It was meant to be the event of the year. However, the Rise of the Sentinels event has retconned lore and burned out players, all in an attempt to make one champion become the “Big Bad”, and its consequences extend far beyond the borders of the LoL client.
Bringing the Sentinels of Light back — and telling their story — is the biggest lore-related undertaking in League of Legends’ 12-year history.
The Rise of the Sentinels didn’t come at a light cost. Viego, the Ruined King himself, had returned, and the latest wave of the Ruination was setting in to transform Runeterra.
However, what really had the potential to be a touchstone for years to come for League of Legends players has, in reality, become a huge meme of wasted potential and soured the entire Ruination storyline, including the upcoming game.
The worst event grind in League of Legends history
I’m going to put the writing aside for a minute — even though that’s been the main gripe. Let’s talk about event design. Even for the most dedicated League of Legends players, the expectation to play through this event was way too high.
To get through the story, you needed to play the game. Each game netted you points based on your performance in certain stats (takedowns, objective kills, jungle monsters slain; a good spread).
Although you recruited Sentinels to join you at the end of each chapter, giving you a boost of points for future games, you’d still only earn on average 40 to 50 points a game.
So imagine my surprise when I turned the pages from Noxus and its 280 points to complete to Ionia the next week, set at over 1000. A story grind which took a day or so — seven-odd games — had ballooned out to over 20.
Expecting players to do that not once but multiple times across a week to get through the story was totally unrealistic and unhealthy. It’s the worst grind League has ever seen.
However, Riot’s bandaid fix — a 600 point, constantly repeating mission released in Week 3 — went too far the other way. Now the story is meaningless. Past grinds have gone to waste, and now you can complete each region in two games, so there’s no value in getting to that next chapter.
The pacing of this event has been completely screwed up, and honestly, now it just feels like a chore to click on your Rise of the Sentinels tab and get your 10 tokens so you can move on.
The consequences of retconning League’s lore
Now, let’s get into the major gripe: the Rise of the Sentinels event writing. Contrary to popular belief, the Skins team did not write this event; the Narrative team did. It’s been a two-year-long endeavor for them.
If you check Reddit, every second thread is basically slagging on the writing and its formulaic, linear, boring structure. These concerns are justified.
You discover a new region, find your new protagonist straight away, Viego appears, he takes a part of Isolde while you can’t stop him, says some stuff to Senna, and then he disappears. The new protagonist joins the merry band of men, Gwen gives them a new haircut (or extensions), and you continue your futile journey across Runeterra.
It’s so predetermined that on the first few slides of Chapter 1 of a new region, you can guess what’s going to happen. Some random coincidence means Viego (or Vex) is going to beat you there, and you’ll just watch this fragment fall into his hands.
The champions themselves are awkwardly written too. Olaf is just a big, smelly man that can get angry on a switch, completely contrary to his lore. Graves somehow likes Vayne, even though she hates mages and Graves’ best friend, Twisted Fate, is one. Every interaction lacks nuance, and we don’t really learn much outside of stereotyped tropes.
Not to mention, just in the quest to bring back Isolde, Viego has basically retconned a good handful of champions’ lore.
The dude is apparently powerful enough to corrupt not just the spirit of Ionia (Karma) but also literal demigods in Targon like Pantheon (I wonder how Aatrox feels). His entire character, destroying the world for love, is so superficial, and it comes at the expense of previously well-written champions.
Plus, a lot of the onus is put on this rookie (you). I don’t care about the rookie’s secrets when he’s opening the Black Rose door. Get Senna or Riven to walk up instead.
The storytelling elements of this event are basically ruined by the visual novel experience. It worked for Spirit Blossom — an alternate universe (AU) skinline — but not for something which is meant to be a canon element of League’s lore. I mean, if the Ruination wins, Runeterra is no more. That’s not really a joking matter, despite all the interactions you have in the VN.
Also, where the hell is Akshan? The Rogue Sentinel released for this event has hardly made an appearance. With one week’s worth of chapters to go, he’s going to have to swing in at the last second to save not just Runeterra, but the story as a whole.
Overall, the in-game experience is terrible. It’s rushed, you learn nothing, all while destroying the “proper” story of Runeterra before this. A series of videos would have done a much better job and likely captured some of the nuance that is so desperately needed.
There is one saving grace of this event; the Steadfast Heart comics. They have been a source of decent storytelling, going deeper than the in-game story. It feels like this was meant to be the narrative conveyed in-client.
Apparently the Wild Rift event was also good, but this Dexerto writer hasn’t played it yet. The 360-degree mobile site, replicating the Sentinels of Light HQ in VR, was pretty cool though.
The future of Runeterran lore is grim
When I look at this event now, I just see a mirage of wasted opportunities and a lot of angst for the stories they’ve introduced just to butcher past ones.
I’ve been playing League since 2009. I remember the Freljord ‘event’ back in Season 3, where you sided with one of the three queens: Ashe, Lissandra, or Sejuani. I repped my Winter’s Claw summoner icon for years following it.
Burning Tides — the event that brought Bilgewater back into canon Runeterran lore — was ambitious at the time in Season 5. They disabled Gangplank for a couple of days, just for lore’s sake, to mimic his death. The story was heavy, and it bore love and appreciation for just how deep the League of Legends universe really was.
While the Institute of War has been retconned out of the game’s lore, it grounded many of the interactions that happened in-game and provided a strong backbone to develop relationships between champions and regions. The Journals of Justice were a nice touch, too.
Players wanted something greater than these when Rise of the Sentinels was announced. Riot hyped it up to be bigger than Ben Hur. Now, the disappointing flop has only served to retcon the lore of dozens of champions and completely butcher Viego’s story.
We want more lore, but not like this.
The consequences are pretty clear now too. The excitement for the Ruined King standalone game, and even the in-development MMO and TV series Arcane, has evaporated, and Riot has a long way back in regaining players’ trust if they ever want to do a lore event of this scale again.