By Tasmin Talbot (@TasminTalbot)

Ruined King is a spin-off game – developed by Airship Syndicate and published by Riot Forge – from the popular franchise, ‘League Of Legends.’ In fact, it has the brand in its full title – ‘Ruined King: A League Of Legends Story.’ It was released in 2021 and is available on a large variety of consoles – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and is backwards compatible with the PS4 and Xbox Series X/S.

‘League Of Legends’ began as a MOBA game (and it still is one) but now there are various other games of differing genres that contain their characters (or ‘champions’ as they are officially called). ‘Ruined King’ is such a game, what with it being a turn-based RPG, but there is also ‘Hextech Mayhem’, a quirky rhythm game that is also extremely enjoyable. They are also both single-player with no online features.

Even though I am very familiar with RPGs, turn-based ones included, Ruined King is like nothing I have experienced before. It is actually quite complex, in my opinion, especially when you first begin playing. But, instead of finding the complexities frustrating, they are actually incredibly refreshing.

There are three different types of attack for each character – Instant, Lane, and, later on, Ultimate. Instant describes itself perfectly – all the attacks on this list will be carried out immediately. The Lane attacks, however, take time to cast so one needs to prepare accordingly. Finally, besides there being the usual HP and MP bars on the screen, there is also an Ultimate bar. This begins as one but is then separated into three when your characters (champions) develop and learn more Ultimate moves. Each champion has three different Ultimate moves that they can potentially learn and they differ in damage (or regeneration, depending on who is in your party).

Party-wise, you can only use three champions maximum at a time and, considering the fact that this game is based on the journeys of six different characters, you can select who is in your current party and change them as often as you want. However, you do need to reach a Rest Point to be able to switch them in and out. Also, not every main champion can be played as immediately. It is only as the game progresses that you are able to locate and recruit certain ones. For example, Ahri, my absolute favourite character, wasn’t available to play as until I was over ten hours into the game. But believe me, she is most certainly worth the wait.

Each character has a different skillset; some focus on defence, others on healing and, of course, actual attacks, whether they be physical or magical in nature. There are certain times throughout the game where the skill set of a particular character is needed to progress the story or even to do something as simple as obtaining a rare treasure chest. This livens things up a bit, I would say, since it gives you (the player) an opportunity to mix and match party members. With so much choice available, one will not find gameplay repetitive or stale.

Ahri is of Vastayan heritage, hence her physical attributes, yet she knows little of their history. In fact, during Ruined King, that is her initial purpose, to find out more about them. Even though certain events which occur during the game hinder her from fully doing so, she still manages to find herself in a different way entirely. All of the characters have personal growth during the game’s story but, personally, I feel as though Ahri has the most.

She is far older than the other characters yet is absolutely riddled with self doubt, something which she continually struggles with. Even so, she is a powerful being, and is extremely passionate about nature. This is due to both her race and her upbringing. She is driven, this particular trait helping to propel her through the various obstacles which she faces. Ahri is beautiful, both inside and out, and I really respect her as a character, especially when she makes the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of their world, deciding to shun selfishness and act for the greater good.

I am personally a fan of the bond that she and Yasuo – who she originally hired to be her ‘bodyguard’ – share. Both of them have painful pasts, which are pretty similar in nature – both involving the death of a loved one, which they blame themselves for – so they can relate to one another. She initially attempts to distance herself from him – and people in general – due to certain powers she possesses that she cannot always fully control but she learns that isolating herself from society and not creating bonds is more damaging than beneficial.

Yasuo is a skilled swordsman and enters the game under the guise of being Ahri’s bodyguard. He originally comes across as quiet and rather reserved, traits which continue throughout the story. However, the more he interacts with the other main characters, the more he comes out of his shell, so to speak, and manages to form some genuine friendships with the others. Like the others, he faces his dark past and actually comes out better for doing as such. The dark cloud that initially plagued him evaporated when he did so, helping him open up even further.

Illaoi is a priestess – a ‘Truth Bearer’ – her mission in life being to both maintain and restore peace and harmony to the world. Upon first appearances, her physique and the fact that she wields an oversized idol that she uses to whack her foes over the head with, you would not be able to envision her as having such a calling but her devoutness does show, the more she interacts with others. In fact, she even has a crisis of faith during the game, questioning herself and everything she believes in. Everything she once considered as gospel. In the end, she learns not to take everything at face value. That her goddess does not merely want a puppet but someone with their own thoughts and feelings who can help spread the faith.

