Developed by Airship Syndicate, the studio behind Battle Chasers and the pleasant surprise that was Darksiders: Genesis, Ruined King is being published under the Riot Forge moniker – a kind of in-house publishing arm from Riot Games, specifically targeting “completable” games in the LoL universe, developed by other, non-Riot studios.
It’s a turn-based RPG (separate to the other RPG-looking game Riot teased last year as ‘Project F’), and single-player only, meaning no co-op or anything of the like. There are six playable characters, all champions from League of Legends – Miss Fortune, Braum, Illaoi, Yasuo, Ahri and Pyke, for those familiar with the MOBA – who you’ll add to your group along the way and rotate in and out of a party of three. And it’s set in Bilgewater and The Shadow Isles, which are two regions – an argey-bargey piratey one and a spooky underworld one – in the LoL world of Runeterra. Here’s a fancy new trailer giving it a tease:
There’s not an awful lot else that’s known about it just yet – we should hopefully get a look at gameplay “in the coming months” – but we spoke with the head of Riot Forge, Leanne Lombe, plus Airship Syndicate CEO Joe Madureira, who gave us a bit more detail.
“This one is narratively focused,” Madureira said, for one. “So the characters are constantly interacting in and out of battle – the adventure and story elements are just as important as the combat.” Although there’s no romancing – condolances to thirsty BioWare fans – Madureira did promise it was a “true RPG”, with “a lot of exploration and interaction with both the environments and tonnes of NPCs.” There are also more League of Legends characters set to make an appearance, Madureira said, although he wouldn’t elaborate any further.
“We had a world map in Battle Chasers, we got rid of that,” he added. “So you don’t move around on little nodes, you’re actually in the world exploring the environments, the characters are in the environments, all the NPCs you interact with. So it’s a much more immersive experience, and that was important for us. We didn’t feel like for League of Legends with as rich as and huge as the world is, that players would be content just walking around on a map. So all the exploration is really fleshed out.”
Loombe also stressed the the fact that it’s still an “indie” game, in their eyes, rather than a triple-A joint, which makes sense as Airship Syndicate is still a smallish team, of around 20 or so developers full time, in-house. It’s something Madureira also reckons helped the studio cope with the effects of the pandemic, “I think if we had hundreds of people trying to do this, it would be getting out of hand. I think we’re still a manageable size to where it didn’t impact us, as it probably did some other developers.”
Madureira’s personal background, meanwhile, is actually in comics, working on Uncanny X-Men amongst others, and so “the handcrafted, bespoke illustration,” as Loombe put it, as seen in the trailer and artwork released so far, is “definitely something that I think sets the game apart,” and also part of what made the partnership so attractive. In her words, the goal with Riot Forge is to focus on games that can “really drive the narrative forward for the League of Legends universe,” and that the studio is keen to “reimagine League of Legends in a different way,” with Madureira’s art and Airship Syndicate’s background apparently being a key part of Riot’s decision to approach the studio.
I was also curious about how much freedom Airship Syndicate would have, what with this being a “canon” game still managed by Riot as publisher, and whether this was a Disney, Star Wars, EA kind of situation where things had to go right up the chain. Loombe emphasised how much Riot wants the developers it teams up with to “creatively own the games,” though, with Madureira adding that the developer had “quite a bit of freedom,” still. “The freedom was definitely there – I don’t feel like we were ever told ‘no, you can’t do that’… it was surprisingly smooth. I say surprising because I have work on other people’s IP,” he added with a laugh.
What else? Well, details on things like cross-buy, cross-save and the like are still up in the air (“as you know with new generations of consoles, things do get worked out at the very last minute…”), and things like Game Pass have been considered although again, “we need to figure out what makes sense for players and the game,” was how Loombe put it.
Early days then, basically, but with the heft of Riot behind it and that knack for a good time Airship Syndicate showed with Darksiders: Genesis, maybe one to keep an eye on.