I sat on the Battle Chasers post for nearly 3 years because I didn’t have a lot of pics of my playthrough so I made sure to take as many as I could for Ruined King. Lo and behold, I took up close to 300 pictures when I needed less than 10 for this post.
Riot has really spread its wings after developing their single game for the better part of a decade, no doubt tired from balancing Summoner’s Rift for the millionth time. Between the incredibly successful Arcane and breaking out into different game genres such as Valorant and even having a fighting game in production. One of the other additions to multimedia franchises was Ruined King and I was pretty excited to learn it was made by none other than Airship Syndicate. News for the game didn’t really show up for a while until the game just released and I wasn’t able to get my hands on it for at least a year until it finally went on sale 2 months ago. Personally, while I believe it is superior to Battle Chasers in many ways, a couple issues hold it back from being as memorable.
Let me get this out of the way first. Ruined King’s first and foremost accomplishment is bringing the nation state…? I have no idea what the city-states in League are referred to anymore ever since the lore was retconned to remove the Institute of War and the ACTUAL League of Legends. Anyway, Bilgewater, or just the pirate town was previously focused on in bits like the updated Twisted Fate and Graves rivalry and the in-game game mode Black Market Brawlers during an event called Burning Tides. That event introduced the updated Gangplank model and lore as well as making Captain Fortune a thing. It was probably the only time in my memory with League when Summoner’s Rift was changed in such a way and I had a lot of fun with my friends during it. Even some of the creatures introduced in that mode made it into the game as local fauna such as Razorfins and Plundercrabs. Sadly no Ocklpods and Ironbacks.
Bilgewater is frankly, weirdly beautiful. From the bustling, multi-tiered elevations of the Fleet Streets, the larger than life fish butchery of the Slaughter Docks, and the bustling ports of the Docks Harbor, Airship Syndicate was able to bring the locale we only knew of through text to life. Bilgewater is what I wanted Harm’s Way from Battle Chasers to be, a town that you actually travel through multiple parts of town on foot. Instead of just having it be an overworld with gratuitous walking distances between faculties like Blacksmithing, Monster Hunting Boards, and Shops. Bilgewater has some distance between these services now and there’s thankfully a fast-travel system. It’s still limited to taking you between four areas of town but I appreciated being able to walk through the locale in its entirety. There are some moments during exploratio nowhere the camera pans out to show you a beautiful vista of places to visit.
Bilgewater is only one half of the game’s locale and as the title of the game would suggest, the other half is the Shadow Isles. The Shadow Isles themselves were part of the Ruination event that introduced Viego and his whole story and like Bilgewater, was something we only learned of through text. The Shadow Isles did catch a little break years ago when they revamped the Twisted Treeline, a 3 vs. 3 mode. The lore for the champions of the Shadow Isles have changed over the years so I’m not too familiar with them anymore. I did also hear about how the Ruination event in the MOBA was supposed to coincide with Ruined King’s release but scheduling mishaps didn’t let that happen.
When I went back to Battle Chasers to get some screenshots, it painted to me just how much Airship Syndicate improved their graphics, or at the very least got them way more detailed than they did with Battle Chasers.
The story of Ruined King takes place shortly after the events of Burning Tide. The short version of which is Miss Fortune blows up Gangplank’s ship and presumably him with it and proceeds to take over Bilgewater and bring the rampant infighting to an end under her leadership. However, as soon as Miss Fortune pacifices a gang called the Syndicate, Mist Walkers start appearing in Bilgewater. Illaoi receives a vision to investigate the Shadow Isles and is met by Braum, who had attempted to sail towards the Shadow Isles only to be shipwrecked and rescued by Illaoi’s people. Their investigation towards the nearby Grey Harbor, already under the effects of the mist, is joined by Yasuo, who had previously arrived in town with Ahri in tow but the latter had gone off on her own.
The story for is pretty basic all things considered and I’m not sure if Viego’s past was fully elucidated upon in the moba, if it had any opportunity or means to do so outside of lore pages, but I did learn a couple things since most champions here existed before I quit League. For one, I had no idea Illaoi and Gangplank knew each other. Ahri’s lore was definitely updated since they made all the animal-ear based champs into a new group of people called the Vestaya. Braum, Yasuo, and Fortune didn’t change all that much and Pyke was the newest champion by the time I quit playing but I did appreciate his lines. Viego’s story in particular, which is critical towards weakening him enough to fight against his abilities, was interesting given how so much of his character revolves around his obsession with his dead wife. The story was simple but it served its purpose. Also Thresh is in his “updated” artstyle without a skeletal face, probably due to Chinese censors.
