Viktor Impressions

Viktor.

What better way to make my return to the MOBA field than with my impressions post for the newest champion in League of Legends? I’ll tell you. DotA 2. Yes, I’m finally in the beta, but more on that later. For now, let’s talk about the man-machine, Viktor.

You may remember Morello announcing that Riot had plans to introduce more complicated heroes and mechanics into League of Legends over the course of 2012. Viktor seems to be the first of that wave, adding a new item-based skill customization along with a somewhat complicated skillset. While I love the idea of adding more complexity to the game, the actual gameplay needs to support mechanically complex heroes. With Viktor, that just isn’t the case. Hopefully we’ll see more playstyle changes to League as a whole. If not, complex heroes will simply be outshined by champions like Annie and Brand, champs that deal huge damage through a simple set of skills.

Personally, I haven’t enjoyed my time with Viktor, pretty much for the reasons stated above. His skills are too complicated to use without enough benefit for using them well. I feel like I have to work twice as hard for kills that would be easier with many other champions. That’s not all bad – champions with a decent skill ceiling are usually enjoyable to play. In most cases, though, high skill ceiling means knowing when and how your skills should be used, not just that it’s difficult to land them. That’s Viktor. His beam can be very difficult to land in a chase situation – it’s certainly easy to avoid – and without augmenting his stun, he can be pretty easy to outrun.

That said, he has some insane burst. When all of his skills land, he hits hard. His ult works essentially like Tibbers, dealing a big burst in the beginning and a damage over time as it “churns.” With an augment on his beam, he’ll one-shot most any carry.

I don’t think Riot’s going to need to change him much unless a streamer unlocks a truly godlike build/playstyle. Viktor does things that a lot of other champions in the game do, it’s just that all of those things – his stun, his big damage, his AoE power – require a lot more effort than similar champions. He’s also just not all that exciting, which is why I think I haven’t seen him picked much. If I compare him to Fizz, I see one champion with an interesting skillset that adds a couple new mechanics and has a high risk/reward threshold, and one champion that plays like most AP casters. I’ll leave you to sort out which is which.

Happy Holidays!

Reindeer Kog'Maw

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday season! I’ll be back to a regular posting schedule in the near future. In the meantime, check out Steam’s holiday sales and keep wishing for a DotA 2 beta key. That is one thing I didn’t find in my stocking this year.

Viktor gameplay commentary is up at IGN

As I’m sure you know by now, Riot’s next champion for League of Legends is Viktor, the Machine Herald. We’ve had the sneak peek comic, we’ve had some leaked information about his skillset, but nothing comes close to this video from IGN. The guys doing commentary aren’t particularly clear on a few points about Viktor’s mechanics, but on the whole it’s a pretty nice look at the next LoL champion.

The most interesting part of Viktor’s kit is definitely his passive, which gives Viktor an item from level one. The item can be upgraded in the shop to augment one of his abilities. I think this could be a cool mechanic, particularly if Viktor fulfilled some interesting role on a team, but in this instance I think this will mostly be a matter of which augment is functionally best, not necessarily which augment the player likes best. As for his position on a team, Viktor seems to fall under the general tanky DPS/utility that many of the recent releases have seen. He does seem to lean a little more to the mage side of things, but with a shield and a speed boost, he seems like most Tanky DPS today.

I’ll have more thoughts about his kit tomorrow. For now, enjoy the video.

Dodge refunds are starting to roll out

armsmaster_splash_1

It seems I was one of the earlier accounts to be refunded the IP cost of dodge runes. For me, the total came out to a whopping 14,000+ IP. I’m honestly not sure how I was refunded that amount of IP. When I added things up, the total cost was just over 7k, so I’m not exactly sure where the extra 7k came from.

I will say, I’m pretty pumped to have over 15k floating around again. I haven’t been playing League quite as often lately, so having a little buffer for the next few champion releases could be really handy.

I think it’s strange that Riot is still letting us purchase dodge runes. I understand that they don’t want to totally screw Jax players with the refunds, but why do them now? It’s a little odd. In any case, I’m glad to get a nice fat IP boost before the holidays. Have you received your refund yet?

No FG LoL Mondays tonight

FG LoL Mondays

I won’t be hosting FG LoL Mondays this evening as I will be getting on the road to Ohio bright and early tomorrow morning. As usual, it’s possible that I’ll get everything packed up and ready to go by 10 or so this evening, so feel free to hit me with an invite if you see me online, but I would say that’s unlikely.

