Photo Credit: Samantha Hamilton, Photo Editor
A spoiler-free review on how the highly anticipated series from the popular esports title “League of Legends” is storming over the world
Ethan Hui, The Mike Contributor
During the dawn of the 2000s, in an attempt to recreate the blooming success of their hit strategy video game “DotA,” Riot Games put their own spin on the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre through “League of Legends,” often referred to as “League.” The world of esports and competitive gaming has changed ever since. Now entering its 2nd decade, League is still as popular as ever, and Riot Games has continued to maintain the evolving nature of the game, particularly through the game’s massive and multifaceted lore.
After 12 years since its release back in 2009, we have finally received an official and extravagantly animated TV series adaptation, under the hands of French animation studio Fortiche. Arcane attempts to advance the immersive world and lore of “League of Legends,” and is certainly Riot’s gift to hardcore fans of the game. However, the sheer quality and success of the resulting product left a mark on the public and many entertainment outlets, beyond the reach of the video game the show was based off of.
The story of Arcane is a fantasy series that breathes life into the world of Runeterra through the lens of two sisters, both of whom are playable characters in League. It pays homage to the game world’s most conceptually interesting setting, the steampunk-esque “Piltover” and its underground cyberpunk counterpart “Zaun.” The history of conflict between the two nations sets up an elaborate story that doesn’t shy away from the grandiosity of war and politics. At the same time, it maintains the escapist fantastical wonder that “League of Legends” is known for. With the animated medium, Arcane allows for an expansion of the fantasy world. While it does not do so through the most innovative means, it maps onto the lore and worldbuilding of “League of Legends,” which gives an adequate story that bridges the divide between the video game fanbase, and any newcomers to the franchise.
The cast and characters, some original, and some from the enormous champion selection of the base game, already provide a strong incentive for fans to check out the show. This is the first official opportunity for fans to see their playable characters as real, multifaceted human beings, rather than the loose caricature they were presented as in their short character description in-game.
The animation of the series continues on the ground-breaking path set by the pristine quality of Into the Spider-Verse back in 2018. In the same way that Into the Spider-Verse uses the artistic style and nuance of the comic-book genre to elevate its story, Arcane involves 3d character models and 2d backgrounds and effects, to give a distinctive video-game-like flare.
In terms of its promotion and advertising, Arcane leans into the quirky style that Riot has used in the past. Both “League of Legends” and “Valorant,” Riot’s popular tactical first-person shooter game, hosted in-game events as the series was airing.
League of Legends’ “Into the Arcane” event provided players with additional lore under each of the major characters in the show via the Council Archives. It also allowed for opportunities to earn the Arcane-variant champion skins, represented by the character appearance in the show, for free within a designated time.
In “Valorant,” players were able to earn Arcane-themes items in game by accumulating XP. They were also given the chance to purchase the set of items using Valorant’s in-game currency. One of example is the weapon skin called “Arcane Sheriff”, a weapon used by the character named Jinx in Arcane.
Outside of in-game promotions, Riot Games hosted exhibition events in various real-world locations. In Seoul, South Korea, an Arcane-themed café with a featured art gallery and merchandise for sale was opened for a limited amount of time to promote the series.
Riot Games also advertised Arcane on various billboards in the center of New York and Moscow. The most surprising promotion location, however, was in Dubai. The show’s trailer was revealed in a stunning display by lighting up the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
As of the time this review was written, the series has finished its final act, reached the Top 10s on the Netflix chart in Canada, and has obtained skyrocketing review scores in many media outlets. Its unorthodox release schedule of three episodes per week gives weekly watchers plenty meat to chew on before the craving for next week’s episodes begins.
With the 2nd season recently announced and a new fighting game featuring the same characters in Arcane, the hype train is not dying anytime soon. There is no better time to witness a series that pushes the boundary on the cross-medium potential of video game than now. Just be careful to not fall down the League of Legends rabbit hole!