League of Legends is finally having its Avengers moment

For years, League of Legends lore has been hit or miss, a mass of retcons and origin stories. For a while, I checked out, exhausted with the constant origin stories that never seemed to lead anywhere. Now, between Wild Rift and the current Sentinels of Light story, I’m fully back on the hype train. I haven’t been this pumped about League in years, and it’s largely because of the Avengers-style team-up currently going on in the world of Runeterra.

I’ve been faithfully following along since the early days, when half of the champions were essentially aliens who had been teleported to this fantasy world and then conscripted into gladiator status. The original nations were vaguely defined with themes like “Pirate Town” and “Bad Guys.” Over the last few years, Riot has been carefully honing and massaging its mass of fantasy lore into a compelling universe.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=tW6eHnIzpQM%3Frel%3D0

This started with a big retcon that removed the concept of “Summoners” battling it out in a “League of Legends,” then moved to region-wide story revamps. Now, there’s a whole rich world to explore with a scope and density similar to Marvel and DC or the Warhammer settings. If you’re interested in high-technology settings, the Netflix show Arcane focuses on the cities of Zaun and Piltover. If you prefer magic and ancient Gods, the Freljord is a region that focuses on that. Demacia is knights and dragons, while Noxus is a Rome-style expansionist empire. There’s something for everyone.

There are even villains who can pop up and serve as temporarily urgent world-ending threats. That’s exactly what’s happening now in League of Legends. The world’s saddest wife guy, Viego, is trying to cover the world in a blanket of ghouls, ghosts, and mists so he can find the soul of his dead wife. The Sentinels of Light, an anti-undead task force, has recruited a bunch of champions from around the world to help fight him back.

This is an extremely simple concept — good guys fight bad guys for the fate of the world — but it’s effective. Riot has cleverly set everything up for the event and rolled out big-ticket items in stages. There are Ruined and Sentinel skins for champions who have been mind-controlled or recruited in this big battle. These are familiar faces in new, cool outfits teaming up with each other for the first time, and it’s fun to watch their interactions play out through voice over and lore stories.

On top of the action figure-like thrill of seeing these old characters in cool new armor, there’s a visual novel element to the game. When I log in and play Wild Rift, I get little story snippets with Sentinels Senna and Lucian. It gives the sense of continual progress through the event, and as the story progresses, more content drops. A new cinematic! A brand-new champion! Woah!

This isn’t high art; I’m not marveling at the sophisticated conflict between nuanced sides. It’s well-executed fantasy pulp with a beginning, middle, and end — and that was seemingly impossible for League a few years ago. It’s like heading to the cinema to watch the Avengers for the first time, but with more weirdly sexy, shredded ghosts.

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