In the meantime, enjoy some LoL or the new focus of your affection while I’m away. The Steam Holiday Sale started today, and we all know what that means – spending way too much money on new distractions. Happy Holidays!

Riot has been sitting on Ranked Dominion since September

Dominion Quarry.

Among the many and constant questions Riot receives, one of the top among Dominion players is why there is no ranked mode for Dominion. As it turns out, Riot has all the backend implementation for ranked mode complete, they just aren’t ready to throw the switch. Why not? According to Brackhar back in September, Riot “want[ed] the map to have a chance to mature enough before we flip the switch.”

To be honest, this issue isn’t exactly close to my heart. I stopped playing Dominion quite a while back. It just wasn’t as gripping as I thought it would be. And ranked? Well, ranked doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really mean anything. Riot doesn’t compensate highly ranked players in any way for attaining their rank. The games are typically just as troll-saturated as any other ELO. It does give people something to shoot for, but since that’s directly related to winning or losing, and I think most people are trying to win, it has little effect on anything in the game other than player attitude, and that it affects negatively.

So really, I couldn’t care less if Riot waits to implement Ranked Dominion, although I have to admit, I’m confused why they would wait any longer. From my perspective, Dominion is already a dying gamemode. The Dominion forums have no-response posts (the best way to judge new post count that I could come up with) from yesterday morning on the front page. In general discussion I couldn’t find a no-response post older than 10 minutes. In the top 40 red posts on CL Gaming’s Redtracker, just 1 is about Dominion. My friend list never has more than 5 people playing Dominion, and when it reaches 5, most of them are playing with one another.

Waiting for Dominion to mature much further seems to me like waiting for a major league pitcher in his late thirties to mature: you’re running out of time before you just scrap the guy altogether. I’m not saying Riot should scrap Dominion – I know there are those among you that enjoy the game mode – rather that there is no reason to wait any longer on releasing ranked play for Dominion. If anything, it might get people who are sick of the ranked grind on Summoner’s Rift interested in the capture-and-hold playstyle.

Ahri Impressions

Ahri.

I usually try to write my champion impression posts as early in release week as possible. With Ahri, though, I had to wait. I just didn’t have anything significant to say. Almost every game I played with her was a mirror match in lane, and mirror matches with Ahri are devastatingly boring (also very hard to win because you just end up using your ult when your opponent does, either to try for a kill or to escape her attempt at killing you). I think I’ve finally seen her enough that I can say something meaningful about her place in the game, so here goes.

First off, the Akali comparisons just don’t work. While her playstyle may be similar, in that she relies on one big combo to blow up a target, the two are fundamentally different champions. Ahri is much more reliable and sustainable in lane, but much less so in a teamfight. Her spell vamp will occasionally work wonders for her in a fight, but for the most part it’s about negating lane attrition.

This is the part of Ahri that really annoys me. She has has nearly infinite lane sustain from level 5 on. I say level 5 because in my experience, that’s where her mana regen is enough to cast Orb of Deception fairly often and the spell deals enough damage for the Spell Vamp to really keep her alive. The range on Orb is also high enough that she can do the leeching from a safe distance. I don’t know what it’s going to take for Riot to realize that lane attrition is a good thing. I know some of you disagree with me on this, but the whole infinite lane sustain thing is just crappy design. Really crappy design.

I actually found Ahri to be a little difficult to gank with in lane, so long as my opponents were smart. The best opponents would bury themselves in their minion wave once I ulted, avoiding my charm. Without the charm, they could typically Flash off or use a CC spell to keep me at enough distance. Ahri is highly susceptible to CC, particularly when her ult is down, and a lot of champions can easily exploit that weakness.

To me, it seems Ahri works best as skirmisher and pub-stomper. She does really well against teams that like to have smaller fights in the jungle and away from minions. She’s great against disorganized players. Against a comp with some reliable CC, though, she’s just not all that strong. Her own CC can be devastating if she picks off an enemy, much like Blitzcrank’s grab, but it becomes highly unreliable in lane fights thanks to minions. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – it would be insanely overpowered if it went through minions – just that it limits her effectiveness.

I really hope Riot leaves Ahri as she is. I think she’s fairly easy to play against in lane, but if they give her much more power she’ll be unbearable. Personally, I want to try a few strange builds on her. I could see a Deathfire rush giving her devastating power after level 6 by further bumping her skirmish power. I’m sure some solid Ahri players will pop up in the near future, but for the time being you just need to survive her lane phase and get to the teamfighting.