The side quests were interesting and of the backstabbing nature which is commonplace for Bilgewater so I liked that it fit the nature of a very cutthroat town. One of the smaller encounters where you’re baited into opening a chest in a back alley actually got me killed at a low level. The side quest amount is significantly higher than Battle Chasers and it would be a given since there’s so much space to make use of between Bilgewater and the Shadow Isles.
So not only does Ruined King look better than Battle Chasers it also expands its gameplay with Battle Chaser’s system. The two biggest changes to the combat in Ruined King is the Lane System. All attacks aside from your first tab of Instant Attacks take up space in the turn-order and abilities that spend Mana or Overcharge will automatically be placed onto the Balance Lane. You can choose to either sacrifice an ability’s power in exchange for a quicker activation time by placing it in the Speed Lane or do the opposite, sacrifice time for greater power, through the Power Lane. Environmental Hazards also present themselves in one of three lanes or an entire block of space on the turn order bar so you can play around certain debuffs. Some enemies require certain abilities to be placed on a certain lane to properly damage them or to dispel one of their buffs. It was an interesting system that varied up the combat.
Another big change is the Ultimate Bar. Much like Battle Chasers, everyone has multiple ultimate to unleash after building up the bar throughout a fight. What’s different now is that the Ultimate Bar does not carry over between fights so you are incentivized to use it in encounters whenever you are able.
A significant change outside of the combat is each champions abilities during map traversal is now infinitely useable instead of costing mana or coming with a fixed amount of times they can be used during dungeons. It made initiating combat with an ability way more frequent (read: used every time it wasn’t a forced fight) and each of them debuffed an enemy in a certain way as the battle started.
Much like in BC, the game starts out a bit difficult where you constantly need to manage your mana/overcharge to top up after most fights. It’s not until around midway through the first big dungeon around level 8-9 where you unlock perks and traits. BC’s system had it entirely focused on Perks where you could select from two trees, offensive and defensive, and this allowed for perks such as healing at the end of fights or your healer applying a heal on the most wounded party member at the start of a fight. Perks could also enhance the abilities of certain abilities as well as your basic attacks while also cumulatively unlocking extra bonuses depending on how many points you were investing into either the offensive or defensive tree. The system in Ruined King works similarly, except now there are two mechanics at play.
First, all champion abilities including basic attacks, but excluding dungeon abilities and ultimates, can be upgraded twice, splitting into two branches as well. Like perks in BC, you can pick and choose either tree of effects with no penalties, allowing you to change up a character’s niche in combat. Take for example Braum, his auto attacks place a Concussion debuff that eventually ends up with a stun on an enemy. You would think Braum would be useless if an enemy is stun immune but you can modify Braum to simply deal extra damage to opponents who are stun immune instead. Speaking of Braum, they give you a hell of a starting trio with Braum, Illaoi, and Yasuo. Braum’s concussion can be so easily procc’d with Illaoi’s tentacle attacks, it just meshes so well together.
The other half of the ability customization is with Runes, which you are rewarded with on level up and after reading ability tomes gifted through collecting bits of Lore in-game. Runes are your conventional perks that grant extra boost to stats, abilities such as healing after combat, starting with a shield active, carrying overcharge between fights, as well as creating beneficial effects on the Lane system by introducing character specific buffs to override the environmental hazards or in more cases, taking away the random boon system to exclusively benefit allies as enemies can also make use of the system if it is not an ability originating from a champion. Braum can grant free shielding, Illaoi can heal, Yasuo can increase haste or critical chances, Pyke can stack debuffs for free or stealth allies, etc.
The Fishing Mini-Game is also back with the mechanics tied to it being identical to BC. The only difference now is that the game doesn’t make you walk aaaallll the way to the Fishmonger near Junktown to trade in your fish for Black Marks. You also don’t need to find the fishing spot in a dungeon just to catch your last bit of fish as now there are four fishing spots you can access in the bigger map to select between islands for you to fish in.
User Interface and Progression
As the game is significantly more open than BC was, there’s a nifty map that keeps track of your collected lore and treasure chests for you. The Map screen also has the handle on your Quest Log which is separated into Main Objectives, Side Quests, and Bounty Side Quests, the latter of which are the replacement for the Monster Hunting Side Quests from BC. Instead of a bestiary, bounties are placed on the Bounty Board in the middle of the city in the Docks Harbor.