(Miss) Sarah Fortune is the character you begin the game playing as. She is a flame-haired pirate captain and her personality aligns with her appearance. She harbours a mighty grudge revolving around another captain – Gangplank – who brutally murdered her family and, throughout the game, you can see her battling with her inner emotions – that desire for vengeance – regarding this man. Her other desire is to rule over all of Bilgewater as their version of a queen. She is a confident character, wielding her pistols with expertise, and refuses to back down on topics she is passionate about, which adds to her overall appeal.

Pyke – also known as the Blood Harbour Ripper – is also a pirate captain with an exceptionally bloody past, thus earning his moniker. He possesses the special ability to ‘Dive’, where he goes underwater to obtain special items that the other characters would otherwise be unable to obtain. Like Yasuo, he starts off as very quiet and this does not really change throughout the game. In fact, I would say he was the character with the least overall development yet his powerful attacks – his ultimate attacks, especially – are what drew me to using him so often. He has his own agenda and once it is complete, is happy to part ways with the others.

Braum is a hero from the Freljord. He specialises in defensive manoeuvres, his weapon of choice being an enormous shield that has one hell of a back story. Unfortunately, he loses his trademark weapon and it is only later on in the game where you have the opportunity to acquire it once more. This is via a fishing side quest, fishing most definitely not being my forte, so I found this rather cumbersome. Despite his background, he actually seems to be quite a sheltered character, getting flustered by flirting. He is also extremely fond of Poros, his special ability being able to summon and send them into small spaces to retrieve treasure.

My personal preference of party members is Ahri, Yasuo, and Pyke because I feel as though they complement one another splendidly. Yasuo and Pyke both have high attack stats and Ahri is both a healer and a fighter. The best of both worlds. I have never cared much for defense tactics; I would much rather be on the offensive. That is just the kind of gamer I am. Charging in and causing chaos is my (not at all) strategic preference.

There are various art styles implemented within the game. It is mainly presented with a top-down perspective where you navigate the characters around the world. However, when interacting, an image of the characters in question appears on screen, along with text bubbles. Despite the text, you do also hear them speak aloud and the voice acting is definitely top-notch. Also, during actual battles, when an ultimate move is selected, a short cinematic of the chosen character doing that particular move is shown on screen. Both of these differ from the actual main story cinematics and personally, I thrive on the variety. Getting to see the characters in different ways is aesthetically pleasing, just like the soundtrack is audibly pleasing.

Riot seem to always include epic soundtracks within their projects, the TV show spin-off ‘Arcane’ being a prime example of this. Composed by Gareth Coker, the Ruined King soundtrack is an absolute delight. I would consider it superior to many a game, the only exception being of course, Witcher 3, a game which will never be topped in my heart.

For an RPG, Ruined King can be considered rather short but what content is there is absolutely fantastic. The plot is simplistic, you don’t need to be a League Of Legends expert to understand. Although, having some knowledge would further enhance gameplay. It took me just over thirty hours to complete the main story but when the various side quests come into play, that lengthens your playtime considerably. Especially if you are a ‘completionist’ type of gamer. Putting it into perspective, if I had completed every single quest in-game, my personal time would be closer to forty hours, perhaps even more.

Plot-wise, the game focuses on Bilgewater and nearby islands such as the Shadow Isles, for example, and you travel to and fro from this selection of islands during the game. However, there is still much exploration to be done regardless, where you are able to collect treasure chests and actual pieces of lore, both of which provide beneficial to your characters. There are plenty of puzzles embedded within the game so you won’t find it too easy. Speaking of which, there are various game difficulty settings, thus enabling the novices to the series (like myself) to be able to progress throughout the game without getting too stuck. Even so, I managed to die a ridiculous amount of times, regardless, even on the easiest setting, I am embarrassed to admit. But for those, more ‘hardcore’ gamers, I am absolutely certain that they will thrive on the challenge.

I like the nod to the League Of Legends universe throughout the game, things that people already acquainted with the series will appreciate, such as the fact you can purchase a Stuffed Yordle. Yordles being a race that I absolutely adore. Unfortunately, you do have to do battle with certain ones in the game, much to my dismay, but overall, they are on your side.

In summary, I would definitely place Ruined King in my ultimate favourite videogames list because it has so much going for it. The soundtrack, the visuals, the plot, and the characters themselves have all been honed to near perfection and I would gladly recommend that people should play this because I love it with all of my heart. The open (post-game) ending also means that I harbour hope for a sequel of some sort. My fingers are firmly crossed.