Riot Games still has the power to surprise us all with League of Legends' new game mode: Dominion. Senior Staff Writer Chris "Pwyff" Tom got some hands-on time in San Francisco, so read on for all the details!
When Riot Games invited members of the press to San Francisco for a League of Legends "world premiere" announcement, I'll admit that I went into it thinking that I knew exactly what was up. After all, with the game's huge success over the past year and thousands of new players coming in every day, what better time than now to announce the release of everything that's been on the "coming soon" itinerary? I don't think there would have been a single disappointed journalist at the event if Riot had rolled out a graphical overhaul and a new map in the highly anticipated Magma Chamber; throw in the introduction of a bunch of new champions, some small surprises for the commencement of Season Two, and there you have it! In fact, I was so confident in this prediction that when Andrew Beegle, Riot's lead community manager, asked me to venture a guess, I actually felt bad for ruining the surprise.
Oh how wrong I was.
It was probably those smug looks I spotted mid-speculation that tipped me off, but when Riot finally got around to making their announcement, well, I suppose a little pride is to be expected when you've evolved a gaming genre into something quite spectacular. I'm talking, of course, of Riot Games' revolutionary new game mode: Dominion.
Allow me to explain.
What is Dominion?
In a nutshell, Dominion is League of Legends distilled into pure adrenaline. Gone is the ever-familiar Summoner's Rift, with its traditional DotA-inspired gameplay, and in its place is the Crystal Scar, a highly coveted mining village that utilizes a capture-and-hold point system where players must fight for control of five strategic locations to win. Creeps still remain in Dominion, but they serve a lesser purpose here, as players will often find themselves engaged in frantic skirmishes with the opposing team throughout the duration of each 20-minute game.
When it comes to describing Dominion in one word, frantic is certainly a strong contender; any tactical features in LoL's classic mode that encouraged cautious play have been eschewed in favor of features that get you back into the action faster. Jungling, for example, doesn't exist in Dominion, and players who venture off of Crystal Scar's circular lane will find minor health/mana pods, short-term speed boosts, and a powerful relic that can be claimed every few minutes to give your champion some great bonuses. Gold and levels are also very easy to come by in Dominion, as virtually any action will net you rewards. Players will also find that their preconception of 'early game' will be different, as each champion starts at level 3 with 1375 gold.
In terms of balance, Dominion is a fascinating demonstration of developer ingenuity. Instead of balancing each champion uniquely within Dominion's new ruleset, Riot focused on introducing new items to give floundering champions the edge they need to stay competitive. Many of the dedicated support items, like wards and counter-wards, have also been omitted from Dominion, and if you combine this with the exponentially higher gold gains (kills and creep farming seem to matter much less than taking and defending points), every champion should be able to get those items they need to be a strong threat. Of course, I don't think I'm completely sold on Riot's assertion that all champions are viable and balanced, but it's still refreshing to know that your Janna or Soraka can end the game with more items than a Heart of Gold, a Philosopher's Stone and boots (this is, of course, disregarding those players who refuse to ward support as support champions).
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