The visual and thematic redesign of Fiddlesticks is triumphantly unsettling. Elements of its kit are very creative, such as its passive, but its overall gameplay still fails to deliver the character's power fantasy.
To explore this, we need to understand what a power fantasy is. Each character's power fantasy is the experience they promise to deliver, the core appeal that makes you look at a character and say "That's cool / I want to play that". Here are some examples of successful power fantasies:
- Jhin, the Virtuoso: Jhin's fantasy is an artist of violence. This is shown by his portrayal in cinematics, where he is a sinister, composed figure waiting patiently for those who oppose him to walk straight into a trap he has already devised. His gameplay embodies this by hanging back to selectively dole out attacks, using arrangement and positioning to maximise his offence. The satisfaction of setting up a minion wave for Q to dance across and last-hit several in a row, or rooting a fleeing champion or interrupting their recall with the well-placed, singular brushstroke of a W convey his psyche. His autos aren't flurried rapidly like most other marksmen; each one is placed with a deliberate, almost conceited significance. His R is made to be used at range, like a composer at the head of a stage. If you wonder why Jhin is enduringly popular even when not meta, it's because his power fantasy and gameplay complement one another to form an incredibly strong identity.
- Lucian, the Purifier: Lucian is in many ways the polar counterpart to Jhin. Both marksmen, Lucian's power fantasy is a brave rebel against swarming evil. His gameplay is rapid, darting and daredevil, encouraging one to close on the enemy despite the risks. His passive makes him shoot more, while Jhin's makes him shoot less; Lucian's rewards him with more dashes to ride the edge of getting into his enemy's face while keeping out of their reach, while Jhin's allows him to withdraw and reload as he composes his next move. Both champions have a line shot ability, but see how different they are in feel and tactical use. In cinematics each are portrayed in a dark, abandoned location with a blue-black dominant colour motif – the difference is that Lucian is aggressively fighting up-close through hordes of enemies to hunt down his nemesis, while Jhin is patiently waiting far away for his hunters to come to him. When Lucian was considered too strong, one prominent nerf was to lower his basic attack range; this is thematically appropriate. Lucian and Jhin are both skilful champions, but their playstyles contrast. Imagine of Lucian played more like Jhin or Caitlyn, hanging back to snipe away at his opponents? He can do this to an extent, but if it was his core pattern he would somehow feel wrong, because his power fantasy is bravely rushing into evil and deftly slipping past its blows, not conservatively hanging back and taking pot-shots. When Jhin ultimates with Curtain Call you might not even be able to see him as he rains singular destructive notes from afar. When Lucian ultimates with The Culling he barrels forwards with an uncountable storm of rounds and will dash to keep on pouring them into his target. Lucian again is enduringly popular, even when not meta, because his power fantasy and gameplay complement one another to form an incredibly strong identity.
- Garen, The Might of Demacia: Compare Garen to Lucian. Both are champions of light that defy evil and darkness to its face, but their feel and gameplay vastly differ. This is because Garen is a knight in shining armour, while Lucian is a gritty gunslinger. Both of them display valour in the face of evil, but Lucian is courageous while Garen is fearless. It's the difference between Superman, a paragon of justice too strong for evil to overcome, and Batman, a far less invincible icon still too determined to ever give up. This is why Lucian is a nimble marksmen who must evade evil's grasp, while Garen is a hulking armoured juggernaut that tanks and shrugs off its attacks as he hurls himself bodily at his opponents, despite them both getting nose-to-nose with evil without hesitation.
- Veigar, the Tiny Master of Evil: Looking somewhere else, Veigar's power fantasy is a physically weak and unthreatening figure that commands immense, arcane destructive power. Try to explain Veigar to someone who games but has never played League – you can call him a blaster wizard or a black mage and not only will they understand you, the impression they form will be accurate. Veigar is a squishy runt who goes down easily if jumped on, but if not taken out quickly he can hand out truly impressive blasts of magical destruction. His gameplay embodies his power fantasy extremely well.
- Lee Sin, the Blind Monk: Last stop before Fiddlesticks, I would argue that Lee Sin is maybe the best-designed champion in League. His power fantasy of an unarmed monk is one of self-sufficiency, of taking power literally into one's own hands without outside dependency. He is thus an early game champion that empowers making a difference right away, and later on his R still has the potential, with wise use rather than brute power, to have an incredible impact. Even his original lore, a potent candidate to be a summoner who got too confident and created great harm as a result, embodies the struggle between discipline and Lee Syndrome his players face.
