One key element of League of Legends is the constant change. Patches release every two weeks, causing certain champions and items to raise or fall in the power tier. In the middle of the season, and between seasons, Riot releases major updates to classes of champions, neutral objectives, or the map itself. Game designers may redo entire systems, such as runes or masteries. One of the most exciting changes in the game, however, is the introduction of new and reworked champions.
Riot introduces new champions into the game throughout each season. These champions try to fill unique gameplay, design, and lore niches that may not have existed in the game or universe previously. A champion may start with an impactful new ability and build from there. He may start as a previously unexplored mixture of roles. She might be a cool character within the League of Legends story that gets fleshed out with abilities based on her personality or position within the world.
Other times, Riot decides to take an outdated champion and perform a Visual Gameplay Update (VGU). This involves choosing which champions in the game are not fun to play, unhealthy for the game, visually inconsistent with the updated design, or a combination of these factors. Reworking the chosen champion generally begins with designers establishing what parts of it are working, and which are not. What is this champion’s gameplay fantasy? Which abilities are iconic? What is inconsistent between the gameplay, visuals, and lore of this champion? Once Riot has defined what pieces they want to keep, and which they want to lose, they get to work editing the art, lore, abilities, personality, etc.
New and reworked champions are under enormous amounts of player base scrutiny throughout the process; from the announcement to release. Fans of certain champions chime in through online forums to discuss what they enjoy about a champion, or where it falls short. This is especially true of reworks. In some cases, Riot barely changes a champion. They may polish the in-game model. They may tweak certain abilities to allow for more counterplay or different windows of strength and weakness. The personality may remain the same as before. But other times, a champion comes out looking and feeling very different.
With new releases, there is a lot less player input prior to release. Riot does a good job keeping new releases secret until Easter eggs or teasers are released to announce the arrival of a new champion to Summoner’s Rift. Between the teaser and the Champion Spotlight, there is generally wild speculation as to who this champion is. What abilities will she have? Will he be a bruiser or assassin? Does it even have a gender? Is she shy? Is he from Demacia or Noxus? Conversations go pretty far to hypothesize just where this new character will fit within the 130+ roster.
Nonetheless, new personalities and playstyles cause old ones to shuffle around in priority. New or reworked champions may come in overpowered within the meta. They may have a game-breaking ultimate that forces them to be picked or banned. They may fit into a new gameplay niche that allows them to flex between lanes or positions. An item may synergize extremely well with them that provides an early power-spike that no other champion can match. But, which one is more fulfilling for players: new champions or reworks?
Camille is the newest champion release to hit the Rift. She is a Piltovian assassin with augmented swords for legs. She makes it her mission to maintain order within the aristocratic class by killing those who would want to change the establishment. Strutting with her nose to the sky, her title is “The Steel Shadow.”
On Summoner’s Rift, Camille is a mobile fighter-assassin. Her Hookshot ability allows her to grapple into and off of a wall to catch enemies out of position. Her ultimate, Hextech Ultimatum, isolates a target within an inescapable field. The enemy stuck within must fight or die.
Upon release, Camille was very strong. Lead Designer, Mark “RiotScruffy” Yetter, reflected last month “Her ban rate has been pretty high in the last few weeks, and she definitely released too strong.” Her ability to swing across the map, jump on a squishy target, and secure a kill seemed to be virtually unmatchable. In lane, she created plenty of pressure. She was able to easily trade and push waves, allowing for a roam. Players primarily take Camille top lane, but pros have utilized her in jungle, mid, and even support.
Ivern, ”The Green Father,” was Riot’s second most recent release. His early concept came from experimenting with a jungler who does not kill the camps. His secondary role is support. Ivern is a tall, lanky, goofy tree man who roams through Runeterra’s forests, protecting and producing living things.
Ivern’s gameplay is unique. He is the only champion in the game who can take jungle camps without physically killing them. His passive, Friend of the Forest, allows him to receive gold and XP by freeing the monsters. Ivern uses shields and roots to provide utility to his laners. Daisy! Is his ultimate ability, which summons his large, pounding stone sentinel to tank damage.
While Ivern was not too popular in professional play initially, his appeal has slowly developed. More and more pros across most regions have picked up Ivern in the jungle. RiotScruffy commented “The sheer amount of unique things on his kit is pretty staggering (team dash, brush, jungle farm) and this is the high end of how ‘weird’ we think we can take a new champion.” Ivern has introduced a new perspective for champion development that League may see more in the future.
Kled is the third most recent champion release. Designers produced early iterations of Kled to create a Noxian meme. He represents the spirit of militant Noxus, a fearless cavalier who runs in and tries to take everyone out. A scarred eye, jagged teeth, an oversized battle hat, Kled appears to be a war-tested creature. He is also one of only two animal-mounted champions, joined by his reptilian steed, Skaarl. Finally, Kled’s voice-over is violent and crass, which has been popular with his fans.
Within the game, Kled only uses offensive abilities. Beartrap on a Rope, Pocket Pistol, and CHAAAAAAAARGE!!! are examples. He pulls enemies in close, shoots them, jousts them, and when all else fails, he creates a large speed path for his entire team to engage. Arguably, the most interesting part of his kit is his passive: Skaarl the Cowardly Lizard. Skaarl and Kled share a health bar. When it is low enough, Skaarl retreats to leave Kled to fight for himself, and only comes back when Kled attacks enough.
