The Ruined King

The Ruined King: A League of Legends Story is a translation effort, like many of Riot’s previous efforts. Despite its widespread community toxicity and the significant time commitment needed of most players, League of Legends is one of the most popular games in the world—but shows like The Ruined King and Riot’s recent Netflix series Arcane allow those without a death wish to enter Runeterra. The outcomes are really encouraging.

The Ruined King is a turn-based RPG set in Bilgewater, a key area in League of Legends’ setting, Runeterra, for Xbox One/Series X/S, PS4/PS5, Switch, and PC. To paraphrase Illaoi, one of the game’s key characters, the city is layered, moist, and hungry—it is a city constructed on desire in all of its forms. You take control of a small group of League Champions as they fight the advancing black mist and the titular Ruined King.

The Ruined King Introduction

Through its near-unwavering focus, The Ruined King serves as an excellent introduction to Bilgewater, and by extension, Runeterra. You won’t meet every character from Bilgewater; characters will talk about other places of the world, but you’ll never visit them. However, the camera in the game never leaves the city. Because this is a story about a single location, it’s a great place to start for beginning players. It’s considerably easier to learn the rules and rhythms of a single city than it is to understand the rules, customs, and cultures of the entire planet.

And it’s worth mastering those norms and rhythms. The game’s level and environmental design are extraordinarily rich, with minor details aplenty—from short side regions with simple puzzles and engaging narratives to new equipment and breathtaking views. For example, a mansion off the beaten path in the game’s first big dungeon exposed me to a short story about a family of spirits reuniting before leaving the haunting place to wander the world.

The Ruined King also has a large quantity of prose, the most of which appears to be excellent. Journal entries, letters, and other pieces of text can be found everywhere across Bilgewater and the Shadow Isles, steadily filling your inventory. A sequence of letters between a Nagakabouros priestess, a Buhru deity, and a recent convert have been discovered. The convert’s gradual exposure to and corruption by a cult-like faction of the church is detailed in the letters. Every contribution I’ve seen has been exceptionally well written, and I’m looking forward to reading through them once I’ve finished a few of the stories.

The Mechanics

The Ruined King mechanics

The Ruined King, in addition to having excellent writing, has successfully translated League’s hallmark mechanics into a whole different genre, with variable degrees of success. The game has an active time battle system that harkens back to the early Final Fantasy titles. Each duel has a timeline that shows who will act when and how. Each character has a combination of instant and lane abilities, which take time to cast and frequently cost mana. Basic attacks create temporary mana in the form of Overcharge, allowing you to use your most powerful skills without spending Mana.

Another translation from League is that lane abilities need you to choose which lane you’ll assault in. Attacks in the Speed Lane appear faster and cause less damage. Attack power and speed are evenly distributed in balance lane attacks. Power Lane strikes are powerful, but they take a long time to set up.

This system is simple on the surface, but The Ruined King manages to make it intriguing by tying dozens of buffs, debuffs, and special effects to the Lane you’re in at any one time. Early on in the game, one adversary possesses the trait “Primed Mist Bomb,” which allows them to do massive damage to the Champion who kills them. By hitting that enemy with any Speed Lane attack, you can disable this ability.

Lanes and understanding the game deeper

AOE-style boosts and debuffs are baked into the history of The Ruined King, in addition to lane-specific qualities and effects. These effects are a fantastic turn-based adaptation of League’s positioning and skill-shot emphasis. A Wildcard effect will appear at the start of several battles. The wildcard is a bonus that is applied to the chronology of the game. A buff will be given to a character who acts at that point in the timeline.

Using multiple lanes to get your characters into the proper time zone to get a bonus adds a lot of strategy to otherwise straightforward combat confrontations. During a Critical Boost, for example, I’ll do everything I can to ensure Yasuo’s multi-hit critical damage attack fires at the proper time, even if it means shifting into the Speed Lane and sacrificing base damage.

The Ruined King story poster

Even on Hard mode, you can easily get strong enough to forget about a lot of these mechanics (which I played on). Poison Clouds, an early game hazard, can wreak havoc on your party if you’re not careful, although you can focus down a large number of foes quickly enough that it doesn’t usually come into play.

Skill-shots are also added to The Ruined King’s overworld, allowing you to hit adversaries before a fight starts for some useful benefits. At first, Illaoi’s skill-shot deals modest damage to all foes.

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