Shield… only it doesn’t explode, and it completely prevents disables while it’s active rather than removing them on cast. She’s got a damaging snare, and a spell that does continual AoE damage, and an ultimate that requires her to stay close to her enemies. In short: she can support reasonably well because she’s got plenty of utility, but give her items and she can wreck people.

league of legends 2

Morgana is NOT actually Queen of Pain. She just looks like it.

After trying her out once or twice, I got the hang of her. Here’s my guide to playing Morgana:

Step one! Assume you’re going support, so buy support-y items.

Step two! Discover that either you’re laning alone, or that the farming hero you’re with has managed to get one last hit in the three minutes it’s been since the minions spawned, despite you never attacking the minions.

Step three! Give up on supporting and just start farming.

Step four! Win. Or lose. It sort of depends on which team is feeding harder. Believe it or not, doing this has actually led to victory way more often than I expected.

That said, if I appear to be playing with people who know what they’re doing (which has started to happen now, and definitely happens if I’m playing with my level 30 friend) I do tend to play Soraka instead. I’m more use that way, because it’s less important for me to know what aggressive and defensive items I need, or which enemies I need to focus on, or whatever. I can focus on warding, pinging the danger areas on the map, keeping an eye on where everyone is and what everyone’s doing, defending pushes, and generally going along with my team rather than having to find space for myself.

league of legends 4

I haven’t tried ARAM yet, but if this picture is any indication, it could be quite fun.

Anyway! My second discovery is that the levelling system is a bit weird, and I both like and loathe it in equal measure.

In Dota 2, everyone is on even terms at the very start of each match, and nothing outside of the game matters. Your profile might be level 100 but that gives you no mechanical advantage at all over a level 1. In League… well, it does.

You’ve got Masteries, which are World of Warcraft talent trees, and you get one point per profile level until you reach level 30. You’ve got Runes, which are slots that you stuff glyphs/seals/whatever into to get some very minor bonuses. And there are Summoner Spells, which are abilities that any champion can use; you can take two of these into each match, but you unlock more as you level up.

So yes, in League, a high-level player absolutely has an advantage over a low-level player. It doesn’t seem to be a massive advantage for the most part (we’re talking 2% extra armour, or something) but it is, nonetheless, an advantage. And all of the little advantages you get from being a higher level wind up being quite a big advantage, in total.

That, and – as I see it – the most useful Summoner Spell, Flash, is the one you unlock last. Which is quite annoying, because there have already been plenty of situations where a short-range blink would’ve been incredibly useful.

dota 2 kitten

This is Ahri. I keep meaning to give her a go; she seems like a fun hero. YES I KNOW AHRI IS A KITSUNE AND NOT A CAT, SHUT UP

On the one hand, I like the fact that this gives you extra ways to customise your champions outside of the game itself. I like that you can completely change the way you play a champion based on what summoner spells you take, as you’ll doubtless need the monster-killing Smite if you’re planning on jungling, while if you’re going aggressive in lane you might want Ignite or Exhaust instead. I like that these things unlock gradually rather than having a massive selection of stuff right from the start, because it means you can slowly try things out and pick up on how everything works rather than being thrown in at the deep end.

This is also why I’m not currently minding the whole “champions cost money” thing. There are 10 free at any given time, with new ones rotating in and out regularly, and right now that’s more than enough for me.

On the other hand… well, like I said above, this means that high-level players do have an advantage. Also, while Masteries can theoretically let you play heroes in different ways, if World of Warcraft taught me anything it’s that there is generally one “optimal” way to use talent trees for your role. The fact that Flash is blocked off until level 12 is really annoying. Etc.

league of legends 3

So many heroes to try! So little money to spend on buying them.

But there are also other things I like! I like that wards are free trinkets that replenish over time, and that there are items which give you a free ward replenishment whenever you return to base. I like that you’re limited more by how many wards you can put down at once, rather than how many have been bought from your fountain. I like the tricky decisions between taking Teleport (which is a free jaunt to any friendly tower or minion) so that you can get to flashpoints faster, or taking something a bit more useful in combat like Heal or Ignite or whatever. Right now, I’m kinda liking the emphasis on skillshots, too. It’s something different.

So that’s my experience thus far: my ELO/MMR is still probably a bit too low, and I’m a little annoyed at some of the game being locked off because I haven’t played it enough, but I’m largely enjoying experimenting with new champions and mechanics. Next time, I might have a go at the alternate game modes – Hexakill, ARAM, and the like – and we’ll see how I fare there. I’m hoping to chart my progress in more articles over the coming weeks, so we’ll see how things go.

Maybe I’ll have unlocked Flash by then, too.

Tim McDonald
Tim has been playing PC games for longer than he's willing to admit. He's written for a number of publications, but has been with PC Invasion - in all its various incarnations - for over a decade. When not writing about games, Tim can occasionally be found speedrunning terrible ones, making people angry in Dota 2, or playing something obscure and random. He's also weirdly proud of his status as (probably) the Isle of Man's only professional games journalist.

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