The list could easily go on. Rengar and Kha'Zix are apex hunters skilled at assassinating single valuable targets. Braum is a steadfast guardian renown for being able to shut down entire ultimates with 1 skill.
A lot of thought goes into power fantasy, and realising power fantasy can create enduring favourites.
Now let's talk about Fiddlesticks. Imagine Fiddlesticks is a new champion instead of a rework, or you're showing its cinematic to a friend who's never followed League but has a latent interest, and you know they're fans of this type of character.
Put yourself in that position and watch Fiddlesticks' cinematic. Then from the striking impression it left you with, try to picture how Fiddlesticks might play as though the cinematic was your sole information.
You may imagine something unsettling, with a creeping dread to facing it. This can be difficult to get in an action game, but not impossible, as Nocturne and Rengar ults demonstrate. Especially, you'll likely expect that the worst thing is being caught alone with this thing, with how it intentionally separates its two victims in the cinematic, dealing with them one by one.
Now turn that cinematic into a gameplay situation. You're Fiddlesticks jungle, post-6, and the enemy's botlane is somewhat worn down and let's say recalling in their jungle, a bit desynced. Do you wait for one to leave, then pounce when the other is alone to maximise your solo-terrorising gameplay power?
Of course you don't. You channel your AoE R to jump on them both, whack them both if possible with your AoE E, throw a Q if you need to and then activate your multi-target W if needed to finish them off.
Do you see the subtle dissonance your brain has struggled to quite put a finger on? Imagine instead if Fiddlesticks' cinematic had been POVbro and Tedric chatting for a minute or two, getting increasingly unsettled by strange noises around them, and then suddenly being pounced on while still together by Fiddlesticks wrapped in a storm of crows. That could be good, really good even, but it wasn't done and probably wouldn't be as good as what was done in the cinematic because that isn't Fiddlesticks' power fantasy. If he was a harbinger of disease or such a thing, than him bursting into the middle of a crowd might resonate more strongly, but he represents a much more isolated dread.
Ulting a single target as Fiddlesticks is like using Rumble's R to only damage and kill one enemy. It isn't a feeling of "Now THIS is why I play this champion!" so much as "We take those". Now champions don't have to be one-dimensional, but the power fantasy is too out of sync with the gameplay experience to feel right, even if it may end up mechanically effective.
What can be done? Well Fiddlesticks' power fantasy is a long, drawn-out mounting dread, so writing up long, drawn-out reddit posts is a start. But making his kit actually reward catching a single target, past the generic advantage every champion has if they catch a low-health enemy alone, would help. Here's 3 examples of mechanics I dreamed up that interact with isolated enemies to Fiddlesticks' advantage:
- Cut some power out of R, and then make it so if it's only hitting a single champion it deals more damage. You know how Karthus' Q crits for double damage on a single target? Like that. Being caught alone in Fiddlesticks' ult should be the worst experience, not "Lol he wasted his ult", and having courage to dive in to help an ally caught in it should provide circumstantial counterplay.
- Make W stronger if it has a single target on cast, but make it so that the tether crossing another enemy breaks it, kind of like a modified Caitlyn R intercept. Everyone runs directly away from the scarecrow? That's what it wants, the tethers drain you away, maybe with increased range. Work together and coordinate to cut each other's bonds? Oh hey counterplay.
- Cut some power from Q, and make it have a secondary range where it will bounce back toward Fiddlesticks if you're in this range and no other target is closer to you than Fiddlesticks, then fly back out to you again, up to say two or three times. Original Fiddlesticks' Q was actually kind of weak if you had no allies around, while the nightmare was it bouncing between two of you. This is again more fitting of a contagion disease champion or maybe a spreading destruction theme like Brand, and I was waiting months for some savant at Riot to make the simple, revolutionary change of having Fiddlesticks' Q bounce back to him if no one else was in range. Being close to Fiddlesticks should be the worst, and having that crow tear back and forth into you because no one is here to help and its too close get away Get AWAY is precisely how Fiddlesticks should feel.
That's about it from me. Fiddlesticks can still have a teamfight ult and honour its original incarnation, but I doubt its going to click for the majority of players until the gap between that excellent cinematic and playing the champion on summoner's rift is closed to give Fiddlesticks a properly unified identity.
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