Riot Forge’s new game, Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, has been recently released to the world, and in my extremely biased opinion, it is amazing. Join me here as I fully review the game in all of its aspects!
If you are not familiar with Ruined King, let me first break down the basics of the story and the gameplay. Since this is a tale that takes place in the world of Runeterra, we will of course be playing through this game as some of our favorite champions, in some of our favorite regions.
Even though the champions and the environment might be familiar to LoR and LoL fans, the gameplay certainly is not. Ruined King is actually a role-playing game with turn-based combat, packed with a ton of adventure elements.
If you enjoy the Runeterra universe overall, especially if you like digging deeper into it like Legends of Runeterra does, then you really don’t want to miss this game.
Welcome to Bilgewater
Our story starts off in the port city of Bilgewater – home to pirates, smugglers, traders, sea monsters, and criminal bosses. We are quickly immersed in this region through various environments such as mansions, docks, ancient temples, boats, and much more.
Our story does not end there, however, as we eventually will make the trek across the sea to the neighboring Shadow Isles. This land is filled with nightmarish ghouls and monsters and is the source of the Black Mist.
If you are familiar with the Runeterra universe and timeline, this game is set after the events of the Burning Tides saga (the clash of Miss Fortune and Gangplank in Bilgewater) and prior to the arc of the Sentinels of Light (Lucian and Senna fighting against Viego).
The environment is of course only the backdrop of this game. We will be spending our time playing as a team of champions – we get to progressively unlock new characters and will eventually be able to choose from the full roster of 6 champions to fill up our 3-member adventuring party.
Hailing from Bilgewater itself, you will play as Miss Fortune, Illaoi, and Pyke. All the way from Freljord, Braum joins the team. And from the mystic mountains of Ionia Ahri and Yasuo join the adventure.
On the surface, this squad does not appear to have a whole lot of reason to be united as far as their backstories go, but this game masterfully weaves them together in a compelling way that not only follows a logical narrative but also allows each champion to shine on their own.
We experience the story in a variety of ways. Of course like in any RPG, the game progresses through main quests, side quests, and the decisions we make during those. There are various cut scenes as well, to further flesh out key details of the story. Some of these are told in a beautiful comic strip-like fashion, which fits the overall art style of the game very well.
Beyond this, our champions are constantly having dialogues in-between your party members – whether that be during a mission, or during a rest period. This helps build the chemistry of the team and further explains why they are all working together.
Finally, for those of you who are extra into the lore of Runeterra, there are over 100 hidden lore drops throughout the world that all tell more stories in a written form.
Turn-Based Combat with a Twist
The most important component to any game is of course the gameplay. There are two ways you play Ruined King.
Firstly, when you are out of combat, you control one of three champions that you have in your squad – in an isometric view. In this format, you explore the open world, solve puzzles, move the story along, initiate combat, speak to NPC’s, and much more.
This overall is a pretty standard approach to role-playing games, but the unique spin in Ruined King is the different Dungeon Abilities each character brings to the exploration of the world. Each champion has two unique abilities you have access to during the exploration portion of the game.
The first ability is a way to initiate combat on roaming enemies that will give you a bonus. Some are simple such as Braum’s Shield Stomp, which will initiate combat by damaging the enemies and giving them stacks of Concussion, a unique mechanic for Braum. Another example is Illaoi’s Tentacle Slam, which will allow you to initiate combat and have a tentacle spawned for Illaoi, a very important piece of her combat style.
The second ability each Champion has is further helping the purposes of exploration. Keeping with the two examples I used, Braum has a poro friend who can explore small gaps and holes no other champion can get to, while Illaoi has the ability to read an ancient language that no other party member can. These abilities allow you to deeper explore certain areas if you are using the correct champion at the correct time.
Where Ruined King truly shines is within the turn-based combat. Each champion you have access to provides a particular advantage over the others, as they all fill a certain role such as healer, tank, or damage dealer.
Like most games in this genre, there is an initiative bar that governs each combat and shows you the order each unit will act, based on their particular stats. Timing your attacks in order to maximize how many actions you get and how many actions you let an enemy get is key to victory.
Where it gets really interesting is in the way various abilities in this game are balanced. There are Instant abilities and Lane abilities. Instants take no time to cast and are performed immediately – usually for a moderate impact that has some kind of a setup value for your follow-up synergistic plays.
Lane abilities can be performed in three modes – Fast Lane, Balance Lane, and Power Lane – they determine the speed at which they resolve and the power of the effect.
For example, Miss Fortune can choose to cast her Heartbreaker ability in Fast Lane – it means the damage she deals will be a bit lower, but the effect will resolve before the enemy gets to cast their spell. Alternatively, casting in Power Lane allows you to deal the most damage, but the speed will suffer, delaying the next window MF gets to act.
You can track all of these cast-timers and triggers on the neatly organized initiative bar, which allows you to strategize and closely manipulate the events of the combat.
The last unique aspect of this combat system is Hazards, Boons, and Wildcards – these are the events that affect the fighters, and they are also represented on the initiative bar. Each event takes up a little horizontal space on the timeline, and any unit within that space will be affected.
You can change the speed of your Lane abilities to navigate the initiative bar – this allows you to target or avoid these special events to get unique bonuses or avoid a Hazard in the nick of time. Blending all of these aspects together makes for a really new twist on turn-based combat that I think should be a standard going forward for the games of this genre.
