Ruined King review: League RPG offers Pyke, Poros, and Pirates

Lloyd Coombes
Ruined King: A League of Legends Story review header

Ruined King: A League of Legends Story saw a surprise launch last week, and LoL’s Runeterra has never felt more inviting.

League of Legends fans have had a wild few months. Wild Rift has arrived on mobile platforms, while card-battler Legends of Runeterra is, in this writer’s humble opinion, the best game you’re probably not playing. Then there was Worlds 2021, followed by Arcane – the game’s new Netflix show that’s drawn rave reviews from fans and critics alike.

At a recent Riot Forge event, we saw the announcement of Hextech Mayhem, while the team at Airship Syndicate’s long-anticipated RPG finally dropped after more than a year of silence. While the game may have received little to no fanfare ahead of its release, we’re here to tell you that yes, League fans have another hit on their hands.

Ruined King – Key Details

  • Price: £24.99
  • Developer: Airship Syndicate
  • Release date: November 16, 2021
  • Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC

Ruined King – Trailer

Breathe in that Bilgewater air

Ruined King screenshot showing exploration
There are secrets to be found, with some enjoyable environmental puzzling to be done.

LoL’s setting, Runeterra, is ripe for exploration outside of the confines of Summoner’s Rift, and while Arcane showcases the duality of Piltover and Zaun, Ruined King takes us elsewhere on the continent.

Bilgewater is a pirate’s paradise, filled with detail and brimming with opportunity for ne’er-do-wells like Miss Fortune to build a faction, earn some coin, and get some revenge on those that wronged her family. Picking up with the gun-toting pirate, Ruined King is a tad expositionary in its early moments but after some clunky flashback cutscenes to set the scene, it’s immediately apparent that Airship Syndicate has done their homework with Riot’s cast of characters.

Pyke, the borderline zombified serial killer, also known as the Bloodharbor Ripper, is another of your protagonists, further blurring Bilgewater’s thin lines of morality. If the city wasn’t in a pretty dire state already, torn apart by gangs and crime, then it sadly only gets worse with the Harrowing. The Shadow Isles’ black, mist-like tendrils sweep across the city, and are set to engulf all of Runeterra.

After one such occurrence, your team of six League of Legends champions decides to head to the Shadow Isles to prevent it from happening again by seeking out Viego, the Ruined King.

Before we touch on gameplay, though, it’s impossible to discuss Ruined King’s story without touching on its characters’ relationships. Your party is formed of Miss Fortune, Pyke, Braum, Illaoi, Ahri and Yasuo, and there’s a real ragtag vibe to the sextet that just clicks. Whether it’s Braum charming Illaoi, or breaking down Yasuo’s detached nature, or, well, just anything involving Braum, really. He’s a delight, and the way the game pitches the team as almost a “Suicide Squad” of Runeterra is endearing while never feeling forced.

Miss Fortune is feeling lucky

Ruined King screenshot showing combat
Combat is dynamic, despite remaining turn-based.

Strong characters and a gorgeously detailed world do not a fine turn-based RPG make, though, but what’s impressive about Ruined King is how it freshens up the genre’s formula in a way that’s distinctly League of Legends.

When combat begins, players will need to manage the usual health and mana resources, while also keeping an eye on a kind of timeline at the bottom of the screen called the Initiative Bar. Not only will enemy abilities be shown here, but you’ll also find environmental effects listed for certain scenarios which offer buffs and nerfs.

If your character’s action lands in that window, it could be beneficial or, more likely, detrimental. To counter this, your attacks work in different lanes. Your standard lane, the Balance Lane, will offer your standard abilities, with Speed and Power lanes will change how quickly your abilities are cast – and how much damage they do.

Lining your moves up just right to avoid an environmental hazard or trap, then switching to the power lane to demolish an enemy feels great, particularly in instances where you come up against tougher opposition on the Shadow Isles.

It also punishes overextending, just like the MOBA, while also having characters play specific roles. It’s a really smart way to handle combat that could otherwise have felt a little static despite the big personalities of your team.

Shadow Isles Soundtrack

Ruined King screenshot showing Ahri's abilities
Ahri is as powerful as LoL fans would imagine.

Scoring your trek through the Shadow Isles is a gorgeous soundtrack from Gareth Coker of Ori, Immortals: Fenyx Rising, and Halo Infinite fame. It takes League of Legends’ bombastic setup of huge orchestral pieces and solemn, almost hymn-like vocals to new heights.

It’s foreboding when it needs to be, each character has a thematic motif, and it’s always epic. Even if you have no interest in Ruined King (why are you here?) it’s hard not to recommend a listen on your chosen streaming service.

Rating: 9/10

Ruined King is both a wonderful glimpse into League of Legends’ most nefarious region and an indication that Riot’s universe really can open up in new and interesting ways.

While we were cynical when it first launched, it’s clear Riot Forge, and Airship Syndicate, have plenty more stories to tell in Runeterra – and we can’t wait to experience them.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch

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