Has the power creep gotten out of hand?

Arnold muscles

I already know what most of your answers will be on this question, but I participated in a situation so bizarre today that I knew I had to write a post. For anyone who may not know, power creep is essentially the process by which a game becomes unbalanced, often by the continual addition of powerful features and mechanics. In the case of League of Legends, power creep can be seen in the amount of AP on an average late-game carry, or the health/damage ratio of a bruiser, just to name a few examples. On with the story.

I decided to play a quick game before bed, as I often do. I was playing Vayne, planning to run the build I used when she first came out (Sheen -> Wit’s End – > Trinity – not sure I’m in love with it). I ended up in our bottom lane with my ally, Kennen. We were up against a Graves and an Amumu, which went really well for us. Well enough that Kennen was unstoppable within 12 minutes. It was a solid game. What baffled me, though, was Kennen’s rapid AP increases. I hadn’t looked before the game started, but suddenly he was level 7 with more than 100 AP. It wasn’t long before he was over the 300 mark, which is when I attempted to do a little mental math.

Kennen was sitting on something like 365 AP with just a Deathcap and a Will of the Ancients. That’s it. At first I thought, my god, he only has 190 AP in items and yet I’m seeing 365. I had forgotten about the aura from WotA, which brought him up to 220 base. Even with the bonus from Rabadon’s and the 5 percent mastery, that would still only be 297. Shortly thereafter, Kennen bought another Needlessly Large Rod, bringing his base up to 300. His shown AP: 535. Yup. He had 535 AP with just 300 AP in items. What the hell is going on there?

That’s power creep, and it’s totally out of hand. One of the biggest problems I see is that it can be difficult to understand and difficult to predict. Players are already dealing huge amounts of incoming information for an average game. Do we really need to be performing this kind of math while playing, too? Trust me, I don’t think things are going to change; Riot has been using the additive method of problem solving for far too long. I do wish we could go back to a slightly simpler time, though, when a player’s items and his numbers lined up in expected ways.

Riot rolls out new champion pages with Ahri

With Ahri’s release, Riot also implemented some sexy new champion screens to the PvP.net client. What are champion screens? You know, those screens you would look at to see who was getting new skins and…nothing else. Honestly, these things have been in need of an update for quite some time, an update that turned out quite nicely.

As you can see from the screenshot, the initial page still includes all of the old information – what archetype the character falls under, the relative strengths and weaknesses, and a brief look at abilities. The more exciting parts of the character screens are on the subsequent tabs. The Abilities tab has videos of each ability in action, and the Tips and Items page makes a nice addition for players ready to try out new champions.

I think the best part of these changes is that it will give players a quick, easy way to learn what they’re up against. As the field of champions grows, it only becomes more difficult for new players to learn the game, and the gap between veterans and newbies grows. This could reduce the barrier to entry, which can only be a good thing.

I would like to see some of the champion abilities used with more context. With Alistar, for example, the Triumphant Roar and Unbreakable videos don’t really show what the skills do. His health bar isn’t showing for Triumphant Roar, and the only numbers the video shows are the mana cost (and it isn’t explicitly clear that the number is the mana cost). The same goes for Unbreakable. I’d like it if the video showed that the skill could break Alistar out of crowd control effects.

SWTOR Early Access is well underway

SWTOR.

It’s now Day Two of Early Access for SWTOR, giving the players who pre-ordered a copy of the game an early look at the world of The Old Republic as an MMO. I placed my pre-order the first day it was available, and though I cancelled that order after my beta experience, I still have access to the game (note: always pre-order early – you can always cancel it).

So far my impressions remain essentially what they were with the beta. It seems to me that the game was designed as a single-player experience, surrounded by the conventions of modern MMOs. The best thing about the game remains the IP on which it was based, but I was never one to find a world overrun by Jedi and Sith all that exciting. I prefer my lightsabers few and far between, not one-in-each-hand.

That’s not to say there aren’t good things. I think the Crew Skills system is pretty cool – a little bland at my level but I’m willing to bet it will improve as I level up.

There are a lot of people who love the game, and I’m sure some of you are among that group. What are your experiences so far? Are you playing with a group of friends or just running solo? What’s your favorite part of the game to this point?

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