Although he has not seen much professional play, each of the five major regions have at least one Kled game this Spring Split. He has only been in top lane. Kled boasts a 53% winrate, and a middling playrate (5%) in Platinum+ ranks. He truly is a pocket pick for most players, but can bring success into his games. Kled represents a semi-joke of a champion with minimal focus on his story or place in the lore, and more about pursuing an abstract idea. RiotScruffy’s thoughts on Kled included “This ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ type approach leads to a very sharp type of champion that some players love, but others will hate.”
Warwick transformed from the typical trope of a wolfman into “The Uncaged Wrath of Zaun.” Sporting some new green fluid injectors, this champion got a significant upgrade. Warwick’s visuals, gameplay, and story are meant to execute on the out-of-control-werewolf fantasy. Riot designed him as an introductory jungle champion with enough sustain to get through early stages of the game self-sufficiently.
Riot tweaked Warwick’s abilities to be more impactful earlier in the game. His prior design required the jungler to farm the jungle until his ultimate was unlocked at level 6. Warwick players also suffered from extreme highs and lows of power between ultimate cooldowns. His VGU brought more early utility, such as the fear on Primal Howl, or the lunge on Jaws of the Beast. Lastly, the ultimate, Infinite Duress, became a leaping skillshot that scales with movement speed.
If nothing else, Warwick’s teaser has been one of the most well-received pieces of media from Riot. The video perfectly played up the new Warwick changes. He is currently played in 6% of games in Platinum+, and 12% of games in Bronze; professionally, however, he has only seen six games worldwide. Warwick has been a successful delivery of a specific gameplay fantasy.
Yorick mains had been begging for his VGU for a long time. When Riot finally decided to take a crack at him, they cited “the three things we thought were the core of Yorick were that he summons Ghouls, that he is a beefy juggernaut with a shovel, and that he is kind of the ‘good guy’ of the Shadow Isles.” His appearance, gameplay, and story arc changed to a large degree. Rather than an ugly, hunched gravedigger hobbling with his face completely covered, now Yorick is a muscular, veiled monk-type character. His ghouls and the Maiden of the Mist have updated visuals and programming.
Yorick is still a juggernaut. He struggles to close the distance on squishier targets, but he does build health and damage items. His biggest use is split-pushing with his minions and ultimate, Eulogy of the Isles. He is able to trap enemies within the destructible Dark Procession wall, as well. Yorick moves slowly, and bashes opponents with his shovel while soaking large amounts of damage.
With his new visuals, gameplay, and story, Yorick definitely fits into the League of Legends roster more than ever before. He heavily benefited from his VGU for any new players to the game. However, many of his fans seemed to have mixed reviews upon release. Riot dropped aspects of Yorick’s art, mechanics, and personality that attracted some players to the champion in the first place. Also, Yorick’s playrate in Platinum+ is just 1.7%, and his winrate is 48%. Yorick has only seen one game in the LMS and one game in CBLoL so far this split.
Ryze was the VGU released prior to Yorick. This most recent rework is actually not his first. Riot outlined his issues this way: “The Rune Mage had three major problems: he’s too difficult to learn, too strong once you’ve mastered him, and too confusing to lane against for players who haven’t memorized the nitty gritty details of Ryze’s stacking and spell-combo gameplay.” They added a proper storyline to his character. Ryze is an extremely old and powerful mage who scours Runeterra looking for magical runes to keep them out of the hands of evil-doers. His in-game model and all nine of his skins (including the base) got visual updates.
Riot designed Ryze as a “machine-gun” mage with low cooldowns and high damage potential. Based on the order of abilities, his current iteration allows him to combo to create the effects the player wants. Waveclear, roots, Realm Warp; all tools to allow Ryze’s team to play around him. One problem with Ryze historically was his difficulty to balance. Ryze was generally either too strong or too weak for different levels of play. He was picked or banned one patch, and ignored in others. His rework is meant to fix that issue, as well.
Ryze has seen a ton of professional play. His utility, damage, and waveclear allow high level players to hone in on his strengths. Well-coordinated Realm Warps can make or break games. His playrates float between 4%-6% across all elos. Most players see Ryze in a much healthier state than before, but he does suffer from low winrates outside of Challenger tier.
Even when some champions turn out to be disappointing in one aspect or another, leading up to the release is always an exhilarating time for League of Legends players. Introducing new stories, new personalities, and new abilities to the game to keep it fresh. These introductions fuel constant adaptations to playstyles, metas, and strategies.
League has seen new champions develop from abstract ideas, innovative role combinations, and powerful gameplay mechanics. The game has also recycled old characters and abilities into more modern representatives of Summoner’s Rift. Whether it is redeveloping a champion around a gameplay fantasy, redesigning unique play patterns, or simply creating a fully fleshed character with healthier balancing opportunities. Each of these releases comes with its fair share of praises and complaints.
So, what do you think? Have new releases, such as Camille, Ivern, and Kled, satisfied you more? Or have you enjoyed the transformations of Warwick, Yorick, and Ryze? Are you more excited to try your hand at Galio’s new kit, or maybe hoping for something better in the next new champion? Feel free to cast your vote in my Twitter poll here.