No RPG would be complete with just combat, so of course, in Ruined King you have various equipment, ability trees, leveling, and more.
Firstly, the equipment system is relatively straightforward. Each champion can equip one weapon, a chest armor piece, a ring, a necklace, and a trinket. Each of these items offers stat bonuses that will affect the champion’s health, mana, damage output, haste, critical chance, and much more. Some even have specific bonuses to certain abilities.
Beyond just item management, there is a form of crafting system called Enchanting. Instead of making items from scratch, Enchanting items allows you to apply specific bonuses to the items you already have. This further allows you to specify each champion’s build to get exactly what you are looking for.
Each Champion unlocks all of their abilities as you level up throughout the game. The choices you get to make are not which abilities to unlock, but which abilities to upgrade. Each ability has a simple leveling tree that you can spend points on as you level up, to a maximum of 3 times per ability.
When you upgrade an ability, you have two alternative choices, each will boost the ability in a very particular way. Sometimes this is as simple as a damage boost, other times it will alter the ability entirely. One of my favorite styles of upgrades is when the ability drastically changes depending on the speed you choose to cast it with. This really allows you to manage the combat initiative system even furthermore and gives you more control of your timing.
The Runes and Masteries system is filled with passive upgrades to your champions that you also unlock as you level. These help you further define the role of each Champion.
For instance, I use all of my Rune points on Braum to boost the potency of his Damage Shields. This helps him not only become a big tank who can taunt the enemy, but also a unit that can apply bonus shields to himself and allies that will soak up a lot of damage.
Alternatively, if I wanted to, I could use my Rune points to make Braum do some heavy damage, especially with this large area of effect attacks. This is just one simple example of how the Rune system can alter the play patterns of one Champion.
Preparing the Perfect Team
In Legends of Runeterra, I get the most joy from building my own deck. There is no feeling like finding that perfect synergy between cards, refining it, and tackling the ladder or gauntlet with it.
Building a team in Ruined King is a lot like that in many ways. It first starts with the champions. Out of the six options, you must narrow it down to just three. Will you go for the ultimate tanky team with lots of healing? You could also try to go with the most burst damage possible in order to kill your opponents before they can act too much. Or you can land somewhere in between and have a healthy mix of healing, tanking, and damage.
The latter is where I landed. My favorite team as of now consists of Illaoi, Braum, and Miss Fortune.
Illaoi quickly became my favorite Champion to play because of her unique mechanics. In order to get the most value from Illaoi’s abilities, you will need to summon tentacles. Using her Runes and Ability upgrades lets you customize how you wish to do this. I chose the path that gave me quick and consistent ways to summon tentacles, instead of the path that allowed for more damage output but less consistent tentacles.
I use Illaoi as a damage dealer and healer mix. Every time my tentacles strike, they restore health to allies. I also have ways to lifesteal with her as well as use single target massive heals or massive damage output abilities, which are especially powerful when I have the maximum amount of Tentacles.
Her first Ultimate ability is the one I use the most and a large part of what my team is built around. It outputs high damage to a single target and heals my most damaged ally while getting boosts to both of these things based on the number of tentacles I have. Running a consistent build means I can get my maximum number of tentacles very early in every battle, and have them ready to go by the time I can use my Ultimate.
Braum is my meat shield. I did dabble with some of Braum’s area of effect damage, but ultimately landed on using him as a stable tank who can taunt enemies, apply heavy shields to himself and my other champions, and slowly ping enemies with damage as they attack him.
I rarely end up using his ultimates, but I do use a lot of his abilities in the Power Lane (i.e., with the long cast time, but for the max effect). I upgraded Braum to be even stronger against attacks while he is channeling an ability. This means I can take my time after taunting with Braum, and cast a group-wide shield ability in the Power Lane and Braum will block a ton of damage. Rarely I will use a non-shielding ability such as just an instant attack or a delayed area of effect attack, but Braum primarily remains in this squad to keep my other Champions as healthy as possible.
Last but not least is Miss Fortune. Although Illaoi eventually does massive damage, Miss Fortune can do even more as soon as the battle starts.
There are quite a few different ways to build Miss Fortune. You can build Miss Fortune with a lot of Evasion, so she can dodge plenty of attacks while also getting various bonuses. You can also build her with a lot of area of effect damage in order to spread out your damage.
In order to complement my build, I wanted Miss Fortune to be a high damage threat to single targets. I focused on upgrading her ability to apply Tapped to enemies and dealing additional damage when she does so. Once the enemies are Tapped, I use some of her Lane Abilities to deal extremely high damage, often getting a critical strike able to kill most enemies in one hit.
The balance of this high output damage, a tank to guard my team, and Illaoi to be flexible with damage or healing makes for a very well-balanced squad capable of dealing with a variety of threats.
If you are a fan of the Runeterra IP, whether that be through League of Legends, or because of Legends of Runeterra, Arcane, or anything else it has sprawled into, Ruined King is a must-play.
It truly does an incredible job allowing the player to explore two drastically different regions, play as familiar champions, get to know them better and watch an intriguing story unfold.
Beyond that, if you are a fan of turn-based combat or strategy games in general, you will enjoy the role-playing elements as well as the combat system. In my opinion, the Lane System is a game-changer for turn-based combat games going forward. For the cheap price of $30 the Ruined King delivered on every front I wanted and then some.