I haven’t written a game review in awhile. This isn’t because I don’t play games any more. It’s because of League of Legends. I’ve been playing it for a few hours a night for over nine months, with little room for other games.  (There have been a few other games, but they rarely grab me enough to finish. Arkham Knight is coming soon, though…)

Careful, we can still lose this... oh, kaboom

Careful, we can still lose this

So how’s it going? Eh, up and down. You can easily play this game for nine months and not be very good at it. I mostly play ARAM, which is good practice on all the champions and far more low-key.  I’m still kind of terrified of Summoner’s Rift (SR), the normal game mode.  I have over 400 ARAM wins and haven’t quite got to 100 in SR.

Occasionally there’s a game that makes it all worth while, such as this one (I was on the red team, in SR):

We win

We got this

LOL players will grok this immediately: it’s the story of a remarkable comeback in the last 3 minutes of a nearly hour-long game. What’s remarkable is that the other team (Blue) threw it away. They had aced us, and were in our base killin’ our dudes. They could have easily taken the Nexus. Then they all recalled home. Maybe they figured they had only three players up, they’d better come back later. Maybe they wanted to rack up kill counts. I dunno, but we got our act together and blasted right through them.

I was also happy because, unusually, playing an ADC went the way it was supposed to. I was Caitlyn, and had a slow early game, but got better and better as the game went on, ending up 13/7/9. I like Caitlyn because a) she has a very long range, longer than other ADCs, so you can be a little more aggressive, and b) her ult isn’t a skillshot, so it’s rarely wasted. Also c) it’s long range so you can totally killsteal from your pals.

(If you don’t know LOL: ADCs are Attack Damage Carries. Damage is of two types, magic (AP) and normal (AD).  Caitlyn’s gun is almost entirely AD. “Carry” is what’s supposed to happen: by the end of the game, the ADC is doing immense damage and carries the team. But in the early game you’re very squishy and you need a support character just to stay alive.)

The downside of SR is that it’s frigging difficult to learn. You start out with bots, but the highest-level bots are barely a preparation for humans. And the worst feature of humans is that they can get toxic, or give up, when they’re losing.  I’d really like to get good at ADCs, but so far as I can see, the matchmaking almost always gives enemies above my level.  (It’s safer to play supports– supports are always needed– but as with medics in TF2, sometimes players will blame their own bad play on their support.)

Honoring my LOL stoner pals. Srsly the game is full of them.

Honoring my LOL stoner pals. Srsly the game is full of them.

Playing with friends greatly reduces the toxicity and increases teamwork… though I’ve had to defriend more than one person who lost it when a game didn’t go well. But if the friends are higher level, then the matchmaking finds higher-level enemies too. And your pals may or may not be able to carry you.  More reasons, unfortunately, to hang out in ARAM where strategy is limited and people are more out to have fun.

Frustrating in another way: another recent game I went 12/7/20 as Varus… that’s good as it means I’m landing his skillshots more and learning how to play him… the problem being, I had the best score on the team… so we lost.  The tackiest thing people do in LOL is to abuse their teammates, and I’m not doing that… to be honest, I concentrate so much on what I’m doing that I rarely notice patterns in what other folks are doing wrong.  (Except for, like, going 2×5.  Group up, people!)

But then sometimes, like tonight, I get a frustrating game with an exhilarating comeback.  I was Ashe, another ADC, still one of my favorite characters.  This was an ARAM game, nearly an hour long.  We had Ashe, Sona, Ekko, Teemo, and Azir, against Viktor, Katarina, Karthus, Nunu, and Nautilus.  It was even for awhile, then they seemed to be crushing us.  They were at our Nexus twice, but couldn’t quite get it. Looking at the postgame stats, I’m a bit surprised to see that their standout was Viktor. More than once I got nabbed by a nasty Katarina + Karthus combo. None of us were tanky, but they let us get to level 18, when all of us could be effective.  We started to connect while fighting back, pushed through to their inhibitor, and next push got to their Nexus.

(Another comeback story.  Well, that’s because a comeback is a story. A roll isn’t a story; it’s barely a game.)

When a LOL game goes well, it’s like a ballet of microsecond-long attacks and repositions.  A teamfight may depend on landing a skillshot here, taking advantage of a stun there, barely escaping a counterattack yonder.  It’s unlike TF2 where skills and players are more predictable, and any one player doesn’t make quite so much of a difference.  Of course, the lows are lower, too: in plenty of games everyone kind of sucks and can’t seem to figure out why.