League of Legends started off as a small MOBA with a roster of 42 champions upon release in 2009 – 12 years later the roster has expanded to 157 champions, each with their own unique backstories that have built up the universe of Runeterra into a rich, intriguing world that is spoiled for content. With this content the possibilities are fruitful, to list a few projects that expand upon the League of Legends universe there is firstly an MMO which was first teased by Marc Merrill (the co-founder and co-chairman of Riot Games) back in 2019 and which was officially confirmed in 2020 by Greg Street (Head of Creative Department for Riot Games). Secondly, there’s a turn-based RPG called Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, which was released recently on the 16th of November. Project L is a fighting game with an emphasis on 2v2 fights that is currently in the works with some demo footage of gameplay available to view on YouTube. Team Fight Tactics is another project which started as a separate game mode in the League client but has now been published on its own and lastly, there’s Legends of Runeterra, a digital collectable card game released in 2020. It’s not just video games either, Riot debuted the virtual pop group K/DA at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship to massive success, the girl group consisting of alternate universe versions of the champions Kai’sa, Evelynn, Ahri and Akali gained 100 million views on the official music video on YouTube within one month – this was not Riot’s first venture into music but it was the first time they’d tried anything of this scale with turning their champions into literal pop stars themselves.
Riot capitalized off of the success of K/DA as they continued to release singles by the group which all garnered significant amounts of success, and they eventually debuted another group made up of more League champions set in the same universe as the K/DA group called: True Damage. With this continued success, the possibilities were endless for where Riot could go next – what media would they try and conquer? Well, this was answered during Leagues 10th-anniversary celebrations during the latter half of 2019 where Arcane was unveiled: League of Legends first-ever TV series. It was originally set to release in 2020 but due to the coronavirus, it was rescheduled with the first episode debuting on Riots twitch account in the form of a Livestream, garnering 1.8million concurrent viewers. The full series is out now with them releasing three episodes each week and concluding with the third part on November 20th. The series takes place in Piltover and Zaun (just before it was officially named so), following the origins of four main legends: the sisters Jinx and Vi, as well as the scientists Jayce and Viktor. The latter pair shows the Piltover perspective with the former showing the Zaun perspective. It has a PG13 rating yet it is very much not a kids show, it contains a lot of dark and gritty violence alongside strong language which makes for a more mature story. Politics is a heavy theme inherently woven into the story with neither Zaun nor Piltover being shown as definitively good or evil. Without delving into spoilers, the characters are very well fleshed out with driving forces that often leave them as fairly morally ambiguous due to their flaws being presented alongside their good traits. Familiar faces are shown throughout for fans of the game, yet no former knowledge of League of Legends or its lore is needed to enjoy this series with its excellent worldbuilding that introduces the world of Runeterra as if it had never been seen before.
Fortiche Productions are the main animators behind the series, they have previously worked with Riot on the K/DA music video, Rise music video, Get Jinxed music video and the Ekko character trailer. Their works also include a Gorillaz music video advertisement and a Marvel short containing guardians of the galaxy stars: Rocket and Groot. Their animation style is nothing short of masterful with a blend of 3D models and 2D effects similar to the style of the Marvel animated film Into The Spider-Verse. It’s visually stunning with countless beautiful scenes that deserve to be framed in a museum with its painted aesthetic. The hard shadows, prominent noses and thick hair strands create a unique visual style quite unlike anything out on the mainstream right now. With expressive facial expressions, the emotional beats of the series hits 10x harder as the characters feel real, a viewer can connect very easily with the people on screen and feel for them as they progress their lives throughout the show.
Imagine Dragons created the opening song; Enemy feat JID, the song itself perfectly sets the tone for the show with its catchy beat and telling lyrics. Imagine Dragons have worked with Riot on projects in the past like the song Warriors which was created for Worlds 2014, a League of Legends Esports tournament. The act 1 OST also includes a variety of songs all fantastically performed and integrated within the show: Playground by Bea Miller (the voice of Evelyn in The Baddest K/DA song), Our Love by Curtis Harding and Jazmine Sullivan, Goodbye by Ramsey. Act 2 keeps up the standards set by Act 1 with another set of amazing songs with fantastic vocal work: Dirty Little Animals by Bones UK, Guns for Hire by Woodkid, Misfit Toys by PushaT and Mako (a DJ who has collaborated with League a lot in the past with songs like Rise, Piercing Light remix, Awaken, Stars Right Here), Dynasties and Dystopias by Denzel Curry (who has worked on a Burn it all Down remix for worlds 2021) and Gizzle and Bren Joy, Snakes by PVRIS (who worked on Burn it all Down) and MIYAVI. In Act 3 the songs within are When Everything Went Wrong by Fantastic Negrito and What Could Have Been by Sting and Ray Chen (who worked on Awaken).
A diverse cast is used with a multitude of unique character designs, fitting for the world of Runeterra where humans and other humanoid creatures live side by side. The voice acting is superb with especially outstanding performances from the main cast: specifically Vi, with no surprise coming from a well-known industry figure Hailee Steinfeld who has experience with voice acting Gwen Stacy from Into the Spiderverse and live-action acting as she starred in the main role for Pitch Perfect 2, and her role in True Grit, Enders Game and the 2013 version of Romeo and Juliet. By far the best performance goes to Mia Sinclair, the 15-year-old voice actor for Powder – act 1 is full of emotion and she perfectly encapsulates all the feelings from Powder and delivers a believable and truly moving execution of the character. The voice actor for Jinx does an amazing job as well, Ella Purnell provides the voice and is most well known for her role in Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children.
As of writing, the series holds a 100% critic rating on rotten tomato from 18 critics, and a 98% audience score from 2910 people making it Netflix’s best-rated original show. It held the number 1 spot in 52 countries for the most-watched show on Netflix and even surpassed Squid Game, it still holds the number 1 spot in many countries today a full week after full release. Arcane has definitely set a high standard for future video game adaptations, and as one critic – Rafael Motamayor from IGN Movies, put it: it’s a ‘nail in the coffin of the so-called “video game curse.”’ Referring to the, frankly bad continuous adaptations that have been put out in the past. Overall it is a masterpiece of a show in every aspect that is highly recommended to delve into, and with season 2 being confirmed to be in the works with a release date set between 2023-2026 there’s no better time to start getting into the lore of League of Legends.