I got to the Shadow Isles before I understood the fact that Enchanting your weapons and armor did not require a specific vendor or an enchanting as it can be done right from your menu screen. You no longer need to rely on mysterious cubes in a dungeon to upgrade the rarity of a given item either as now you can do the act yourself if you have the materials. In that regard, dungeons are no longer randomly generated and are completely structured. However, there are two instances where you can upgrade your gears’ rarity in a similar vein to BC.
BC was a slow game now that I look back on it, and that’s one of the few reasons why I haven’t gone back to finish its NG+ mode. It seems that Airship Syndicate had a similar notion and added a run button for your characters to traverse dungeons and areas faster as well as double the speed of combat.
As dungeons are placed around Bilgewater and the Shadow Isles, backtracking for side quests and other objectives are common place but when I thought to myself that this backtracking would lead me to encounters with weaker enemies, I learned that certain early areas such as the Grey Harbor and parts of the Shadow Isle replace their weaker enemies with stronger variants as you progress through the game which I appreciated. Plus there are quests associated with older areas which puts you in the path of these stronger enemies to boot. A smaller point but BC had little conversations take place between party members at the Inn which I enjoyed a lot and Ruined King seriously added a ton of rest point conversations between party members that I greatly appreciated. What’s better is that you can replay these scenes at any rest point too.
I actually thought the game was going to be a lot shorter than it ended up being and was pleasantly surprised with how much more I got out of it. I thought Thresh’s library would be the end-game but we had at least two more places to visit afterwards. I appreciated the game’s decently lengthy runtime. Although, the UI improvements and the lack of dungeon replayability for better loot did have me clock in Ruined King around 10 hours shorter than BC.
Last but not least, I appreciated all the callbacks to the MOBA through all the equippable items. I remember seeing Randuin’s Omen, Bilgewater Cutlass, Youmu’s Ghostblade, Wriggle’s Lantern, Innervating Locket, Doran’s Shield, Doran’s Ring, and many many others.
For all my praise, I think I enjoyed BC ever so slightly more than Ruined King despite all its improvements. As an original flavor RPG, BC just had a couple more novelties that stuck with me more while Ruined King is a worthy “successor” but had less cool ideas in comparison. There really wasn’t something as cool as confronting the Fire Lord hunting quest in BC in Ruined King I felt. One of the big gripes that I forgave Battle Chasers for was the enemy reskins because it was technically an original game but the enemy reskins here felt a bit egregious. Especially lifting the pugilist enemy model from Battle Chasers and using it across three to four variants across Ruined King’s locales.
Last but not least was the sheer amount of BUGS in the game that really soured my opinion of it. It has been 3 years since BC so I forget if there any glaring bugs with that game but there definitely were some annoying bugs in Ruined King. Off the top of my head there was a UI glitch that didn’t register the enchanting table in the Shadow Isles’ Drowned Port. A key item necessary to unlock the enchantment table in the Vessani Vault that doesn’t drop. Repeatedly opening a secret chest for double the loot and also repeatedly checking a cargo shipment during a quest to repeat a boss fight.
Ruined King is a clear and obvious upgrade to Battle Chasers down to world exploration, ability customization, UI, and combat but the League of Legends flavor is a great boon as well as a great weakness. The Runeterra universe is definitely interesting in a political/character-based narrative but that doesn’t necessarily provide for a complex bestiary to fight against. The reskinned enemy types do get boring to look at after a while. At the very least, the game is still visually popping with Joe Mad’s artstyle and the cut-ins, models, and the comic book style cutscenes are still top notch.
The flavor text in Battle Chasers being of its own universe gave it a lot of charm while League of Legends had its share of flavor text and in-universe references that, while entertaining nods, didn’t capture the same RPG camp that I loved so much in Battle Chasers.
Of course, the bugs were pretty annoying as well. Particularly not being able to access the final tier of Enchantments due to an item not dropping from a scripted enemy as well as UI bugs during combat. Normally the latter isn’t an issue but for someone like me who always chooses to conserve mana in favor of using overcharge, accidentally defending when I wanted to do attack irked me. While these negatives place it just barely below Battle Chasers Nightwar, I still found it a worthwhile game to play through and would recommend it to anyone who wants to experience more of League of Legends’ universe outside of the moba game. The game’s ending didn’t leave too much room for a sequel bait aside from naming Noxus the destination for both Braum and Yasuo so who knows, they seem to have been setting up Noxus for quite a while.