The wait for Arcane season two is already weighing on me. I watched the first season twice, went to Secret Cinema’s live event Enter The Undercity in LA, and even dabbled in League for a weekend, but it still wasn’t enough. Fortunately, the recently released Ruined King: A League of Legends Story is the perfect way to keep the Arcane hype alive. I plowed through the campaign in a week just to soak up as much Runeterra as possible, and I don’t even like turn-based RPGs (or reading).
Before I get your hopes up, Ruined King doesn’t take place in Piltover & Zaun nor does it feature any of the champions that made up Arcane's cast, like Vi, Jinx, Caitlyn, or Jayce. It’s set in a totally different region of Runeterra, the pirate city known as Bilgewater and the nearby Shadow Isles. As much as I would have loved an Arcane RPG to pick up as soon as the show ended, I appreciated having a new corner of League’s lore to explore with Ruined King.
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Set after the League of Legends storyline Burning Tides, Ruined King follows pirate queen Miss Fortune and a party of adventurers on a mission to uncover the source of a mysterious dark force called the Black Mist. You don’t need to know anything about Burning Tides, Miss Fortune, or the Shadow Isles to jump in and follow the story. Just like Arcane, Ruined King uses characters, locations, and history from League as a foundation, but tells its own story without requiring any prior knowledge. Knowing League lore definitely enhances the experience, but it isn’t necessary. Everything you need to know is summarized in gorgeous animated cutscenes, and if you want to dig deeper, there’s plenty of lore collectibles to find.
Ruined King is the first Riot Forge game developed by Airship Syndicate, developers of Darksiders Genesis and Battle Chasers: Nightwar. If you’ve played Battle Chasers then you’ll know exactly what to expect from Ruined King – both aesthetically and in combat. Gameplay is split between two modes. In the overworld, you’ll explore several locations meeting characters, solving puzzles, and completing quests. In combat, you’ll leverage the skills and abilities of three party members to take on hundreds of enemies, from rogue pirates and automatons to wraith-like Mistwalkers and sea monsters. As you progress your party will grow as Miss Fortune recruits new heroes, each with their own stories and reasons for venturing into the Black Mist.
Their backstories and the relationships that form between the characters are at the heart of Ruined King, and the sole reason I was able to blaze through the 30-hour campaign so quickly. The core narrative isn’t nearly as nuanced or engaging as Arcane’s – in fact, it’s all pretty straightforward and predictable once you understand who the villains are and what they’re after – but it still gave me plenty of Arcane-esque feelings, particularly in the small moments when the party members are just getting to know each other. Every time you rest at a campfire to restore your health, you’re treated to a short scene where two of your characters get to socialize, trade stories, and reveal new things about the world of Runeterra.
While it takes places in and around Bilgewater, the heroes in Ruined King are from all over Runeterra. Braum comes from the snowy region of Freljord, while Ahri and Yasou come from the isolationist and nature-worshipping land of Ionia. Those regions not only have their own histories, but their own culture, customs, and value systems as well, and seeing how the characters in Ruined King learn to relate to each other and celebrate those differences was my favorite part of the experience. Conflict and culture clash drove the plot in Arcane, and Ruined King zooms out further to show just how diverse and complex the world of Runeterra is.
Hopefully the forthcoming League of Legends MMO will give us the freedom to truly explore the world of Runeterra, but in the meantime, Ruined King is the best way to delve deeper into the world of Arcane.
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