Before we get into the Ruined King, let us discuss how we got here.
For over 10 years, Riot Games had exclusively focused their developmental efforts on creating and maintaining League of Legends. This paid off massively for them as League rose to unfathomably heights, and still remains today as the most concurrently played title worldwide.
However, on League’s 10th anniversary, Riot announced that they were aiming to expand their catalogue, and were going to put the S back into Riot Games. They began with the launch of the competitive FPS Valorant, and followed up shortly thereafter with the digital collectible card game, Legends of Runeterra. They also branched out of the gaming space late last year, when they partnered with Netflix to release the hit animated series, Arcane.
In the midst of this, they also created the publishing company ‘Riot Forge’, allowing them to outsource their IPs, and collaborate with various indie studios. This is what led developers Airship Syndicate into creating the ‘Ruined King: A League of Legends Story’, and it is that which we will be discussing today.
The Ruined King is an isometric, turn based RPG, set within the fictional world of Runeterra. The story revolves around a mismatched group of heroes on their journey to stop the sinister Viego, and the apocalyptic curse known as the Harrowing.
The playable characters, which consist of Ahri, Braum, Captain Fortune, Illoai, Pyke and Yasuo, are the true backbone of the narrative. They are all situated in the port city of Bilgewater for their own reasons, but it is the looming danger of the Harrowing which brings them together as a team. You find out more about their motives and backgrounds as you progress through the story, and the game does a stellar job of blending it seamlessly into the main plot.
None of this would be possible however without the all-star cast of voice actors, the likes of which include Laura Bailey and Liam O’Brien. They perfectly capture the dynamic of what it is like to be in a roleplaying party, and it seems as though the dialogue is often trying to mimic that of a D&D session. In the end, it was their performances that created a deeper level of immersion for me, and in turn, is what made me truly care about the outcome of the story.
You might ask, “will I still enjoy this game if I haven’t played League of Legends before?” While I do believe you might get more mileage out of this if you’re already a fan, the answer to that question is still a resounding yes! Airship Syndicate have done an incredible job to accommodate any new players that are venturing out into this universe for the first time.
The art direction is similar to the one used in League of Legends, but leans a bit heavier into the graphic novel stylization. This ends up working to the games favour, as characters personalities shine through in the forefront, while backgrounds still remain vibrant and lively. Combat sequences were another visual treat for me, though admittedly, the animations did get a little repetitive after a while. Thankfully, Airship Syndicate have provided players with a way to increase the combat speed, so once combat exhaustion does set in, you can turn that on to make things a bit more manageable.
There are only two regions in the game to explore, those being Bilgewater and the Shadow Isles. Other regions like Ionia and Freljord are referenced, but you sadly never get the chance to sail out and see them. I personally never felt tiresome of the locales I was exploring, so this didn’t really have an effect on the game for me.
Traversing the game is all fairly standard and straight forward. Speak to NPCs to pick up quests, buy and sell items from vendors, and so on. There are puzzles to solve out in the wild as well, and these help to break up the standard gameplay loop.
Additionally, there are couple of side events you can partake in. The first of which is the bounty board, which rewards you for tracking down and defeating powerful enemies, and the other is a fishing mini-game. While the latter was fairly relaxing, it lacked any real substance to keep me entertained for prolonged periods.
The combat in this game uses a system called ‘Lane Initiative’, which, for all intents and purposes, is an innovation to the combat timelines seen in the likes of the Trails series. For those that don’t know, combat timelines provide you with information on when everyone will be making their next move, thus, allowing you to make more tactical decisions.
The combat timeline in the Ruined King is referred to as the Initiative Bar, and it is split up into three separate lanes called ‘Speed’, ‘Balance’ and ‘Power’. Using an ability in the ‘Speed’ lane will make that action preform faster, but as a trade-off, it will be slightly weaker. ‘Power’ will make your action take longer to execute, though it will pack more of a punch when it does. Lastly, the ‘Balance’ lane acts normally, and has no changes in speed, or ability potency. You’ll also have to deal with regional effects which apply varying buffs and debuffs.
While the Lane Initiative system does a nice job of improving upon an otherwise stale design, it unfortunately made the game a bit too easy for me. The lack of any really challenge made combat sequences rather boring, and this even while playing it on its hardest difficulty.
That’s not to say that the Lane Initiative system doesn’t have potential though. If Airship Syndicate are going to do a sequel, I hope they build upon the foundations they’ve made here, and create a more robust system with additional features.
Of course, no RPG is complete without character customization options, and the Ruined King has a fair amount of depth when it comes to this. For starters, each ability comes with its own mini skill tree, so you can modify the way that they work to suit your needs. Additionally, entire characters can be spec’d into specific avenues, so if you want to change your healer into more of a damage dealer, there is options to do that.
There is also a plethora of gear to find within the world, which come with different properties and affixes. You can also enchant the gear to give them additional benefits and traits, or, to mix up the way that they work entirely.
On the audio side there really isn’t too much to say. The arrangements made for the soundtrack are perfectly suitable for what they need to do, and the sound effects are crisp matching that of their visual counterpart.
The Ruined King is varied enough that it kept me entertained throughout the majority of my playthrough, but combat fatigue eventually left me feeling a little exhausted by the end of it. While the story is fairly simplistic, the charming characters, mixed with the sublime art style, made it a fun jaunt overall. If you are a fan of League of Legends and turn-based RPGs, then this is the game for you. Otherwise, I’d recommend waiting until this goes on sale before picking it up for yourself.